Great Falls man finally receives Bronze Star for military service in Vietnam

A Great Falls resident was finally recognized after being nominated and awarded the Bronze Star Award more than 40 years ago. 

Alfred E. Shryer received the Bronze Star Award at an event hosted at the VFW Post 1087 on Wednesday for his service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1971-1972. Shryer first found out he had won the award about a year ago. 

“Considering I didn’t know it was in the making for 48 years, I only learned about it about a year ago, but it feels really cool that it happened and that they were able to do this (event) and for Senator (Steve) Daines to come up and present it was just special,” said Shryer. 

About a year ago, Shryer was looking at his Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty and noticed “Bronze Star” in the awards section. 

“I got down to the awards, and I saw ‘Bronze Star’ and I thought ‘Whoa,'” said Shryer. “That’s how I discovered that I had been awarded it. 

After that his daughter and her co-worker at the Job Service Workforce Center reached out to Daines’ office to begin the process for her father to be formally recognized for his service. 

“We’re here to serve our veterans because they serve us,” said Daines at the event. “This is a way that we can really return the favor they’ve granted us.”

Those at the event, including Daines, cited the decades-long delay to paperwork being lost in the bureaucracy. According to Shryer, paperwork can commonly get lost in the shuffle from a combat zone to the United States.

Dozens of people attended the event on Wednesday. 

“Staff Sergeant Shryer’s businesslike manner and cost-conscious attitude aided the laundry office ordering officer by prescribing a cost savings program to reduce the overall laundry contract,” read Robin Baker from the original letter recommending Shryer for the award.

As Baker was reading the letter at the event, Shryer whispered to Daines that this was the first time he had ever heard what was written in his nomination letter.

The Bronze Star was established by an executive order in 1944 and later amended in 1962. It can be awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves through a “heroic or meritorious” achievement or service while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States. 

The original nomination letter from the 1970s claims that Shryer’s actions saved the U.S. government approximately $19,500 at that time. Daines estimated those savings to be the equivalent of $123,000 today.

“Staff Sergeant Shryer was quick to grasp the details of contract management and is commended for his outstanding performance on several occasions by staff members,” read Baker from the nomination letter. 

During his service, Shryer was in charge of the non-trained bakery, where he had under his direct supervision 20 Vietnamese employees and three military personnel. According to the nomination letter, the bakery averaged a daily production of 7,000 to 8,000 loaves. 

“Staff Sergeant Shryer was an outstanding supervisor, his enthusiasm and initiative were an inspiration to those who served under him,” continued Baker from the nomination letter.