NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) -- A Willington veteran receives some long overdue commendations: Gregory Potts was awarded three service medals by Congressman Joe Courtney 45 years after he earned them.
The footage is grainy, but a YouTube video shows sailors on the deck of the USS Forrestal as fire quickly spreads through the ship while in the Gulf of Tonkin on July 29, 1967.
"When the explosion started my first thought was I have to get out of here," Potts said.
However, Petty Officer Gregory Potts did more than think about his own survival. He woke up sleeping shipmates and helped dispose of missiles so the ship wouldn't go down.
"Fought fires in the berthing compartments and pulled bodies out," Potts said. "You just do, you don't know what you're going to do, you just have to do it."
The heroics earned him three medals, including the Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Star.
"Thank you, congressman," Potts said. "I'm taking these medals today for 134 shipmates who perished on July 29, 1967."
"I think recognizing the people who serve our country is the least we can do," said Rep. Joe Courtney.
Congressman Courtney also recently visited a Coventry soldier recovering at Walter Reed Hospital after being injured in a fire.
Potts's VFW commander who was sitting in the audience during the ceremony was the one who got the ball rolling; let Congressman Courtney's office know about the medals, which had not been awarded yet. And the congressman says if anyone else knows of a veteran who has medals that they haven't received let his office know.
"At first it wasn't a big deal," said Potts, "but as I've gotten older it started to mean something to me."
And it can now continue to mean something to his grandchildren and beyond.
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