Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tadeusz "Ted" Gaweda, who spent time in a German labor camp during World War II and later immigrated to the United States, was among five soldiers honored Wednesday afternoon at the 2012 Maneuver Conference dinner at RiverMill Event Centre.
"I feel like I'm walking on a large body of water without getting my feet wet," Gaweda said before he and two others were presented The Doughboy Award.
Joining Gaweda for the award presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the U.S. Army Infantry were Les Brownlee, a retired colonel who served as acting Secretary of the Army under President George W. Bush, and retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, a Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient who commanded the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and served as commander of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
Two soldiers also were recognized for outstanding service to armor and cavalry and support of U.S. Cavalry and Armor Association. The St. George Award, or Gold Medallion Award, was presented to retired Brig. Gen. John Sherman Crow, commander of one of the first Chieftain Tank Squadrons in the 11th Hussars, a British Cavalry Regiment post in north Germany, and retired Lt. Col. William "Bill" Bewley, the former commander of three company-size units in Europe and Korea, and the Command and Control Squadron, 2nd Armor Cavalry Regiment in Nurnberg, Germany.
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The awards were a highlight of the 2012 Maneuver Conference, which ends today at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
Gaweda said he doesn't know why he was recognized and why it was approved.
"First of all it's one of a kind," he said. "There is no other award to present to the infantry soldier like I am. To get recognized is truly an honor."
Born in Poland, Gaweda said he and his family were forced into a German labor camp and survived. After the camp was liberated by America, a 12-year-old Gaweda said he shined soldiers' shoes, cleaned Army jeeps and did other jobs to get food and shelter.
He immigrated to the United States in 1949 and joined the Army at age 18 in 1953.
"I'm telling you selective service was not selective to take me," he said.
His greatest moment came in 1953 aboard the USS Walker going to Korea. "I was the liberator," he said. "That was the greatest experience I ever had. They fought to liberate me. Now it's my chance."
Gaweda of Fayetteville, N.C., would later serve two tours in Vietnam during a career that spanned more than 35 years. "I was one of the lucky ones to come back home and be able to enjoy life," he said.
To show his love for the country, Gaweda wrote his memoirs titled, "I Love America."
Brownlee, a retired colonel, said he was flabbergasted to learn he was selected.
The former acting Secretary of the Army said he thought about the paratroopers he served with in Vietnam in 1965 and men and women who volunteered after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, knowing they would be going to war.
Foley was not available for comment. A Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient, he commanded the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and served as commander of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
To honor the armor and cavalry, Bewley said he was deeply honored to be recognized among an incredible list of recipients in the past. "It makes me think of people in my past who made this possible," he said.
Bewley of Oakton, Va., said the support and relationship with soldiers stood out over his 20 years of service. "The cavalry is a very special breed of people," said Bewley, wearing a pin from his 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
Crow, a retired general, said the Gold Medallion Award is not an individual honor. "I'm indeed very humbled," he said. "It's not an individual award from my perspective. It was many soldiers, noncommissioned officers that kept my compass straight and followed my lead. I will accept this very humbly in their behalf. It's not about me."
His most interesting assignment was commanding one of the first Chieftain Tank Squadrons in the 11th Hussars, a British Cavalry Regiment posted in north Germany. "It was the 11th Hussars, Prince Albert's own regiment," he said.
Crow said he has been blessed to have served. "Many of those fine soldiers I served with, it's quite humbling and moving to know that after all these years, it's humbling to know they still care for me," he said.