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Recognizing one and all who served in combat

An Eagan Vietnam veteran was presented with some of the nation’s highest honors 40 years after his acts of valor.
By JOY POWELL, Star Tribune  
Tim Callister in Vietnam
The day in August 1970 when assault helicopter pilot Tim Callister
arrived for his mission in Cambodia, a memorial was underway for some
pilots who had been shot down. Only half had been rescued.
Soon, Callister, then 23, faced the same kind of danger when he flew
into a hot zone, his Huey helicopter taking fire as he responded to a
call for support from a transport helicopter that was under intense
In a ceremony 40 years later in West St. Paul, Callister on Wednesday
was formally presented with his Distinguished Flying Cross medal, the
Bronze Star and a fistful of other medals that had been quietly slipped
into his military file as pieces of paper during his U.S. Army service,
from 1968 through 1971.
Outgoing state Sen. Jim Carlson presented the honors in a ceremony
that both he and Callister said they hoped paid tribute to all veterans,
including the many who risked or lost their lives in Vietnam. “I know
others in my unit that did similar things and probably didn’t get
written up or nobody recognized it,” Callister said. “And I’m sure if
you went through all the units in Vietnam, there’s folks who did that,
not only helicopter pilots, but the guys on the ground, walking through
the forest, getting shot at and shot. They’re every bit as much and
probably more the heroes than the pilots.”
Nearly 40 people gathered on Wednesday, including fellow Vietnam pilot Pat Riley of Lakeland.
“There’s a lot of bad sentiment about the war, but if you were over
there, and your fellow soldiers were getting hurt, you went because you
could help them, and they would have done the same thing for you,”
Callister said.
Callister, 63, of Eagan is a humble man. His wife, Barbara Callister,
said it was good to see Tim get the medals after all these years.
“A lot of the Vietnam-era veterans didn’t talk about the war when
they came home because it was so unpopular, and they had to hide what
they did,” she said. “Now that they see the current veterans coming home
and being celebrated, they’re very happy that it is happening for them,
but I wonder if there’s not some feeling that they’ve buried that ‘Gee,
it’s too bad we didn’t get that too.'”
She said she hoped her husband’s honors could be seen as saluting his era.
After Vietnam, Callister served in the Minnesota National Guard,
where he met fellow pilot Riley. Callister went on to become airport
director for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for 30 years and
is now a consultant.
Among those at the ceremony at the Dakota County Western Service
Center was Daniel McNamara of St. Paul. He served in the First Cavalry
Division in Cambodia.
He’d never before met Callister, but on Wednesday, McNamara wanted to
do something that he hadn’t had the chance to do 40 years ago, when
pilots like Callister flew at treetop level back and forth, shooting to
suppress enemy fire so foot soldiers like McNamara could board transport
“We always wanted to thank them for getting us out of trouble, and a
lot of time when it was a hot pickup zone, where we’re getting a lot of
action, they’d come and get us anyway,” McNamara said.
“The battalion commander told them they didn’t need to come in and
get us, because it was dangerous, but they came in anyway to get us
The thanks came from others as well, including Dakota County
Commissioner Tom Egan, who expressed the board’s gratitude to Callister
and other veterans there.
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson spoke of a nation built
with the preservation of laws and liberty and the importance of
remembering those who defend that.
The justice told Callister:
“That is why it’s so important, even though we gather late to honor
your service, because you are symbolic of so many others, so many of
your comrades in Vietnam and other wars, who served this country.”
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