ELIZABETHTOWN — Jim Orgel was at a loss for words Monday, as Congressman Mike McIntyre spent the noontime hour speaking about Orgel’s military service.
But when McIntyre spoke about the military honors earned by Orgel, along with the fact that it has taken more than 50 years to receive them, Orgel could do nothing but bow his head to try and hide his red and tearing eyes.
Orgel, a Bladenboro resident who served in the Air Force from 1953 to 1961 as a jet engine mechanic before working in the personal equipment area, has since spent time with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve before his retirement 19 years ago.
Since 1961, however, Orgel knew he had earned a number of ribbons and medals that he had never received.
“It didn’t really bother me much,” he said. “But my wife and daughter pushed me to look into it.”
On Monday, that prodding and effort paid off, as Orgel was officially presented with the ribbons and medals while his wife and several news outlets snapped photos.
“It’s an honor to be able to present these awards to a man who so richly deserves them,” McIntyre said. “It has taken far too long for them to find their way to you.”
The biggest part of the reason Orgel’s awards have taken more than half a century is because his records — along with those of many other servicemen — were destroyed in a 1973 in St. Louis at the Air Force building.
“Issues like that cause delays like this and it’s a shame it can take so long,” McIntyre said. “But it’s important to do this, because our country can never repay our veterans for what they have sacrificed — the very least we can do is to make sure they get the medals and ribbons they deserve.”
When Orgel was able to speak, he said he felt proud to have the medals and ribbons.
“It feels good to know I got these finally,” he said. “And if there was ever something I could do to avoid this happening to someone else, they wouldn’t have to ask me twice.”
Among the awards presented to Orgel in a shadowbox were: Distinguished Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Commendation Medal, Achievement Medal, Homeland Defense Medal, NCO Commendation Ribbon, Enlisted Excellence Ribbon, Long & Faithful Service Medal, Emergency Service Ribbon, Recognition Ribbon, Special Award Ribbon, Recruiting & Retention Ribbon, Community Service Ribbon, Ceremonial/Drill Team/Color Guard Ribbon, Active Duty Ribbon, Attendance Ribbon and Commanding General’s Outstanding Unit Award — along with a number of Good Conduct medals.
“I guess I was a pretty good guy back then,” Orgel said.
McIntyre summed up his talk with Orgel by saying “we have a passion for working with our veterans, so God bless you for your service.”