Army honors Vietnam hero posthumously
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, June 28, 2002) - A Vietnam medic that provided life-saving attention to his comrades, in spite of his own wounds, was provided a full-honor military funeral ceremony last weekend, 35 years after his death.
by Pfc. Bryan D. Kinkade
Edgar L. McWethy Jr. was assigned to Company B, 1st/5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, as a specialist fifth class. In the Binh Dinh Province of Vietnam on June 21, 1967, McWethy was shot four times, including once in the head. But he continued to provide medical attention to other fallen comrades.
McWethy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Then he was buried near his home in Baxter Springs, Kansas, with a simple ceremony and a nondescript marker. In the small rural Kansas cemetery, McWethy's grave marker was inlaid at ground level and indistinguishable from others.
On the 35th anniversary of his death, the grave marker was replaced with a headstone indicating his Medal-of-Honor status.
David Gilbreath, a Vietnam veteran and the head of the local chapter of the Northeast Oklahoma Veteran's Association, raised over $20,000 in donations for a new tombstone for McWethy.
"Specialist McWethy is one of our community's greatest heroes. He has buildings named after him here in Kansas and on numerous Army posts, so it just didn't seem right that his grave stone should be so ordinary," said Gilbreath.
Buildings named in remembrance of McWethy include two medical treatment facilities on Fort Carson, Colo.; one medical treatment facility on Fort Hood; a barracks at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; and several government buildings in the state of Kansas.
In contrast to the memorial service given in his honor 35 years ago, soldiers from three states provided full honors for the fallen Cavalry trooper last weekend.
The 1st Cavalry Honor Guard from Fort Hood and the Northeast Oklahoma Veterans' Funeral Detail both assisted in providing a 21-gun salute, taps, the raising and lowering of the flag. The Kansas Air National Guard conducted a fly-over with a UH-60 Black Hawk.
Having the military pay tribute to their lost family member was an honor for the McWethy's, they said.
"I'm proud of my son," said Edgar L. McWethy Sr. "But I would be happier if he was alive."