MOUNDSVILLE - It has taken 46 years, but Gary Landon Hill has received the Silver Star Medal for valor, conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Marine during the Vietnam War.
Hill, a native of Moundsville and graduate of Moundsville High School Class of 1964, enlisted in the Marine Corps in March 1966. In 1967, while serving as a fireteam leader with Company M, Third Battalion, Third Marine Division, Lance Cpl. Hill was involved in the first Battle of Khe Sanh.
While his company was advancing to secure Hill 881 South, they were attacked by a large number of enemy forces. Despite heavy casualties, including the death of his platoon commander, Hill and the other junior leaders continued their attacks. At the height of the intense battle, Hill rallied his team to protect the platoon's right flank, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire.
At one point, Hill crawled within 3 feet of an enemy bunker and single-handedly killed its occupants. He continued to lead his team. When under fire from an enemy sniper, Hill ordered his team to remain under cover in a trench while he moved forward, located and eliminated the sniper. Then he began evacuating wounded Marines from the battlefield to safety.
According to his citation, Hill showed "exceptional bravery and compassion for his fellow Marines."
Hill, who now resides in Tuscaloosa, Ala., said he just did what a Marine is supposed to do in battle. But years later, some of his friends thought differently after hearing of his experiences in Vietnam. They began the task of getting Hill the honor he deserved.
Military officials said because Hill was the only Marine not injured that day - and because there were no senior officers left from the battle - there was no one to write up a report about Hill's actions.
Hill's sister, Karen Hill Woods of Moundsville, said her brother is a changed man since the June 7 ceremony when he received his award. He has suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.
"I think this brings him some closure," Woods said.