Lt. Col. Jeffrey Paulus, the commander of the 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, presents Lothar “Joe” Funke with his gold spurs at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, Feb. 17. Funke was awarded his gold spurs 50 years after serving in the Vietnam War from 1968-1969. The “Order of the Spur” is a timeless cavalry tradition that allows Soldiers to earn gold spurs by serving in combat, or earn silver spurs by successfully completing a unit spur ride event. (Army photo by Sgt. Savannah Roy)
Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. – Leaders and Soldiers from across the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, gathered to witness Lothar “Joe” Funke, a U.S. Army Vietnam War Veteran, receive his gold spurs after 50 years, Feb. 17 at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.
The “Order of the Spur” is a timeless cavalry tradition that allows Soldiers to earn gold spurs by serving in combat, or earn silver spurs by successfully completing a unit spur ride event.
“All Soldiers who support combat operations while assigned or attached to a cavalry unit earn gold spurs,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Paulus, the commander of the 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd CAB. “It is the cavalry equivalent of a combat patch, and denotes those troopers as combat Veterans.”
Funke was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 as an artilleryman. Shortly after basic and advanced training, Funke was deployed to Vietnam. There, he served as a UH-1 helicopter door gunner for the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile) from 1967-1968.
“The U.S. Air Cavalry came into being during the Vietnam War, and troopers like Sgt. Funke were at the vanguard of its development,” said Paulus. “He and his fellow Veteran troopers established the foundation upon which our Squadron is built.”
When Funke left the U.S. Army in 1972, he was never awarded his gold spurs for combat operations in Vietnam. Fifty years later, the 3rd Sqn., 17th Cav. Regt., command team embraced the opportunity to induct Funke into the Order of the Gold Spur, finally presenting him with the coveted gold spurs.
“The opportunity for us to present Sgt. Funke with his spurs after 50 years is an honor for the Squadron and one that we could not pass up,” said Paulus. “It is a testament to the traditions and brotherhood that the U.S. Cavalry embodies – once a cavalryman, always a cavalryman.”
The 3rd ID commanding general, Maj. Gen. Charles Costanza, appreciated the opportunity for the Division to provide overdue recognition and gratitude.
“Vietnam Veterans fought and served under extremely challenging conditions, and were not always welcomed or commended when they returned home,” he said. “It means a lot to us that more than 50 years later, this generation of Marne Soldiers could contribute to Mr. Funke being properly recognized for his service to our nation.”
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