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Baltimore County

July 4 ceremony in Arbutus to honor fallen soldier

Roy Shover keeps side-by-side photos of his brother Bill and himself in uniform. He will see Bill, who was killed during the Vietnam War, memorialized at the Arbutus war memorial July 4.

This Independence Day, the Shover family will get the chance to see their son, Pfc. William Shover, honored in a way they've never seen before when his name is added to the Arbutus War Memorial honoring the town's fallen soldiers.

The short ceremony, said longtime Arbutus resident George Kendrick, will be the second such ceremony hosted this year in honor of an Arbutus area soldier killed in combat in Vietnam. On Memorial Day, the name of Arbutus native Brian Wehner, who died at the age of 22 in a mortar attack on his base, was added to the memorial in the center of town marking fallen soldiers.

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Shover, who was killed at the age of 20 by gunfire, will be added to the plaque near the intersection of Sulphur Spring Road and Oregon Avenue during the 10:30 a.m. Saturday, a few hours before the annual Fourth of July Parade, Kendrick said.

For Roy Shover, thinking about his older brother Bill still gets him choked up.

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Bill was "a wonderful brother that I always looked up to," said Roy, an Arbutus resident who was 14 months younger than his brother. Well-liked among his peers, Bill was always sticking up for his younger brother, making sure nothing happened to him, said Roy. Both brothers loved to play baseball and Bill spent some time playing football for the Arbutus rec program, Roy said.

Never very enthusiastic about sitting in a classroom, Bill left Edmondson Westside High School in the 12th grade to take a job in a lumber mill, Roy said. Not long after, he signed up for military service. At the time, it seemed like everyone the boys knew was joining the military, said Roy. After graduating high school, he followed Bill into the service. While Bill went into the Army, Roy served in the Air Force.

"Bill always liked the military," Roy said. "He liked the service."

After basic training at Fort Knox, in Kentucky, Bill attended ranger training in Fort Benning, Ga., and was sent overseas to a base in Germany for a year, Roy said. He quickly fell in love with the country and even taught himself some limited German. While on leave one weekend, he visited his little brother at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, one of the few times the brothers got to see each other while in the service.

"That might have been the last time we saw one another," he said.

With just about a year left in his service, Bill was sent to Vietnam, Roy said. He wrote home every couple weeks, always reassuring his family that things weren't as bad as they seemed on television.

In January 1967, just a month before his 21st birthday, Bill was killed trying to help a wounded soldier.

Roy can still remember vividly his sergeant escorting him to base headquarters. His mother was on the phone, and they told him that his brother had been killed.

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Roy said Bill died trying to rescue a South Vietnamese soldier, who had been hit by sniper fire. Bill crawled out from where he had ducked for cover and reached the soldier. While attempting to carry the other man back to safety, Bill was shot and killed, Roy said.

As the family's sole surviving son, Roy was given an honorable discharge.

"My mother wanted me home, so I went home," he said.

And home he stayed. A lifetime resident of the southwest Baltimore region, he keeps mementos that remind him of his brother all around his home. From Bill's Silver Star and Purple Heart to side-by-side framed photographs of both brothers in uniform, Roy proudly displays artifacts from his brother's life. His mother, Helen Shover, who will be 89 this fall, keeps piles of photographs of her eldest son in her Arbutus home, Roy said.

It's been 48 years since Bill's passing and burial in the Baltimore National Cemetery, said Roy through tears, "and we still love him."

He added: "We still grieve for Bill after all these years."

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When Bill's name is added to the monument in Arbutus, it will be the first time Roy has seen his brother's name carved into a war memorial. He has never been able to bring himself to seek out Bill's name on the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., he said, out of fear the grief will be too much.

Seeing the community recognize Bill in such a public way, Bill said, will "mean everything to me."

As a father, Roy said he has made every effort to ensure that his own son knows about Bill and his courage.

"I even tell my grandson about my brother," he said. "I just wanted them to know what a hero he was, and that he died for this country so we could all have freedom."


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