The Paw Paw community’s effort to honor a local man who was killed in action during the Vietnam War was finalized on Monday with the dedication of his headstone in the Woodrow Union Church cemetery.
Members of the Tri-State Honor Guard were on hand for a graveside dedication ceremony. Paw Paw resident Devin Abe gave brief remarks about the headstone fundraiser, the community’s involvement in making the effort a success and about Stotler’s life and service.
PFC Ray Stotler was one of seven soldiers from Morgan County to be killed in action during the Vietnam War, and the only one from Paw Paw.
Stotler was drafted in October 1966, received basic training and was assigned to a patrol and helicopter unit in Vietnam in May of 1967. Just three months later, Stotler and six other members of his unit were killed by sniper fire.
“Sometimes we fail to understand that these brave veterans were not just soldiers but people just like you and I,” said Abe.
He told the gathering that Stotler had been a catcher for Paw Paw Little League, was a rabbit hunter and fisherman, and had helped his father in a mowing business.
“He was a near and dear member of our community and is still loved and missed to this very day,” Abe said.
The effort to raise money for a full-sized headstone for Stotler took shape in 2021. Within a few weeks of announcing the fundraiser, Abe and his grandparents — Jock and Dottie Shambaugh – had already surpassed the goal of raising $3,500.
Abe said their commitment to raising a headstone received “overwhelming support from our great little community.”
“It should also be acknowledged that we received support and donations from all over, even from people who did not know Ray personally but wanted to help,” he said.
Giffin Funeral Home helped order the stone and cleared Stotler’s marker in the graveyard.
“And despite resource shortages and delays, through patience and perseverance we can finally celebrate this moment with all of you that PFC Ray William Stotler, after 55 years now has a beautiful headstone,” Abe said.