ST. CLOUD -- A former army sergeant and St. Cloud resident is finally being recognized.

What started as a scholarship opportunity for Rachel Petersen soon became a turning point in her grandfather's history.

"I interviewed my grandpa about about his experience in Vietnam and he told me about some rescues he did," says Petersen.

"We were terrorized by Vietcong Gorillas who would used tunnels underneath us," says Earl Kothman.

"And he said he was supposed to be awarded the Bronze Star," says Peterson.

However for Kothman days turned to weeks, months and now 50 years and he never received his Bronze Star.

"They (the government) told me when I got my Cold War Certificate, their was a fire in St. Louis back in the 1970s and my paperwork may have been lost," says Kothman.

Kothman gave up on getting his medal, but Petersen was motivated by her grandfathers story and began to share it and started countless hours of research.

"I made a lot of phone calls and my time commitment went from like 4 hours a week, to 8 hours a week, to now about 4 hours a day," says Petersen.

Until the unbelievable happened when Kothman's records were found and resubmitted for his Bronze Star, which he will receive Friday at the Landmark Center in St. Paul.

"When I think about it I get overwhelmed because I knew I was right all along," says Kothman.

Her grandfather's story inspired Petersen to help other veterans and she began her own non-profit called Abiding Bronze Star.

"There are so many Vietnam veterans, thousands of them, who are without their paperwork or medals and I would love to see this as justice for them," says Petersen.

Kothman says he is honored to be receiving the award but with be the first to tell you his granddaughter is his Bronze Star.

 

Rachel Petersen (left) and Earl Kothman (right). (Photo: Abiding Bronze Star)