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May 29, 2013

A Fallen Son of Carroll County

Kevin E. Dayhoff

The weather was perfect for the 146th Memorial Day exercises at the Westminster Cemetery on Monday. The keynote address speaker for the community ritual of spring was Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph T. Schultz, a North Carroll High School graduate.


Sergeant Schultz began his address by pondering, “I think those men and women who, so long ago, imagined this holiday we now call Memorial Day, knew what they were doing when they designated this time of year as our time to honor the fallen…


“It is a time of renewal and strength after a winter of loss and silence. They must have imagined all the flowers in bloom, a million or more representing those lost in battles here and on almost every continent around the globe. They must have imagined the opportunity to tell the stories of the past to the American people who will pass these stories on to the children of tomorrow…”


The annual tradition of Memorial Day in Carroll County is commemorated with a day full of friends and family, picnics and parades, museums and monuments; that dates back to May 30, 1868, when the events of the day were first organized by Mary Bostwick Shellman.


Memorial Day is not just another long weekend to have a cookout, eat some crabs or buy three tires and get the fourth one free. It is a solemn occasion. As an aside, I usually try to make a mental note of the local businesses that have “Memorial Day sales,” and solemnly endeavor to never-ever patronize that business again.


It is a day when thousands line Main Street in Westminster for the annual parade. Hundreds gather at the cemetery; and afterwards, a handful gather at the Carroll County Vietnam Memorial several blocks away next to the historic court house.


I could not agree more with Sergeant Schultz. Memorial Day is an “opportunity to tell the stories of the past to the American people who will pass these stories on to the children of tomorrow…”


There, at the Carroll County Vietnam Memorial, for many years I have shared the stories of some of the 18 fallen heroes from that conflict who faces are etched in the black granite memorial on Willis Street.


Last Monday, poignantly, I stood at the granite wall in Westminster beside the family of one of the fallen, Army Sgt. First Class James Zumbrun, of Manchester. Sergeant Zumbrun died in Vietnam in January 1970.


My friend, Dylan Slagle, an excellent photographer with The Carroll County Times, took a wonderful picture of Tim Herb, showing his daughter, Mallie, 5, the engraved picture of her great uncle, Sergeant Zumbrun.


In the past I have shared the stories of Frederick John Magsamen, Christopher Jesse Miller, Jr., Stanley Groomes, Joseph William Blickenstaff, Herbert Eugene Mulkey, Jr., James Norman Byers and Sherman E. Flanagan, Jr.


The very first name on the black granite memorial is that of Ronald Michael Kenny, 18, a 1965 graduate of Robert Moton High School. He was born on March 14, 1947, and lived in the Mount Airy area with his parents, Charles and Madeline Kenny.


According to a Carroll County Sun article from May 28, 1989, “Kenny was the first Carroll countian to die in Vietnam… (He died) a mere eight months after his graduation from high school…”


Kenny had entered the Army following graduation. In November 1965 he was stationed in central-coastal Vietnam in an area remembered for its heavy combat and high American casualties at the time.


He was deployed with C Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division; which can trace its roots as far back as 1855. The 5th Calvary regiment participated in 12 campaigns in Vietnam.


Private First Class Kenny was killed in action in the ‘Iron Triangle’ region of Binh Dinh province, in Vietnam Feb. 19, 1966, along with Sgt. Elzie Jefferson Collins, Jr., and Sergeant Freddie Wallace Green. This was soon after the Battle of Bong Son – Operation Irving, January 28 to February 12, 1966.


Bong Son was essentially the second major battle of the war, not that long after the 5th Cavalry had been engaged in the Battle of IaDrang, November 14-18, 1965, also in Binh Dinh. Many know Binh Dinh as where An Khe and Camp Radcliff were located.


The area known as the Iron Triangle was a heavily fortified position about 12-miles below Bong Son in the hills south and east of the Kim Son Valley, and was defended by a combined Viet Cong (VC) – North Vietnamese Army (NVA) force that included the Sao Vang – Yellow Star – Division, 2nd VC Main Force Regiment, and the acclaimed NVA 22nd Regiment.


As a part of Operation Masher and White Wing, which had begun in late January right after the Tet holiday and Lunar New Year, elements of the U.S. Army advanced into the area of the NVA headquarters, February 19-21. There, they were met with fierce resistance. Nine soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry died on Feb 19.


This was still so early in the war that death notifications were unorganized and done by telegram. “The telegram that came… said only that their son had died of a massive trauma to his right leg,” wrote The Sun.


A military funeral was held at Warren Methodist Church, in Parrsville, near Ridgeville. The Waltz Funeral Home in Winfield was in charge of the arrangements.


PFC Kenny was buried in Baltimore National Cemetery. He may also be found on panel 05E, line 051 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington. However, almost 50 years later, PFC Kenny still remains in our hearts as he looks back at us from the granite wall and passes-down his story to another generation who remembers…


. . . . .I’m just saying…


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