STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WWJ) – It took the U.S. Army 40 years, but the family of a veteran, killed in Vietnam, is finally receiving a special honor, and they have a local high school alumni president to thank for it.

It was in August 1972 when a two-man secret mission got underway in Vietnam. The men were onboard an OV-1 Mohawk, co-piloted by LTC Joseph Tallon. Not long after takeoff, the men’s plane was shot down by an enemy missile. The pilots survived, but Dan Richards, a 23-year-old soldier from Eastpointe, was killed. The Army later investigated and determined that there was no evidence they were shot down by enemy gunfire. Therefore, no Purple Heart was awarded.

Fast forward 40 years: a new investigation gets underway with the help of Jim Mandl, the alumni president of Notre Dame High School, where Richards graduated in 1967.

“Well, the plane obviously went down,” Mandl said. “A little simple investigation probably would have given them the answer that, yes, they deserved the Purple Heart.”

Mandl tracked down the Richards family, which had moved to South Carolina, and gave them the news: the Army had finally awarded Dan Richards his Purple Heart.

“Going to Notre Dame High School, it’s a brotherhood. To be able to honor someone whose life was cut short in observance of our country. I wasn’t gonna miss this opportunity to honor him for anything.”

The family was presented with Richards’ Purple Heart last week, just in time for Veteran’s Day.


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