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All of them fought for America - but in Vietnam, not on the beaches of Normandy. And all eight are homeless.

For a brief moment Friday, the down-on-their-luck veterans rose to applause and stood tall as they received the state's highest award recognizing gallantry in action.But their joy at finally being honored was tinged with resentment, knowing they will never experience the praise and pageantry lavished on D-Day veterans earlier this week.

"I couldn't believe it. It was beautiful. I never had anything presented to me like that," said former Marine Lance Cpl. Juan Martinez, 43, who received three Purple Hearts in Vietnam.

The award helped soothe the anger he felt after watching TV coverage of the ceremonies honoring the Allied troops who stormed the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944.

Joseph Thompson Jr., regional director for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, congratulated the men on receiving the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross, saying, "My brother Vietnam veterans, you did well."

Army Specialist Joe Green Jr. was a medic in Vietnam who worked in the field treating the wounded until a helicopter could evacuate them.

"That was my job - missing legs, missing arms, men blown up. . . . My whole function was to stop the bleeding and ease the pain," he said.

Like so many other young men there, the 46-year-old Green said he turned to drugs and alcohol to relieve the pain and forget.

The first name called out at the ceremony in a Manhattan office was Sgt. Eugene Briggman.

The 47-year-old former Marine, homeless since 1985, was slouching in his seat with his cap almost covering his eyes. As his name was announced, he drew himself upright and walked with dignity to the podium.

There, for a moment, was the sergeant who had been responsible for the lives of 14 Marines and earned a Purple Heart and several Bronze Stars.

"It felt kind of good," he said. "I got tingling all up and down - like, damn, someone knew that I am here. Sergeant Briggman is here."