CEDAR RAPIDS — It was about 48 years late, but Thursday proved a good day for Doyce Bailey.
The former staff sergeant received the Air Force Commendation Medal he earned while serving from September 1965 to March 1969, including a tour in Vietnam.
“Back then, when you got out, they told you to throw away your military gear or hide it and just fade into the background,” Bailey said.
That’s what the Minburn native did when he relocated to Cedar Rapids and worked for years in information technology and for a software company before starting his own recognition products business.
It wasn’t until the past five or 10 years that Bailey, 71, started talking about his time in Vietnam and about the medals he had earned but never received, according to his daughter, Deb Bailey.
“He felt like maybe now was the right time,” she said after watching her dad receive his medal from U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst in a ceremony Thursday morning at Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids.
“There’s never a bad time” to recognize veterans for their service, Ernst, a combat veteran herself, told Bailey’s wife, Suzanne, and their children and friends.
It was after he retired and began to have post-traumatic stress disorder issues, and a bout with throat cancer he attributes to exposure to Agent Orange, that Bailey started thinking about his medals.
Contacting Ernst’s office about his medals was, in part, selfish, he said, “but maybe it’s a clue to those veterans who have been hiding in the weeds.”
“The mood in the country has changed. People look at veterans more positively,” Bailey said.
In addition to the Air Force Commendation Medal, Bailey received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor, Vietnam Service Medal with Silver Service Star, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Palm and Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Despite his health issues, Bailey said he feels good about serving in Vietnam “and having survived.”
“It was a good war,” he said, but wishes it had ended differently for the 58,000-plus service members who died.
“For those guys, their lives were lost for not much,” Bailey said.
Still, he’s proud to have served “to protect the citizens here at home.”
“I feel proud and lucky today,” he said.