Source: Sherman Publications

A Veterans Day tale of two heroes

by CJ Carnacchio

November 16, 2011

They say that heroes walk among us every single day.

Well, the crowd attending the Oxford Middle School choirs’ 9th Annual Americana Concert (see color photos on Page 13) held Nov. 10 at the high school Fine Arts Center can certainly attest to that.

Not only did they get to hear the story of two local military heroes, they got the opportunity to see, meet and thank these astoundingly brave men.

Lake Orion resident James Hubbard and Oakland Township resident Randy Stetson received a standing ovation as they walked to the stage after Dr. Joseph Mastromatteo, the concert’s keynote speaker, told the stories of their heroic deeds and “courage under fire.”

Both Hubbard and Stetson are members of American Legion Post 108 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 334, both of which are based in Oxford.

Stetson fought with the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War from 1968-69.

One fateful day, Stetson and his squad found themselves pinned down by intense enemy gunfire. They radioed for tank support, but the armored calvary replied it wouldn’t be able to get there for 20 minutes.

“Randy realized his squad could not hold out for 20 minutes and something had to be done,” said Mastromatteo, a veteran of the Korean War and chairman of the Orion Veterans Memorial.

Three of his comrades were seriously wounded and now, it appeared there would be no hope of saving them.

With his father’s words – “always go the extra mile” – ringing in his ears, Stetson “went through the enemy gunfire three times to rescue his three wounded comrades.”

“He moved them to safety, then he successfully charged one of the enemy bunkers and destroyed it,” Mastromatteo told the crowd.

As he was loading the first casualty onto a helicopter, the enemy opened fire and critically wounded him.

“Although wounded, he was able to free his comrade from the helicopter before it exploded,” Mastromatteo said.

It appeared there was no way out, but Stetson wasn’t ready to give up or go down without a fight.

His squad sergeant was unable to see due to temporary flash blindness, so Stetson told him “to take control of his weapon and Randy would be his eyes,” Mastromatteo said.

Just as they were aiming the weapon in the direction of the oncoming enemy, the tank unit arrived and saved them.

“Randy said timing was everything and God’s timing is always perfect,” Mastromatteo said. “He said at one time, he felt like his life was (like sand) slipping through an hourglass because he was losing so much blood along with hope. However, when he saw the red cross on the landing pad, he knew he would be able to get the help he needed.”

Mastromatteo said Stetson told him, “When a situation looks bleak and it seems there is no end in sight, be humble, be appreciative and remember there is always hope.”

The three soldiers Stetson rescued lived and for his courage under fire he was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Mastromatteo then told the crowd the inspiring story of Hubbard, who also fought with the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

One fateful day, Hubbard and his team found themselves pinned down, facing an enemy force of superior numbers.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, Mastromatteo said Hubbard attacked the enemy and “delivered more fire power . . . so that his team members could reach safety.”

During the attack, Hubbard suffered multiple bullet and grenade wounds, yet he “held his ground and continued his aggressive attack.”

“Specialist Hubbard displayed the utmost personal courage under fire as he valiantly continued his attack,” Mastromatteo said.

Eventually, Hubbard and his team were able to pin the enemy down until the rest of their squad could move around and capture them.

For his heroism, Hubbard received the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Thank you to both Stetson and Hubbard for your gallant service to this country. May your courage and example inspire future generations.