Nearly 50 years after surviving a mine blast in Vietnam, a Baldwin man was finally formally recognized on August 22 during his Purple Heart ceremony in Eau Claire.
“We are all here today because of one person,” said Jessica Monicken Hanson for her father, and Baldwin native, Maloy “Ole” Monicken Jr. “He was, and is, a hero to our country, and I am thankful today that we can honor him with the respect and dignity he deserves.”
In April of 1969, Monicken was drafted into the Army at the age of 19 and was deployed to Phu Loi in South Vietnam only seven months later in November 1969. During a routine perimeter mission, Monicken was escorting his captain when a life-changing event took place.
“I was driving a jeep one morning and we had a command detonated mine designed to take out a tank detonate,” Monicken said recalling the event, “it was set off a little early, but it still smashed up our jeep and we were both thrown out of it. Another second later it would have been a totally different story. I’m just lucky that I’m still here today.”
Both Monicken and his Captain survived the attack with several injuries. As a result of those injuries, he was honorably discharged and returned to Wisconsin. “I’ll never forget flying out of Vietnam,” he said, “all I wanted was to get out of there alive.” Before flying home, however, Monicken noticed upon receiving his discharge papers that his Purple Heart was not listed.
“I did get a Purple Heart eventually,” he said, “It was just a Purple Heart in a cardboard box with my name on it. Well, anyone can go to a pawn shop, get a Purple Heart and have their name engraved on it, but there was no certificate of authenticity.” Needless to say, Monicken was disappointed by the lack of recognition after his service.
After nearly 50 years of contacting officials for that proper recognition without success, Ole’s daughters, Katie Monicken Kuzniac and Jessica Monicken Hanson, worked through the system until they reached United States Senator Tammy Baldwin, who took swift action to do right by Monicken and his service.
“Ole’s bravery and service will never be forgotten” said Senator Baldwin at the ceremony, “Today we come together as a community to pay tribute to Ole for his service. His service in protecting and defending the American freedoms that we all cherish. This Purple Heart, and this Good Conduct award symbolize the great sacrifice that Ole made in defense of our nation. We must never forget that sacrifice… Thank you, Ole, for your bravery and for your commitment to our nation. You have made your family proud, and you have made Wisconsin proud.”
“I’m still amazed. I really am,” said Monicken the day after his ceremony, “I just can’t get over it. It was a really nice thing that they had done for me.” After the event was covered by area media, he has little problem being recognized in Baldwin for his bravery and service. “He’s a celebrity!” said his wife, Nola Monicken, “Yesterday he got cards in the mail, and he just can’t go anywhere without being recognized since.”
Coming home from Vietnam to protesters while lacking proper validation of his valor would discourage most, but Monicken never gave up on the recognition he deserved. With some help from his daughters, and the support of his community, Ole Monicken has finally received his Purple Heart properly after 48 years of perseverance.