"You displayed great courage and unflagging patriotism on the battlefield," Mikulski said.
Prodding from others during a reunion of his infantry company renewed his pursuit of the Bronze Star.
"We as a family never realized until recently how much effort he put forth for his country," said his wife of 44 years, Jocelyn Shyab, who said there is room for the new award in the frame with the Purple Heart.
Shyab has fostered a respect for those who serve in his three children and in his students, two of whom were among the uniformed soldiers in the audience. He has organized many field trips to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington.
"You teach children to recognize the sacrifices," he said.
Martin said he encouraged students at the defense school to attend the ceremony.
"We honored two real American heroes today," Martin said. "I want those here today to reach out and talk to them. We stand on their shoulders."
Rath earned a gentle laugh from the audience when he told Mikulski, Maryland's senior senator, that he was proud of her, too.
"When I voted for you, I didn't really know how much good it was going to do me," he said.