MONROE, La. – Some lost military medals belonging to an Arkansas soldier killed in Vietnam 52 years ago have been returned to his family thanks to help from a Louisiana military museum.
The medals, which included a Purple Heart, Silver Star, and two Army Commendation Military Merit Medals, were found at an antique shop in Junction City (Union County) in April of this year. The back of the medals had the name “Chester L. Lee” inscribed on them.
The woman who bought the medals wanted to return them to their rightful owner, so she called the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum (CAMM) in nearby Monroe, Louisiana. That’s where she was introduced to Michael Shaw, the Chapter Founder of the museum chapter of the DAV (Disabled American Veterans). Photos of the medals were then shared by Shaw on Facebook. A CAMM board member helped with some research and found Lee’s burial record in the Poyen Cemetery (Grant County, Arkansas).
After more research and communication with the Arkansas Department of the DAV, Lee’s sister, Helen Lee Walker, was finally found. She was elated to learn about the medals. Walker’s husband is a Vietnam veteran who helped found and raise money for the Poyen Veteran Memorial Pavilion to honor the fallen.
Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy’s office arranged for an American flag to be flown over the nation’s capital on Memorial Day to honor Captain Lee. The medals and the flag were presented to his family in a June 14 (Flag Day) ceremony at the Poyen Cemetery.
Captain Chester Lee served in the Army and was killed in action during the Vietnam War in Saigon in April 1966.
Online description of Lee’s Silver Star citation from The Military Honor Wall:
Captain Lee distinguished himself on 1 April 1966 while serving as Commanding Officer of Company C, 716th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Group, while he was conducting early morning checks of his troops on duty at security posts in the Saigon-Cholon area, Republic of Vietnam. At approximately 0500 hours, while driving his vehicle in the area, Captain Lee observed Viet Cong terrorists attempting to detonate a bomb at the Victoria Hotel which is a billet for housing American officers. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Captain Lee dauntlessly conducted a frontal assault on the Viet Cong terrorists, repeatedly exposing himself to intense and deadly accurate automatic weapons fire. During the course of action, Captain Lee was wounded in his upper and lower right leg. Despite the severity of his wounds, he continued to deliver fire on the insurgents at the same time attempting to control his vehicle. Captain Lee, having expended his ammunition, continued the assault until he was mortally wounded by a burst of hostile fire as his vehicle came to a halt opposite the terrorist position. Captain Lee’s unimpeachable valor in the face of hostile fire, minimized the Viet Cong efforts of attack on the hotel, forced their hasty withdrawal, and made possible the subsequent capture of a terrorist along with an automatic weapon. Captain Lee’s gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.