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SFC RUBEN M. CADRIEL WAS AWARDED THE SILVER STAR AFTER 32 YEARS.

 
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AFTER 32 YEARS, EL PASOAN AWARDED SILVER STAR


LONG-AWAITED HONOR

By Laura Cruz
El Paso Times
(Published February 11, 2004)

Humble and quiet, Ruben M. Cadriel will do little more than smile and nod when asked about receiving one of the most prestigious medals given by the military - the Silver Star.

"It means a lot to me," said Cadriel, a retired sergeant first class. "It's something that not too many people will be awarded. It takes a special kind of person to risk their life."

In November 1971, Cadriel risked his life and saved many others. But a paperwork mix-up delayed his recognition for more than 32 years. On Monday, Cadriel, a sergeant with the Beaumont Provost Marshal's Office, was finally awarded his Silver Star.

The Silver Star, the nation's fourth-highest award for bravery, is awarded to a soldier who 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."

According to a letter written by Cadriel's company commander, Kip Clapper, Cadriel, an enlisted officer, was given the responsibility of a platoon leader in the 23rd Infantry Division, a position usually given to commissioned officers.

"The third platoon was engaged in a search-and-destroy mission when they came under heavy enemy fire," the letter said. "Exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire, Sgt. 1st Class Cadriel rallied the soldiers under his command."

Under his direction, Cadriel's platoon was able to return fire. He also "called in and directed both artillery and helicopter gunship support" to successfully end the firefight.

Cadriel then coordinated the medical evacuation of the wounded.

"Sgt. 1st Class Cadriel's actions were instrumental in routing the enemy and preventing further friendly casualties," Clapper's letter read.

Cadriel said he asked for replacements after the firefight and continued leading several other search-and-destroy missions.

"These type of operations were practically and everyday routine," he said. "But I had performed the duties of a first sergeant," one rank higher than a sergeant first class.

Lost paperwork

For that reason, Clapper told Cadriel that he would be recommended for the Silver Star. But two weeks later Clapper was wounded in another firefight, and the paperwork was lost. It wasn't untill 1985 that Cadriel realized why he hadn't received the medal. He was on his way to Korea when his unit stopped off to refuel in Anchorage, Alaska, where he bumped into his former commander.

"My commander asked me if I had gotten my Silver Star. He didn't know that the paperwork didn't go through," Cadriel said. "So he said he would look into it, but the unit had disbanded by then, so it took a long time to research it."

'War hero'

Cadriel's wife of almost 27 years, Angeles, said she's heard about all his battles and his medals and knew that he had been waiting for the day he would receive his Silver Star.

"He thought he had been forgotten," Angeles Cadriel said. "He's a war hero. He won't admit it to anyone, but he is, and I admire him so much because he's done so much.

Highly decorated

During his 27 years in the Army Cadriel has received an Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for valor, a Bronze Star with "V" device and two Purple Heart Medals.

Antonio "Tony" Miranda, a captain with the Beaumont Provost Marshal's Office, said Cadriel is known as a quiet, hard-working man, but when he walked into work wearing his Army Class A uniform and his medals, his co-workers were stunned.

"I knew that Rueben was highly decorated, but it was a surprise to all of us that he had received a Silver Star," said Miranda, who is also a veteran. "He never brags. He just does a very good job and we're all very proud of him."


Laura Cruz may be reached at
lcruz@elpasotimes.com
915-546-6136.