Escondido woman uncovers details of late father's award

Veteran working to get records for valor awards

ESCONDIDO, Calif. - A local woman has gotten answers in her emotional search into her father's past.

At age 22, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Hutson took out a group of Nazi soldiers, earning him one of the highest honors given by the military.

That was a feat the Julian native never shared with his daughter Kathy Herbert before his death in 1984.

"I think it was just too painful," said Herbert. "It was definitely a big part of his life, but it was definitely a hard part."

After Herbert's father passed, she was given a box of his belongings. Inside was another box containing a medal. It was a Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second highest combat award.

All Herbert saw was a mystery.

"It was incomplete," she said. "I had the medal but not the citation to explain why he got the medal."

When she went through government channels, she hit a major obstacle.  A fire in 1973 at a government warehouse in St. Louis has destroyed millions of files.

Herbert then contacted Doug Sterner. Since 1998, Sterner – a Vietnam veteran – has been trying to obtain records for 350,000 valor awards above the Bronze Star.

He learned the National Archives keeps records of all "general orders" for approving awards. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Sterner has obtained about 175,000 records.

"The valor, the sacrifice, the heroism of the men and women who've served in uniform should never be forgotten because of poor record keeping," said Sterner.

One of the records he found was the citation for Hutson.

"He continued to fire until his ammunition was exhausted," Herbert read from the citation.

Hutson, with another soldier, charged a pair of German machine gun nests which were firing on wounded troops. The two killed 11 Nazi soldiers.

After so many years of searching, Herbert had only one word to say.

"Proud," she said. "Proud."

Sterner has set up a website to catalog his records,

In 2008, it was bought by The Military Times. Sterner is now paid a stipend to maintain it.

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