Army cites L-13 retiree four decades after combat tour
AFTER 43 YEARS without formal recognition for his service with a covert military unit in Vietnam, Louis “Lou” DeSeta finally has his medals. The 66-year-old Local 13 (Philadelphia) retiree received two Bronze Stars and an Army Commendation Medal during ceremonies at VFW Post 3420 in Newark, Delaware, on Oct. 29. Brigadier General (ret.) Terry Wiley presented the medals in the presence of DeSeta’s union brothers, fellow veterans, and family members.
The delay in receiving medals is not unusual for men like DeSeta, who took part in secret cross-border operations as part of MAC V SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observation Group). SOG teams frequently operated deep behind enemy lines in Laos, Cambodia, and the Demilitarized Zone. The U.S. government regularly denied such missions, and the Pentagon preferred not to draw attention to SOG operators. In recent years, the government has become more open to recognizing these veterans.
DeSeta was a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and served with SOG as part of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He received a Bronze Star with “V” device (for valor) in recognition of his heroic action in fending off a numerically superior NVA force, allowing his reconnaissance team to be extracted safely. His second Bronze Star was for service while assigned to Forward Observation Base 3 near Khe Sanh, where he participated in recon missions and took part in defending the base. The Army Commendation Medal cited DeSeta’s “tactical and technical expertise” while serving with the 5th Special Forces Group.
Following his military service, DeSeta worked nearly 32 years as a Boilermaker, retiring in 2000. He says he owes his boiler-making career to his best friend and brother Boilermaker, Jack Specht (now a retired NTL member). “We went through all of our military training together, and all Jack would talk about was CBI [Chicago Bridge & Iron]. After I got out of the Army, Jack got me on.”
Reflecting on his time in Vietnam and the medals he received, DeSeta said that all veterans deserve recognition for their service. “I know there are a lot of vets in Boilermaker locals, and not all of them get the credit they deserve. No matter where you served and no matter what role you played, it takes everybody to get the job done.”
A video of DeSeta’s medal presentation can be viewed below.