May 28, 2014 - Randy Stetson describes himself as "an old soldier," but he has no intention of simply "fading away."
Decorated Vietnam War hero Randy Stetson was the keynote speaker at Lakeville Cemetery Auxiliary's Memorial Day observance held May 24. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
That's why he seizes every opportunity he's given to remind everyone of the sacrifices made by members of the U.S. Armed Forces "to maintain our safety and our freedom."
Stetson, who spoke at the Lakeville Cemetery Auxiliary's Memorial Day observance held Saturday in Addison Township, vowed to continue spreading his message "until my last breath."
"Our veterans deserve to always be treated with great respect (and) deep gratitude," he said. "We're here today to acknowledge and pay tribute to all servicemen and women who have given their lives to protect the freedom that we all so often take for granted."
A Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Army from 1968-69, Stetson is a decorated hero who received the Silver Star, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster and Vietnam Gallantry Medal for his courage under fire and saving his comrades' lives in the heat of battle.
Stetson shared an experience from his Vietnam days in order to help those who have not been personally impacted by war better understand how its "devastating effects" can "permanently touch and alter lives way beyond" the battlefield.
While recovering from his combat wounds at Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania, he learned of a soldier there who had been horrifically wounded in battle.
"All that was left of him was his torso," said Stetson, who serves as the senior vice commander of the Oxford-based North Oakland Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 334.
The soldier had an infection that was running "rampant" and "he wasn't expected to survive." A nurse explained the severity of his condition to his parents who had come to visit.
"The father broke down and couldn't even visit his son until later on," Stetson said. "The mother, however, was anxious to be with him."
"With God's help," she "mustered up the courage to remain composed for the sake of her beloved baby boy," he continued. "The pureness of her heart overshadowed the grotesque sight that greeted her.
"She went up to him, kissed him on the forehead and ran her fingers through his hair. She spoke words of love and encouragement to boost his hope and feed his spirit. She didn't show her sorrow until she returned to the nurses' station where she fell apart and wept."
Stetson said that vision "will forever be etched" in his mind.
"Each time I recollect the story, I will remember this amazing woman with admiration as tears roll down my face for this family and for all the families whose dreams have been shattered as a result of war," he told the crowd.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.