WASHINGTON - It took more than half a century, but on Thursday a Maryland army veteran finally has an honor he earned as a prisoner of war.
It's nor only a story of endurance, but a frustrating fight against red tape to make things right.
Ronald Dolecki is a U.S. Army veteran who lives in Huntingtown, Maryland. While his army service took place during the Vietnam War era, his story did not take place in Vietnam.
Instead, Dolecki was a U.S. Army specialist on a mapping mission in Ethiopia in 1965. He was captured by a warring rebel army called the Eritrean Liberation Front. Dolecki suffered brutal conditions but was able to escape and save the lives of two people. But while Dolecki's captivity and heroism took place during the Vietnam war era — because he wasn't a prisoner of war in Vietnam — he's run into decades of issues because the regulations were steading in the way.
But Maryland and Virginia's senators got together Thursday with a U.S. Army general to award Ron Dolecki the medal he deserved and earned.
"Everybody who heard my story said to me ‘you know there’s even a YouTube that somebody posted called ‘the forgotten prisoner of war' and I stumbled on it and I looked at it and thought ‘wow, that’s weird even the army doesn’t call me a prisoner of war!’" Dolecki told FOX 5 at the ceremony.
"Ron’s wife Linda wanted to surprise him with a gift, a special surprise, so she applied for him to receive the POW medal from the Army. Unfortunately, that request was denied. 18 years later we are finally able to secure the recognition that Ron Dolecki so clearly deserves!" said Senator Chris Van Hollen.
The Army also awarded a POW medal to David Strickland of Manassas Virginia. His story is nearly identical to Dolecki's. Strickland was also assigned to Ethiopia and was also taken as a prisoner of war 10 years later. He faced similar issues preventing him from getting the medal he earned until today.