A Van Buren woman and her family were presented with the Department of Defense’s Defense of Freedom medal to honor the contributions of her husband who died from a terrorist car bombing in Afghanistan in 2004.
Sen. John Boozman presented the medal, the civilian equivalent to a Purple Heart, to Michelle Deuley at Big Jake’s Cattle Co. in Van Buren Tuesday to posthumously honor her husband John Andrew Deuley.
John Deuley was killed August 29, 2004, during a terrorist car bombing on the United States Department of State Civilian Police (CIVPOL) headquarters building in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was working for DynCorp International on a U.S. Department of State police training mission at the time.
"It’s a great honor to John to pause and recognize the sacrifice of himself … but also to recognize the family," Boozman said after the ceremony. "Surely no one’s been more affected than they have."
About 20 friends and family gathered at the steakhouse to watch Boozman present the medal to Michelle and her two sons, Jordan, 11, and Justin, 12.
Michael Warren, vice president for DynCorp International, presented the family with a certificate of appreciation for John Deuley’s service.
Warren spoke directly to the family and John Deuley’s two son’s about their father’s mission in Afghanistan, noting that it was important to acknowledge his "unique bravery."
"I want to make sure you understand what your father was doing; he was one of the good guys," Warren told the two boys.
Though the honors came almost nine years after John Deuley’s death, Michelle Deuley became emotional during Warren’s speech.
"I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time," Michelle Deuley said after the ceremony.
Personnel in Boozman’s office have been working with Michelle Deuley and DynCorp International since 2008 to have John Deuley honored for his service after they were contacted by Michelle.
"She was very frustrated with the lack of information and bureaucracy she faced," said Kathy Watson from Boozman’s office.
Since 2008, Watson and others made inquiries with the Department of Defense, Department of Justice and the Department of State, she said. The difficulty came in part from the fact that the medal comes from the Department of Defense, but John Deuley was contracted with the Department of State, she said.
Also, the details of John Deuley’s death had to be investigated for accurateness, Warren said.
"We need to make sure the sacrifices that are made are honored respectfully and those honors go to those who deserve it - and John Deuley surely deserved it," Warren said.
John Deuley also was honored by the Department of State on May 13, and his named was one of 86 placed on a memorial wall honoring civilian police and corrections advisers, pilots, and support staff killed while participating in the Department of State’s criminal justice assistance programs abroad.
"It’s a great honor for [our dad] to be recognized for serving our country and dying for our freedom," said Justin Deuley.
The Deuley family moved to Van Buren in 2003, and were "welcomed with open arms," Michelle Deuley said. She added that it was the support of the community that helped her family get through the grieving period.