Posted: Apr 5, 2013 7:32 PM by Victoria Fregoso - MTN News
BILLINGS - It was a moment U.S. Army veteran Barry Byrd waited for, for 42 years. He finally had the opportunity to pin the Bronze Star Medal with Valor onto Bernard Rustad's jacket. "It was absolutely wonderful. I would have crawled here with this broken leg just to be able to do this. It's in the top five of the best days of my life," Byrd said.
On April 6, 1971, Byrd was alongside Rustad in Vietnam when Rustad came to the aid of two men who had been hit by shrapnel and one other who was severely wounded. With artillery flying all around them, Rustad and Byrd got the man to safety in a chopper. The Bronze Star Medal is a symbol of Rustad's heroism. "I was very honored and mostly because my Lieutenant thought it was worth doing...not many words for it. Unbelievable."
Congressman Steve Daines thanked Rustad first hand for his dedication to this country. "I think so many of our Vietnam Veterans did not get the recognition, honor they deserved," Daines said. "It's great to honor a Vietnam Veteran, a true American hero, he's a Montana hero."
Two of Rustad's close friends, Richard Ault and Glen Schnit, who served with him for that year in Vietnam, also made the trip to Montana for this ceremony. "Stand with each other for a year and you learn a lot about each other," Ault said. "It was just very important to be here and see him get something he deserved to get."
And, with the presentation of the bronze star, came Rustad's opportunity to salute his Lieutenant. "I got to salute my Lieutenant. First time ever," Rustad said with a laugh. "They didn't allow that over there and out in the field. I had to salute him and give him a hug."
Rustad also received an American Flag that was flown over the state capitol earlier this year. He says he will proudly display his bronze star in his home.