Four career soldiers and a retired U.S. Congressman were honored with the 2013 Doughboy Award or the Order of the St. George Gold Medallion during a dinner at the RiverMill Event Centre Tuesday in Columbus.
The Doughboy Award was presented to retired Gen. William F. Kernan, retired Command Sgt. Maj. George D. Conrad and former U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton. The award is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the Army Infantry.
Recipients of the Order of St. George Gold Medallion were retired Col. James G. Snodgrass and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Carl E. Christian. It's the highest award presented by the U.S. Cavalry and Armor Association for members of the Army's mount ed force.
Conrad said he accepts the Doughboy Award on behalf of past and present soldiers of the infantry.
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"I'm a very humble man because it's a lot more worthy infantrymen out there than myself," he said.
Conrad, 70, of Baltimore retired from the Army as a command sergeant major in 1996 after more than 34 years of service.
He was a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, served in Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry and was inducted in the Ranger Hall of Fame in 2008.
After leaving the military, Conrad continued teaching infantry skills as an adviser in the Balkans, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.
"I had a job to do to try to help these people to see the right way to do things," he said. "In Afghanistan, it was difficult because of cultural and tribal things. I think we made a dent in it."
Conrad trained with retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore at Fort Benning before his group was deployed to the Central Highlands in Vietnam while Moore led soldiers in the battle of Ia Drang in 1965. There were times when Conrad thought he wouldn't see the day that he would be honored with the Doughboy Award.
He credits the soldiers he served with for making it through the tough battles.
"Guys out there have been trained to kill you and you've been trained to kill him," Conrad said. "One of you is going to die. You better make sure it is him."
Kernan, 67, of Pinehurst, N.C., said the award is a big surprise.
"It's quite an honor and I'm very humbled," he said.
Before retiring in 2002, Kernan served as Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic and Commander in Chief, U.S. Joint Forces command in Norfolk, Va. He served in combat in Vietnam, Grenada and Panama, where he led the 75th Ranger Regiment in Operation Just Cause. He also was part of the parachute assault onto Rio Hato.
Kernan said he never intended to join the Army, but he got married in college and entered the Army for the GI Bill to return to school. "I found myself embracing the Army as a career," he said.
The retired general said he's impressed with the soldiers of today.
"I got to see them in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "I'm thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and loyalty not only to each other, but to this nation."
Skelton was recognized for his efforts as a Congressman of Missouri's 4th District from 1977 to 2011.
He was instrumental in winning approval of the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which simplified the chains of command, reduced inter-service rivalries and implemented shared procurement process between branches of service. He played a key role in bringing the B-2 Stealth Bomber to Whiteman Air Force Base and the Army Engineer, Chemical and Military Police Schools to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
As a recipient of the St. George Gold Medallion, Christian said it's very humbling to look at the group he's joining.
"It makes you feel like you are nondeserving because of these folks," he said. "It's a wonderful feeling, but you feel like you don't deserve it."
Christian, 57, of Racine, Wis., said he was able to retire as sergeant major by taking care of soldiers.
Snodgrass, 67, said he's blown away by receiving the award.
"This is a memorable day," he said.
The native of Delta, Penn., served in Germany with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. While there, the squadron won the German armored reconnaissance Boeslager Cup Competition in 1987. Four years later, he was the second American to serve as the chief judge of the Canadian Army Trophy, a tank gunnery competition between NATO countries.
In 2006, Snodgrass was named to the board of directors of the National Armor and Cavalry Heritage Foundation. The organization is working to build a new Armor and Cavalry Museum.
"It always comes down to people," he said. "I was blessed to have some mentors along the way who showed me the right way."