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VFW honors Vietnam Veterans

By Staff | Apr 5, 2019

Vietnam Veterans posed for a photo following a dinner in their honor at the Charles Town VFW 3522 Post Home. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN – In honor of Vietnam Veterans Day on March 29, the Charles Town VFW Post 3522 held a dinner at their post home, to recognize the service of local veterans.

“This is the first time doing this,” said Commander Joe Creager. “All across the country VFWs have the option to do something to recognize Vietnam Veteran’s Day.”

The designation of the day celebrating Vietnam Veterans was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, 2017, as part of the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act.

Craeger gave opening remarks, following a dinner prepared for the veterans and their guests.

“My experience was basically what I saw on television,” Craeger said. “I had cousins that were worried about their number, but I never knew what that meant until later.”

According to Craeger, 97 percent of those who served received honorable discharges when leaving the service. The average age of a soldier enlisting was 22.

Catt Craeger, junior vice president of the Auxiliary, shared the story of an empty table which was set up in the corner of the room.

“This special table is set reserved to honor missing men,” she said, explaining the empty chair was for the missing soldier. The round table, showing everlasting concern, was covered by a white cloth designating purity of their motives. The single red rose was for the blood shed for this country’s freedoms and the red ribbon displayed love of country. A slice of lemon on the plate reflected their bitter fate, while salt was for the countless tears shed by their families at home. Also present was a candle reflecting hope to illuminate the way home and a Bible showing the strength gained to sustain faith. An inverted glass was a sign they were not present to share in a toast.

At the end of her explanation, she called for the group to raise a toast to all Vietnam veterans.

Chief Master Sgt. Roland Shambaugh, with the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, was the guest speaker at the event. Born in 1961, Shambaugh was attending grammar school at the height of the Vietnam War.

“I remember how bad our vets were treated,” Shambaugh said. “I couldn’t come to grasp that we treated our people in uniform so poorly.”

According to Shambaugh, one of his best friends is a Vietnam veteran who struggled readjusting to life after Vietnam.

“His name is Roger,” Shambaugh said. “He was told to remove his dress uniform when returning to San Francisco, because the people in the airport would spit on him. He told me about all of the negativism and the hatred he faced.

“Most Vietnam veterans served as volunteers, women included. They served honorably and did their duty through some of the most brutal conditions,” Shambaugh said. “When you came home, you put your medals away, had families and went on your way. You never stopped serving.

“You didn’t just care for your own, but those who followed,” Shambaugh said. “You helped with the VA and how the government treats Vets. Today’s vets are treated better because of your efforts.”

Following the dinner and remarks, more veterans shared their stories. One of these stories was given by Army veteran Bruce Matthews, about his friend and fellow soldier Sgt. E5 Harold May who was wounded in Vietnam.

“There was intense fire and I heard Harold say ‘I’m hit,'” said Matthews. “Literally half of his face was gone,” Matthews recalled.

“He said to me, ‘Sir, I can’t see. Is my eye all right?'” Matthews said. “I lied to him and told him he was going to be fine. I bandaged him and he went back to his post.”

May was taken in a medical helicopter and it was years before he found out that Mays lived to tell his story. The two reconnected after 20 years and remained in contact until May’s death years later.