Vietnam Veteran Officially Receives Purple Heart


by Steve Newton

Nearly forty years has passed since the end of the Vietnam conflict. Monday a Great Falls man received recognition for his actions there.

"Sometimes the Purple Heart is never awarded. But quite frankly, it is in this particular case awarded but never put in the files,” said Senator Jon Tester at a ceremony Monday morning.

Marv “Doc” Brewster served as a field corpsman in Vietnam. He was wounded in combat in April 1966 and received the Purple Heart. But the citation was never added into his record, causing problems with Veterans Affairs. Senator Tester’s office helped get the paperwork straightened out, leading to Brewster being awarded his citation.

"It's important we get the record straightened up,” said Tester. “It's important we do right by our veterans that serve this country, and this is just a grateful nation saying "Thank you" albeit a bit late."

With the citation now on the record, Brewster can take advantage of the medical benefits. Those benefits could not have come at a better time; Brewster was recently diagnosed with Lung Cancer.

"It's just been diagnosed about a month ago, and that was caused by Agent Orange in Vietnam," said Brewster.

"Those benefits are more important than they ever were,” said Becky Smith, Brewster’s daughter. “It covers his benefits; it helps with costs going to and from Helena. So it came at a good time."

Looking into the case, Senator Tester also discovered several other decorations that had not been awarded to Brewster.

In addition to the Purple Heart, Brewster was presented the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Ribbon, the Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Stars, the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 Device.

Mayor Michael Winters also presented a knife to Brewster, a gift usually donated to Purple Heart recipients wounded after 9/11.

"Now, keep it in the box while we're standing here," joked Mayor Winters as he presented it to Brewster.

While serving in Vietnam, Brewster knew what he had to do when somebody called “Corpsman.”

"All you think about is taking care of your marines,” said Brewster. “You don't think about yourself or anything else. You really kind of blank out from everything and just take care of what your duties are."

World War II Veteran Wally Morger took a moment after the ceremony to share his experience with corpsmen at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

"It was almost unbelievable to witness what these – what these people did,” said Morger. “When a person was wounded and the cry went out: "Corpsman! Corpsman!" There was always one or two of the medical people who would come to the site to administer what they could do for the wounded."

Brewster isn’t going to let cancer keep him down. He has work to do this holiday season.

"Right now I'm getting fundraisers for Toys for Tots,” said Brewster. “From now on I got to raise money to buy toys, basically what we're doing. We're really gearing up right now, to get boxes out and this and that.”

Senator Tester says his office will check with Veterans Affairs to make sure Brewster’s record is correct when he begins cancer treatment.