Hero From the Heart of Virginia: Wayne Dooley - WSET.com - ABC13

Hero From the Heart of Virginia: Wayne Dooley

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Bedford Co. VA – Wayne Dooley is known around Montvale as a long-time volunteer firefighter. Decades ago he displayed a different kind of heroism, but hid it for years.

Wayne Dooley looked sharp in his tuxedo when he married his wife Shirley in 1991. What his bride didn't know is that decades before, Wayne's dress uniform was decorated by ribbons and a V, for valor.

"I knew nothing about it because he wouldn't talk," said Shirley Dooley. "He wouldn't talk about it."

 Shirley discovered her husband's Purple Heart and Bronze Star, medals she never knew he'd earned, packed away. When she found them, she gained a new found respect for the man she'd married.

"I was just so impressed. You know, 'Why didn't you show me all this?' It just didn't seem to mean anything to him," said Shirley.

His actions in Vietnam meant everything to the men he served with, men who likely would have died out there in the open, if it weren't for Wayne Dooley.

"I looked up and my 50 gunner, the barrel on the thing was cherry red so I had to do something to get him back into firing because I knew something was going to happen," said Wayne Dooley. "I shot 20 magazines through my M-16 and jumped over the hatch and back over and changed the barrel under fire and that's what I got my Bronze Star for. Valor."

Wayne says he's only able to tell that story now, because he joined a PTSD support group, and was able to talk things through with other vets. Those men, like Wayne, also had to grow up fast. Wayne was just 18 when he was drafted.

"Wayne if there was something you could go back and tell the young man in these pictures to prepare him, what would it be?," said Angela Hatcher. "Get all the training you can get and be ready," said Wayne.

Wayne also has advice for another young man. He and Shirley are raising a teenage grandson.

"If it's war time, I'd rather go than let him go," said Wayne.

Willing to do it over again, to spare another man, like he did all those years ago.

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