On Monday, Aug. 19, Carroll County Del. Haven Shoemaker is hosting a sign dedication ceremony, where a portion of Md. 75 in Union Bridge will be dedicated to Army Private First Class Russel Edward Milberry.
For those not familiar, Milberry is a native son of Carroll County who is an American hero. He was a medical corpsman assigned to the 362nd Medical Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. Milberry was a young, devoted Army soldier and role model to others. He served with honor.
Milberry was a resident of Union Bridge. Prior to being drafted, Milberry graduated from Francis Scott Key High School in 1966 and was working at the Westminster Shoe Company when he received his draft notice.
He was killed in action in Cu Chai, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam on Jan. 31, 1968, during the Battle of Quang Tri, when a bomb was dropped on the hospital in which he was a medic.
He was only 20 years old. He had just started his tour of duty on December 16, 1967. He was approximately a month and 15 days into his tour when he was killed — three days after his 20th birthday.
It is said that military personnel and first responders who are killed in action, die twice. Once as a result of their injuries and a second time the last time anyone remembers or says their name. It is important that we remember forever the sacrifice of Milberry and his family. It is important that Russel Edward Milberry live on forever in our hearts as an American hero.
Milberry was the fifth Carroll County resident killed in action in Vietnam. Born Jan. 28, 1948, he was the son of Robert S. and Ella Dora Milberry and brother of Mary, Jane, Esther, Regina, Cheryl, Joshua T., and Robert Jr.
He is also memorialized as one of the 19 names on the Carroll County Vietnam Memorial at the corner of Willis and Court Streets, in Westminster. The first person listed on the memorial was Ronald Kenny, February 1966. The last was Herbert Mulkey, Jr., March 1971. The deadliest year for Carroll County, and the war, was 1968, when Carroll County lost seven men to the memorial.
The memorial was dedicated on May 28, 1990. Ever since that year a small group of us gathers there, right after the Westminster Memorial Day ceremonies at the Westminster Cemetery, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. We pay homage to our loved ones from Carroll County, and tell their stories for them. We try to give them a voice.
Over 2.7 million Americans served in the Vietnam War. The average age was 19. Of that number, 300,000 were wounded in action, and 75,000 were disabled. It has been estimated that almost 5 million military personnel and civilians, from all sides, lost their life in the Vietnam War.
There were 1,046 Marylanders who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War. There are over 58,200 names listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington.
In 1968 there weren’t too many friendly places to be in Vietnam. Quảng Trị, where Milberry was killed, is the northernmost province of South Vietnam. It borders North Vietnam to the north, and Laos to the west, north of the former imperial capital of Huế, adjacent to the DMZ – the demilitarized zone – the border, at the time, between North and South Vietnam; and the site of the Battle of Khe Sanh, Jan. 21 through April 8, 1968, and over 10,000 casualties.
Quang Tri Province is just above Thua Thien Province. Quang Nam is just below Thua Thien Province, where the ancient capital of Hue was located, and the site of intense fighting during the Tet offensive of 1968, in which there was a total of over 125,000 casualties by all sides of the conflict.
Setting aside a day to commemorate fallen heroes is noble and important, but for many of us, our country’s veterans are not cold statistics relegated to memorization and obligatory ceremonies at scheduled times of the year.
They are not just names on a cold black piece of granite. They’re all young men and who loved and were loved, who laughed and cried, and had their dreams and bright futures cut short so we could have ours.