by LISA SCHAUER
Six hundred and nine names are inscribed on the Morgan County Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Seven of them were young men who never made it home.
“A lot of us didn’t make it back,” said Harry L. Reed of Berkeley Springs. Reed served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 in the U.S. Army 18th Engineer Brigade.
“I put my buddy on the helicopter. He was blowed apart. I told him, ‘don’t get out of the Jeep,’ but he did. He only had three days left in country,” Reed remembers.
Reed came out on Saturday for the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Berkeley Springs State Park. The memorial was erected in March 2021.
About 200 people, including veterans, their families, supporters and volunteers from the American Legion gathered for the ceremony.
Traffic stopped as the American Legion Tri-State Honor Guard Post 60 marched across the square and conducted a military salute at the memorial.
“They treated us bad in ’71,” Reed said about coming home after the war in Vietnam.
“I get a little relief now, getting the thank-yous,” Reed said after the dedication ceremony.
“Back then, we didn’t get any appreciation. This is good to see. It’s a good thing to get the appreciation we should’ve got back then,” said Reed as he headed home.
Nearly 50 years after the end of the war in Vietnam, many of its veterans have already passed.
According to Chuck Hampe, president of the Morgan County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 14 Vietnam veterans in Morgan County have died in the last year. He said it was important to finish the memorial while the veterans were alive to see it.
Thirteen years ago, Hampe began his quest to build a memorial in Morgan County. After attending the dedication of the World War II monument on Fairfax Street in 2007 with his late father, a WWII vet, Hampe decided Vietnam vets shouldn’t have to wait 60 years for their recognition.
Hampe opened the Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedication ceremony with a heartfelt speech. He asked all Vietnam era veterans to stand and be recognized. Perhaps a dozen or more men stood to a long round of applause.
The names of the seven Morgan County men who died in action were read aloud, as a single chime rang out with each. Seven white doves were released in the air.
“I didn’t serve in the military,” Hampe said from the podium. “People always ask me ‘why’, and I tell them, it’s all for the vets. I personally know 177 of the names on that monument. All the fundraisers, all the supporters in this great community, have been so meaningful,” he said.
Hampe recognized Mrs. Lurene Linaweaver Gano, 96, of Berkeley Springs, who was in attendance with her daughter, Joy Gano Butts, also of Berkeley Springs, and other family members.
Gano also attended the Morgan County World War I Veteran’s memorial dedication, held in 1925, and then the World War II memorial dedication.
She attended her first dedication as an infant, in the arms of her father, Wilmer Linaweaver, a WWI veteran. Her daughter Joy showed off a picture that was taken at the time. Gano’s husband, Harry Gano, and brother, George Linaweaver, both served in WWII.
“This day is all about the vets,” said Gano’s nephew, Dale Linaweaver. “We were class of ’75, and the war was just ending. The way these guys in uniform were treated was just terrible,” recalls Linaweaver, who grew up in Berkeley Springs.
A woman wept openly as the bagpipe played Amazing Grace. The honor guard folded the American flag 13 times, and then placed it at the foot of the memorial.
There, honor guard members formally saluted all the Vietnam-era veterans who were born in Morgan County, or who made it their home.
Hampe presented commemorative pins to the Vietnam veterans and their widows.
Finally, the name of each veteran was read aloud, as people straggled back to their vehicles. One family gathered to take a photo in front of the memorial with their vet, now a grandpa, as he beamed with pride on this day.