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Vietnam Veterans Honored at White House Nearly 40 Years Later

For Army Capt. John Poindexter, being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for heroism Tuesday marked an "opportunity to close a chapter" in his life.

"The general feeling is a pretty intense level of excitement," Poindexter told Foxnews.com just before he and 85 other Vietnam veterans were honored at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.

"It will mean to me that I've filled an important duty to the men who I literally owe my life to, men who supported me in a desperate battle 40 years ago in the jungles along the Cambodian border."

Poindexter, 65, was one of 86 veterans of Troop A, 1st Squadron of the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment who were honored for defining the meaning of "bravery and heroism," President Obama said.

"As these men will you tell you themselves, this isn't the story of a battle that changed the course of a war," Obama said. "It never had a name, like Tet or Hue or Khe Sanh. It never made the papers back home. But like countless battles, known and unknown, it is a proud chapter in the story of the American soldier."

The group volunteered to rescue an American infantry company surrounded by enemy forces on the Cambodian border on March 26, 1970.

"Charlie Company, from the 1st Calvary Division, had stumbled upon a massive underground bunker of North Vietnamese," Obama said. "A hundred Americans were facing some 400 enemy fighterss. Outnumbered and outgunned, Charlie Company was at risk of being overrun. That's when Alpha Troop's captain gave the order: 'Saddle up and move out.'"

The Presidential Unit Citation, the highest honor given to a military unit, has been issued since World War II and is awarded to U.S. Armed Forces units that display extraordinary heroism in combat against an armed enemy force. It has been bestowed roughly 100 times, Obama said.

The commander in chief then thanked Poindexter for realizing the unit's service "had been overlooked" and noted that the veteran spent years tracking down his fellow soldiers and gathering reports to acquire Silver Stars and Bronze Stars for his men.

"I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute to these men, who fought in what came to be called The Anonymous Battle," Obama continued. "Troopers, you are not anonymous anymore."

Poindexter was 25 at the time of the mission, and he was wounded in the hand, neck and face by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade. He said he still remembers the sensation of being wounded in battle, along with the "looks on the faces" of the soldiers he led into the fight.

Now a businessman in Texas, he said the honor, nearly four decades after the battle, came not a minute too soon.

"I've been at it for seven years," said Poindexter, referring to his quest to file for the citation. "It's a personal fulfillment."