U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) will present Ronald Dolecki, a veteran residing in Huntingtown, Maryland, with a Prisoner of War (POW) Medal honoring his military service in Ethiopia. Senator Van Hollen authored a legislative provision to secure Mr. Dolecki’s medal following the Army’s misapplication of the law to his unique case.
Senator Van Hollen will be joined by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) as well as Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.); Senator Kaine will be presenting a medal to Virginia veteran David Strickland, who also received a POW medal as a result of Senator Van Hollen’s legislative action.
While on a mapping mission in Ethiopia in 1965, Mr. Dolecki was captured by armed, uniformed members of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). He suffered under brutal conditions while in captivity but eventually escaped and saved the lives of two other individuals.
However, Mr. Dolecki had been denied the POW Medal for more than a decade even after Congress passed a law in 2013 to clarify the criteria for the honor. Upon learning of this issue, Senator Van Hollen took legislative action – including writing twice to the Secretary of the Army and passing report language accompanying the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to help ensure the accurate application of the law in order to secure Mr. Dolecki’s medal.
Mr. Dolecki’s POW medal award was approved in March 2022, as was a medal for the late Jack Kalmbach, who served as Mr. Dolecki’s pilot on the mission. The awards follow many years of advocacy from Mr. Dolecki, Dr. Dwight Mears, and the Senator to secure the honor. Mr. Strickland was taken captive by the ELF in 1975 under substantially similar circumstances as Mr. Dolecki but had also been denied consideration for the POW Medal for years until Senator Van Hollen’s action.