Purple Heart Recipient Tom Murphy to Speak at Oct. 24th County Salute to Vietnam Veterans (PHOTO)
Tom Murphy, a Rockville resident will be among the featured speakers on Saturday, Oct. 24, as Montgomery County honors the men and women who served the nation during the Vietnam War. Murphy was seriously wounded during his tour in Vietnam for which he was awarded the Purple Heart. The event, Honor and Gratitude: Montgomery Salutes Vietnam Veterans, will take place at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, starting at 10:30 a.m.
The Vietnam War ended for the United States in 1975. Bob Schieffer, who recently retired as host of CBS News’ Face the Nation, has agreed to be the host and guest speaker for Honor and Gratitude: Montgomery Salutes Vietnam Veterans that will be the first significant event in the 40 years since to honor the County’s Vietnam veterans. It is estimated that between 130 and 140 Montgomery County residents lost their lives in the Vietnam War. There are more than 13,000 Vietnam veterans currently living in the County.
Learn more about the event at Honor and Gratitude: Montgomery County Salutes Vietnam Veterans website.
Seating is limited for this free event, register to attend here.
Pfc. Murphy was with the 25th Infantry Division of the Army in June 1969 when his unit was on patrol in an area known as Parrot’s Peak, close to the Cambodian border. A major battle erupted at Fire Base Washington about two miles away as two North Vietnam regiments attacked a much smaller American company.
“At first light, we went out to the edge of the jungle, marching toward the fire base on patrol,” he said. “Most of the area had been cleared and was open. I was on line with my unit searching the area, and there was not much out there except this lone tree. And from behind this tree jumps an NVA soldier with an AK-47. He didn’t even have a helmet on. I had an M-16. He shot me and I shot him. I lived and he died.”
Pfc. Murphy suffered a serious chest wound. He spent two weeks being treated in Vietnam and then two weeks in a hospital in Japan. He was then flown to the United States, where he ironically ended up close to home at the former Walter Reed Army Hospital in Northwest D.C. His family was there to meet him when he arrived—but he said he was the only wounded soldier brought in that night whose family was able to be there.
“I was in the ambulance as we left Andrews Air Force Base and were going around the Beltway—the Beltway had just opened a few years earlier—and were on the way to Walter Reed, and I was just overwhelmed seeing that familiar concrete highway and realizing that I had survived to come home.”
Mr. Murphy was awarded a Purple Heart for his service actions. He went on to become a Rockville attorney and eventually became the first Vietnam veteran to be elected president of the Bar Association of Montgomery County, as well as the Maryland State Bar Association.
“I am not sure I deserved anything for what I did,” said Mr. Murphy, “But I do know: If he hadn’t shot me, he would have shot someone else in my unit.”
Other speakers at the event will include veterans who served in various aspects of the Vietnam conflict. The event will honor their service and also will look at how those experiences influenced their lives since.
County Executive Ike Leggett (who is a Vietnam vet), Council President George Leventhal and the County Council will lead the special ceremonies. The event will be recorded and broadcast on many of the public cable television channels that compose the County’s PEG (Public, Education, Government) organization, which is hosting the event. In addition, the PEG organization will be recording the stories of many of the veterans for a documentary.
“It has been almost four decades since our Vietnam veterans returned home,” said County Executive Leggett. “We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge their courage and patriotism and say thank you for making the world a better place. As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I know the sacrifices that were made by members of our military during times of war. This event is a perfect way for all of us to pay tribute to these brave and honorable men and women.”
“So many in our community heroically served our nation, and the world, 40 years ago,” said Council President Leventhal. “Oct. 24 will be a day where our County recognizes those whose actions helped that had such a great impact on our nation. There have been many books written, and many movies made, about the people we will honor, but on this day, we will personally thank—and hear directly from—some of the men and women who did so much to shape the life and freedom we know today.”
An important part of event will be the opportunity to record the stories of the Montgomery residents who served in Vietnam.
“Whether they were troops in the jungles, on helicopters and bombers, serving on the ships, the river patrol boats, in the medical corps or the troops supplying them all, there are stories that have yet to be told about Vietnam,” said Merlyn Reineke, chair of the PEG Governing Board. “This event will introduce a new generation to the sacrifices made by the brave men and women in Vietnam, and as the County’s cable providers, we will be there to preserve these stories so future generations will know about their heroism. It is hard to believe there has never been a major event to honor Montgomery County’s Vietnam vets, but we think this is the right time to salute them.”
Honor and Gratitude: Montgomery Salutes Vietnam Veterans event organizers are currently seeking to contact more of the veterans who will be honored on Oct 24. Those veterans, or family and friends of the veterans, seeking more information about the event should call 301.424.1730 / ext. 350. Additional details, including how to register to attend the free event, can be found on the event’s web site at: http://www.mocovietnamvets.org/