Vietnam War combat Army medic and Monmouth County resident Bart Fabian has been presented with his second Silver Star medal for actions he took on April 13, 1969.
The medal was recently presented to Fabian by U.S Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). Fabian was a resident of Freehold Township from 1990 to 2019, before he moved to Aberdeen Township.
This is the second Silver Star awarded to Fabian. He received his first Silver Star for his heroism during an ambush by the North Vietnamese on Jan. 11, 1969, according to a press release from Smith’s office.
Fabian had previously been awarded two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts and an Army Commendation Medal with Valor.
“Bart ‘Doc’ Fabian is a hero for all ages, earning the Silver Star not once, but twice. He routinely went above and beyond the call, protecting injured soldiers who were under attack,” Smith said. “Mr. Fabian’s actions on April 13, 1969, which account for the second Silver Star, are truly courageous, heroic and the mark of a natural leader.”
Smith added, “How does a man under gunfire find that kind of grit to do something absolutely astonishing? We are talking about a man who put his own life at risk, repeatedly, to defend injured soldiers who were being targeted by the enemy.
“The record shows he saved 10 U.S. soldiers and stopped two enemy soldiers who were trying to kill wounded GIs. In an era when people admire fictional superheroes and Hollywood stars portraying heroes, Doc Fabian is a genuine uncontested hero.”
After more than two years of Smith working with the Army, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy ordered Fabian to be recognized “For gallantry in action against an armed enemy of the United States” while serving in his outfit, Troop A, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Calvary Regiment, II Field Force Vietnam.
Recounting that April day, Fabian said the battle raged on for 90 minutes. He lost six from his troop, including one of his closest buddies, and 19 in total, including the other medic.
“We got beat up pretty bad that day,” Fabian said. “It was a bad day for the good guys.”
The day after the battle, Fabian’s commander said he would be recommended for the Silver Star, but it never came, according to the press release.
“I decided to forget about it,” Fabian said. “I didn’t want to promote myself. It was a bad day. The next day we were right back in it.”
That changed in 2018 at a reunion with fellow veterans who urged him to seek the medal, according to the press release.
A family member contacted Smith and asked the congressman to help look into the matter. Smith helped coordinate eyewitness statements from Sgt. John J. Sorich III, Sgt. Joseph L. Coopet Jr. and Lt. Col. Richard A. Belcher, according to the press release.
The Silver Star is awarded to a person who, while serving in the U.S. Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force. The required gallantry must have been performed with marked distinction, according to the press release.
Members of the awards board unanimously recommended approval, with some making handwritten notations of Fabian’s actions.
Wrote Lt. Gen. John W. Woodmansee Jr., who also saw combat in Vietnam, ” ‘Doc’ Fabian joins the illustrious list of medics who risk their lives saving others. … The award of the Silver Star is certainly deserved. … On 13 April 1969 he saved numerous lives in the middle of a battle … an incredible display of courage and competence. When we sing the National Anthem, we are singing about those ‘Doc’ Fabians in our ranks.”
Brig. Gen John W. Nicholson (ret.) said, “He treated more than 10 wounded soldiers and recovered them and their KIA buddies. He voluntarily performed these heroic and life-saving actions while 19 fellow U.S. soldiers were killed in the same action. … His bravery was fearless, determined and voluntary, despite desperate odds … I highly recommend approval of this award.”
Lt. Gen. Thomas Griffin determined that Fabian’s “actions on 13 April 1969 absolutely meet the standard for this award … His repeated exposure to enemy fire while rescuing his fellow soldiers – and engaging the enemy over a long period of time – are well above the call of duty. I wholeheartedly recommended approval!”
Maj. Gen. Leroy Newton Suddath Jr. (ret.) said, “This is the best documentation I have ever seen.”
“Perhaps we are not finished honoring the life and heroic acts of Doc Fabian,” Smith said, noting that several of the general officers who reviewed and approved the Silver Star for the April 13, 1969 action believed he might be entitled to an even higher medal.
“Two of the general officers suggested he might be deserving of the Distinguished Service Cross. Without a doubt, his actions were extraordinary heroism,” the congressman said.