04-02-2020 Decorated veteran is Berrien County’s first death connected to COVID-9; Extraordina

Decorated veteran is Berrien County’s first death connected to COVID-9

By Annette Christie

With the announcement of the first death from complications associated with COVID-19 coming out on Monday of this week, it was unknown that the victim would end up being a hometown decorated Vietnam Veteran from right here in Coloma.

Congressman Fred Upton announced the name on his Kitchen Table Update on Tuesday, March 31. Upton wrote, “For me it hit home even harder yesterday when I learned that a good friend and frankly, a hero in so many ways, passed away with this disease after being diagnosed only a couple of days prior.

“Bud Baker was probably the most decorated veteran that ever hailed from Berrien County. A Medal of Honor nominee, he was wounded more than a dozen times in Vietnam. He was a steady voice with the Lest We Forget Chapter of Veterans in Berrien County, served as a Chaplain at Lakeland Spectrum and was just about the nicest man one will ever meet who loved his country,” Upton said.

In a May 2010 article in the Herald-Palladium, Staff Writer Scott Aiken wrote about Baker receiving the Distinguished Service Cross, naming him the most highly decorated Vietnam War Veteran living in Berrien County. The award, the nation’s second highest military honor, was given to Baker for extraordinary heroism.

The medal citation reads: The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Walter L. Baker Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company A, 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry, 199th Infantry Brigade (Separate) (Light), Specialist Four. Baker distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on April 24, 1968 as a rifleman on a reconnaissance-in-force mission twelve-mile northeast of Bien Hoa when his company encountered an estimated battalion of well-entrenched North Vietnamese Regulars. His platoon was pinned down by intense enemy automatic weapons and rocket fire. Courageously moving through a hail of enemy bullets, Specialist Baker silenced one hostile emplacement with rifle fire. As he advanced toward a second bunker, he was wounded in the leg and back by an enemy sniper. As he lay on the battlefield, he saw communist troops setting up a machine gun on a trail facing his platoon. Ignoring his painful wounds, he assaulted the machine gun position, eliminating it with rifle fire and grenades. Despite seven additional wounds received during this attack, he succeeded in capturing the enemy position. He then called to his comrades to follow him. As they advanced, he used the captured machine gun to lay down a heavy base of fire on the North Vietnamese. Only after he had shown members of his platoon the location of other hostile emplacements did he allow himself to be evacuated. His valiant actions allowed his comrades to move into the bunker complex and completely rout the aggressors from their positions.”

Aiken described Baker’s war-time action, but noted that he had been shot in the chest, arm and leg – 13 times altogether. As he was being written up for his distinguished actions, Baker noted that two soldiers risked their lives to reach him, another put down covering machine gun fire, and another gave blood for a transfusion in the field. Aiken said Baker spoke with reverence of the men who saved his life and all of those he served with. He was even quoted as saying that the medal was not his, “It’s for everyone who ever put on a uniform and lost their lives.”