Forty-seven years after U.S. Army Spc. Gary Roberts' unit was sent to the Dominican Republic during the Caribbean nation's civil war, the Arlington Heights resident received the medals he earned during that service.
The two ribbons -- the National Defense Service Medal and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal -- were presented at the U.S. Army Reserve Training Center in Arlington Heights by Brig. Gen. Gracus K. Dunn, commanding general of the 85th Support Command.
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Before pinning the medals to Roberts' suit coat, Dunn called the medals "long overdue."
Roberts, 71, was thrilled.
"I've thought about it a lot," Roberts said before the ceremony.
A draftee who served with the Army Signal Corps in the 1960s, Roberts was sent to the Dominican Republic in July 1965 as part of the United States' occupation of the nation during a civil war following a military coup.
As Dunn mentioned during his remarks Saturday, the conflict was overshadowed by the Vietnam War. But it was bloody, too: Dozens of soldiers were killed or wounded during the months-long conflict.
Roberts remembered one particularly hairy encounter.
"We were having lunch one day right near the ocean, and the (Dominican) colonel that was causing the problems pulled up and all his guards got out and pulled out their heavy weapons," Roberts said. "And I thought, 'Oh my gosh, we're dead.' Turns out, they were just having lunch, too."
The longtime owner of the Last Chance Saloon in Grayslake until his recent retirement, Roberts didn't learn he was getting his medals until Friday. A friend, Arlington Heights resident Jack McCabe, organized the honor.
With his wife, Janet, and Dunn standing beside him, Roberts thanked McCabe during Saturday's ceremony.
Roberts received a framed, duplicate set of medals Saturday, too. Included in the frame was a photograph of a much younger Roberts in uniform.
"I'm really proud," Roberts said.
Dunn honored two other people Saturday. The first was longtime Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder, who will retire this spring. The second was Maj. Christopher Paskevicz, who retired last year from the 85th Army Reserve Support Command.