UNIONTOWN, Pa. (KDKA) – A local Vietnam veteran who served along Steelers legend Rocky Bleier and was injured in battle was officially promoted from U.S. Marine sergeant to staff sergeant at a surprise ceremony.
Jim Burkholder, a 75-year-old from Connellsville, achieved the rank in the mid-1960s, but he was never officially promoted, never saw the paperwork and never received a ceremony.READ MORE: Columbus Police Release 10-Second Body Cam Clip Of Ma'Khia Bryant's Shooting, Criminal Investigation Bureau Reviewing Incident
Fayette County Veterans Affairs Director and U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Brian Bensen decided to track down Burkholder’s promotion records.
Burkholder was injured when four-time Super Bowl champion Rocky Bleier tripped a landmine and injured his leg.
“He tripped that mine and they said he’d never play football again, but he went on to win three more Super Bowls after we left the military,” Burkholder said in a press release.
“The day I took a bullet, we were pinned down heavy with gunfire all around us. I had my machine gun out in the front of the line while I arranged my men to protect us.”READ MORE: Police: Two Black Bears Killed Chickens, Destroyed Chicken Coop In Bell Acres Borough
Burkholder was shot in the leg while recovering an injured soldier. Burkholder made it to a field hospital, but the rescued soldier did not survive.
After making several calls to the U.S. Marine Corps and formal request submissions to the national military archives, Bensen’s three months of waiting paid off and Burkholder’s paperwork arrived.
A surprise ceremony was held for Burkholder at the Hopwood Amvets: General George C. Marshall Post 103.
“This is a man who is a very tough cookie and doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but I will always remember for the rest of my life the look on his face as I read his warrant. I’ve done a lot of cool things, but that was one of the top three moments of my entire career,” Bensen said in a press release.
Burkholder said, “I’m very proud of it, but I earned it the hard way. It meant an awful lot, but it brought back a lot of memories of all the men I served with and tried to take care of in Vietnam.”MORE NEWS: Michael Keaton's Return As Batman In 'The Flash' Confirmed
Burkholder was also honored at the annual Veterans Day Parade in Uniontown Monday morning.