"The machine gunner on the chopper was shot in the leg while evacuating me off the mountain and to the hospital," he said.
"I spent 89 days recovering from my injuries while still in Vietnam and when released, returned to active duty and finished my tour," Byrd said in a written account of his ordeal. "The night of the attack, over half of the men in my outfit were killed."
Byrd has tried to get his military medical records for the past two years or so, but without success. Chandler aide Geoff Reed said one of the reasons the award has been so long in coming may be because the commander of Byrd's unit was among those killed in the fight.
When he failed to get a response from the military, Byrd contacted Chandler's office and asked for help with the military. He called Chandler's office in December and received his records in February. After the records became available, Chandler's staff petitioned the Board of Corrections of Military Records to review the record and the Purple Heart was awarded.
Chandler agreed it should not take 38 years for a soldier to receive the recognition due him, but said sometimes it takes a congressman to cut through the red tape surrounding the bureaucracy to get something done. Members of Chandler's office staff contacted the Army and verified his records.
"It's unfortunate that it is so difficult, but it's one of the things a congressman can do," Chandler said. "He clearly earned his Purple Heart."
He said members of government bureaucracy act as if they can't be bothered.
"They should be more receptive to citizens' needs."
While Chandler presented the medal to Byrd, it will be formally presented and pinned on the veteran at a military ceremony at Fort Knox in the near future. Reed said the records still are being reviewed to learn if Byrd should also receive a Silver Star.