DENVER (CBS4) – Decades after rightfully earning many different awards for their service in combat, Colorado veterans were finally given the medals they deserved. One veteran was honored in person, three others posthumously, by the “Forgotten Heroes Campaign” in Denver.
U.S. Army Maj. Ronald L. Freeman was honored in person.
The veterans honored posthumously were U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Hillery V. Barnes, U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Fred Gutierrez and U.S. Army Ranger Pfc. George C. Padilla.
For Phillip Gutierrez, the day was very special. His father, Fred, and father-in-law George were both receiving their medals posthumously.
“(My Dad) had a big heart, he was very, very humble man,” Gutierrez said. “He loved the Marine Corps He talked a lot about the Marine Corps and his duty there.”
Gutierrez told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas his father was never one to brag of his own accomplishments. Rather, he would share stories with his many children about the military’s success as a unit.
“My father was not big on awards. He was bigger on recognizing the service all together, and what they did as a whole.”
Those with the Forgotten Heroes Campaign said their mission was to recognize those who offered themselves as sacrifice throughout their time in the military.
“We need to pay respects to all the sacrifices that were made to keep this country free,” said Sal Villano, one of the key figures behind the campaign. He said countless hours digging through paperwork and records were worth it for his team, especially once the awards are given to the veterans, or family.
“All those tokens and ribbons, that is representative of the sacrifice they made. Sacrifice they made all around the world,” Villano said. “Those shadow boxes are going to be handed down for years and years, and years. It is a legacy.”
Phillip Gutierrez said he could sense his father with him as he accepted the shadow box with the awards.
“If you love somebody, they never die. They are always in your heart,” Gutierrez said. “My father was smiling.”