QUEENSBURY — Michael Cirino received a happy surprise on Friday — a Purple Heart 48 years after he was injured in the Vietnam War.
Cirino, a resident at the Brookdale assisted living facility in Queensbury, was pinned with the Purple Heart and three other service medals during a brief ceremony on Friday.
Cirino, 71, injured in his leg by stepping on a land mine in Vietnam in January 1969. He worked as a radio-telegraph operatorm, or “radio man” for short, in the U.S. Army.
Radio men were a target for the enemy because they were the main communications link to the rest of the troops, according to Andy DePalo, director of veterans services for Washington County.
“Their life expectancy on the battlefield was not long,” he said.
Cirino was injured about four months into his tour.
“It started as a hole this big and it ended up a little like that,” he said, holding his fingers close and then about a foot apart.
Cirino was transferred stateside to Massachusetts. After leaving the service, Cirino lived in Hudson Falls and spent 44 years at General Electric working with film, before retiring in May 2012 at the age of 65.
However, the paperwork for Cirino’s medals got lost in the shuffle. Cirino’s brother, John Cirino of Queensbury, persisted to get the medals that his brother was due.
“John was like a dog on this trail. He would not let it up,” DePalo said.
DePalo, who is a retired sergeant major and comes from a family of veterans, said it is good to have the support of family.
“He wanted to make sure his brother got what he deserved,” he said.
“I did what I had to do to help him out,” said John Cirino.
DePalo said U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, assisted in obtaining these medals.
Cirino also received the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the Armed Forces Expedition Medal.
Michael Cirino said it was a nice surprise, on the day before Veterans Day, to receive these medals and to see family and friends who came to visit him for the ceremony.
He reflected on his time serving his country.
“I still miss a lot of my friends,” he said.