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Paying tribute at Fort McPherson Tell North Platte what you think
Photo by George Lauby
Vietnam veterans in the late 60s and early 70s, Bob Cross and Chuck McCarty, cover their hearts with their hats as the flag is hoisted to start the ceremony.
Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
Marvin Donnelly
Photo by George Lauby
Family members pay respects to Leonard Chrastril of Lincoln, an Army sergeant in Vietnam, who passed away in 2010.

Hundreds of people gathered Monday at Fort McPherson National Cemetery to honor those who did not lose their lives, but gave their lives in the defense of liberty.

“It is an honor to be with you as we care for those who have borne the battle,” Chaplain Gary Smith said. “Our servicemen and women have sustained our way of life for nearly two-and-a-half centuries.”

Marvin Donnelly of Hershey, the featured speaker, talked about the four Medal of Honor winners buried at Fort McPherson.

Three of the honorees fought in Indian campaigns in the late 1800s, he said.

Pvt. Daniel H. Miller died May 5, 1872 at age 33. Miller was honored for his actions as one of five soldiers on forward patrol in the Whetstone Mountains of Arizona.

Sgt. Emmanuel Stance was honored for actions of gallantry in confronting a band of Apaches on May 20, 1870 who had kidnapped two white men. Stance was a member of what was then the new African American 9th Calvary. Stance became the first “Buffalo Soldier” to receive the Medal of Honor.

Sgt. George Jordan received the Medal of Honor for two actions. While commanding 25 soldiers at Ft. Tularosa, N.M., on May 14, 1880, he and his men repulsed a force of more than 100 Indians, his citation says. And, on Aug. 12, 1881, Jordan stubbornly held his ground in an extremely exposed position, turning back a superior number of enemies.

The fourth honoree is Pfc. James William Fous, who graduated in 1964 from Omaha Central High. Four years later, Fous was an Army rifleman in Vietnam. On May 14, 1968, he was keeping watch on the edge of an encampment when he saw some enemy circling the position. He shot and killed two of them. A third ran off, but not before he tossed a grenade at Fous and three of his comrades. Fous jumped on the grenade, smothered it with his body and saved the lives of the others.

“Well done,” Donnally said. “Rest in peace. Welcome home.”

Tia San Miguel elevated the spriits of the audience with vocal renditions of the Battle Hymn of the Republic and America the Beautiful.

During benediction, Chaplain Gary Smith asked God to “lift the hearts of those who see today as painful reminders of their sorrow and loss.”

Smith urged the crowd to “cherish and protect freedom, and handle it with care.”

Just as the primary Fort McPherson flag was lowered to half mast, a small fleet of experimental P51 airplanes flew overhead – perfect timing.

Earlier in the day, a group of more than 20 volunteers gathered at the American Legion post to pack more than 60 care packages for soldiers overseas, with a U.S. flag in each package. Every one of the flags has flown over Bailey Yard.

Fort McPherson was established by an act of Congress in 1873, near the site of the U.S. Army's fort that protected travelers on the Oregon and Cottonwood trails.

As of May 1, there were more than 11,500 internments in the national cemetery, in addition to 150 markers honoring veterans who are missing action, buried at sea or have had their ashes scattered. There are also 85 group burials.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 5/29/2017
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