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Editorial: Well-deserved honor for Russell Milberry was ‘a long time coming’ and ‘makes up for a lot’

Vietnam veteran Walter Grooms of Westminster, left, who was stationed in Chu Lai while serving in the Army from 1970-71, Joshua Milberry of New Windsor and his cousin Kathy Brumfield of Westminster gather together at the Union Bridge VFW Union Memorial Post #8806 where Milberry was presented with a sign dedicating a portion of Md. 75 in memory of his brother, Army Private Russell Milberry, who was killed in Vietnam in 1968.
Vietnam veteran Walter Grooms of Westminster, left, who was stationed in Chu Lai while serving in the Army from 1970-71, Joshua Milberry of New Windsor and his cousin Kathy Brumfield of Westminster gather together at the Union Bridge VFW Union Memorial Post #8806 where Milberry was presented with a sign dedicating a portion of Md. 75 in memory of his brother, Army Private Russell Milberry, who was killed in Vietnam in 1968. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Road signs at Watson Lane and Winters Church Road on Md. 75 in Union Bridge now read: “Dedicated to PFC Russell Milberry United States Army." The signs were to be placed after a ceremony Monday night at the Union Bridge VFW that honored Milberry, who was killed in combat during the Vietnam War. While we wish it hadn’t taken 51 years for Milberry to be honored, we couldn’t be more pleased to see a local hero recognized, giving an entire generation in our community a chance to learn about him.

Several others also deserve recognition. Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones played a huge role in getting this done. And Jones credited local businessman Charles Stambaugh for getting the ball rolling years ago and Del. Haven Shoemaker and his staff, as well as the VFW, for making it happen.

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“There really hasn’t been a lot of recognition for this gentleman,” Jones told us, noting that, sometimes, it’s just “out of sight, out of mind.” Now, Milberry’s name will be in sight and, hopefully, on the mind of everyone traveling that route.

Milberry was a Union Bridge native who graduated from Francis Scott Key High School in 1966 and was working at the Westminster Shoe Company when he received his draft notice, according to a news release from Shoemaker’s office that also called him a devoted soldier who served with honor and was a role model to others. The Army private first class was a paratrooper and medic. He was killed in action in Cu Chi, Vietnam on Jan. 31, 1968 when a bomb was dropped on the hospital where he was serving as a medic. His death came about a month-and-a-half into his tour and just three days after his 20th birthday.

Robert Finn, deputy secretary of veteran affairs, spoke poignantly at the ceremony, attended by local officials and veterans as well as Milberry’s family and friends — at least one of whom flew in all the way from Atlanta.

“He served his country and, as President Lincoln said, he gave his last full measure of devotion, not only for our freedom but the freedom of other people,” Finn said. "So I think it’s appropriate, even though it’s 51 years later, that we’re here today to have this last memorial as we dedicate part of Route 75 for him as a permanent memorial and to remember his name and to honor his name so that nobody will ever forget PFC Russell Milberry and the sacrifice he gave to his country.”

The honor was well-deserved according to those who knew Milberry, one of 19 Carroll countians killed in Vietnam. “He was a friend; he was a neighbor and he was a brother ... bottom line is he was the most wonderful person,” attendee Anne Brooks told us.

“I am so glad,” added William Milberry, one of Russell Milberry’s cousins. “It’s been a long time coming."

Indeed it has. And we, too, are glad Russell Milberry received this honor. We are also glad to be living in an era when members of our military are appreciated and respected. As William Milberry noted, that wasn’t always the case.

“Us Vietnam veterans didn’t get too good a reception,” he told us, "but this here, it makes up for a lot.”

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