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Victoria veteran honored with Order of Saint Maurice medallion

By ALLISON MILES
May 30, 2010 at 12:30 a.m.

Sgt. 1st Class Israel Tames, of Victoria, is a 20-year veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. "You want to bring everyone home," Tames said was his main goal during his service. The National Infantry Association recently gave Tames the Maurice Medallion, which just one of more than 30 medals he has received.

What does the medallion design signify?

Laurel wreath shape: honors Saint Maurice in the traditional style of a victorious Roman servant

Saint Maurice taking the higher ground: bringing forth the standard for all to guide by

Individual dressed in a lion animal covering: symbolic of the "Lion of Judah"

The individuals' pose: infantry leadership's "follow me" concept

Fixed gaze: trust and concern between leader and follower, extraordinary conduct and the power of life and death

Clasped right arms: physical inseparability of the infantry and the struggle at hand

Rays: the rising and setting sun, and the infantry's challenge, which runs day and night

Blue and yellow ribbon: the colors of infantrymen's dress blues

Source: award ceremony paperwork

The bronze-colored medal perched in front of Israel Tames boasts a variety of symbolic images.

Its rays symbolize the rising and setting sun, for instance, while the clasped arms represent inseparability. The blue and yellow ribbon signifies the infantrymen's dress blues.

But, for Tames, it stands for more than that. It's a reminder of his military service.

On May 15, Tames received the Order of Saint Maurice Medallion at a 2nd Infantry reunion in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

The award goes to those who made significant contributions to the infantry in the eyes of their those they served with, according to paperwork from the presentation. Recipients must also maintain integrity, moral character, professional competence and have served the infantry with distinction.

That day his name was also added to the National Infantry Association's honor roll of those recognized by the organization.

"It's a great honor to be recognized," he said, holding his newly- acquired award. "Very few people get this."

Tames' 20-year military career began in 1952 when, at 17, he left to fight for his country in the Korean War. He later served two tours during the Vietnam War, one in 1966 and another in 1968.

Although he was wounded five times during his time with the military, he said he was lucky.

He recalled one particular day while serving in Vietnam. It was Aug. 25, 1966, he said, when an attack leveled nearly his entire platoon.

Of the 130 or so men who entered into battle, only about 18 walked away.

"Many of them were walking wounded," Tames said, shaking his head. "It was hard."

The 75-year-old developed long-lasting relationships with those he served with overseas. It's a relationship his wife, Ramona Tames, said is evident even today.

Any time the husband-wife duo attends a reunion or other military event, it's difficult to pull him away from his friends.

"It's like a brotherhood," she said with a smile at her husband of 27 years.

Tames retired in 1972, but that didn't end his relationship with the military.

He works with county veteran services, was a key player in bringing a veteran outpatient clinic to Victoria and often advises those who need help signing up for programs and the like.

"My whole career has been helping, working with veterans, their widows and children," he said.

It's always rewarding to give back, he said.

"The hard part is when you know someone who really needs help, but you can't do anything about it," he said.

Tames said he wouldn't change anything. Even through the rough patches, he said, he owes everything he has to the military.

"I went through some bad times - some real bad times - but the good times made up for it," he said. "The pride you have in the branch you serve goes with you to the grave."

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