ELKTON — In a solemn ceremony that drew scores of veterans and residents, Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy and Council President Bob Meffley unveiled a memorial plaque to honor the nine local soldiers that died during the Vietnam War.
The plaque will be installed in the lobby of the Cecil County Administration building — across from the Elk Room that serves as council chambers — so that the names of the fallen soldiers will be enshrined for years to come.
“The service members we honor today come from all walks of life, and they epitomize our values of bravery, resolve, selflessness and integrity,” McCarthy said before a crowd on Tuesday. “These soldiers did not go to battle for the desire to fight, but they went to serve our nation.”
The plaque is dedicated to Spc. David Nelson Clayton of Perryville; Lance Cpl. Gregory Scott Copenhaver of Port Deposit; Pfc. Marshall Franklin Freng of Elkton; Pfc. Donald C. McAllister, Jr. of Elkton; Cpl. Michael Duane Rolfe of Rising Sun; Warrant Officer Ray Levi Reynolds of Rising Sun; Spc. George Robinson of Elkton; Pfc. Thomas Valentine Ruff, Jr. of Elkton; and Spc. Marion Neal Tapp of Port Deposit.
County Department of Public Works Director Scott Flanigan read the named out loud at the end of the ceremony.
McCarthy and Meffley also unveiled a memorial wreath to commemorate the fallen soldiers as well.
The ceremony served as local tribute, since the nine soldiers are among 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. A smaller version of the Wall made it to Easton last summer, and McCarthy and Meffley — both Vietnam-era veterans — visited it to hear the nine names read out.
“If you’ve never been to the Wall, it’s an experience. It’s long and granite and covered in tiny words,” Meffley told the crowd. “But as you move closer, the names come into focus: names of soldiers, sons, daughters, brothers, fathers and lovers all frozen in time.”
The council president noted that there’s 15,000 men and women from the Delmarva region on the Wall. He said he was one of the lucky ones, since he was one of the last drafted and sent to Germany.
“A lot of the friends I had that were engineers went to Vietnam and never came back,” Meffley said. “So this is very heartfelt, very moving for me.”
In his comments, McCarthy said that visiting the wall was a moving experience and he would never forget the faces of grief.
“Most [who served] volunteered, but they didn’t volunteer to leave their families behind,” he said. “They were ordinary people, much like you and I. What makes America great is not our wealth but our great values and our willingness to defend them from all enemies. America stands as a land of liberty of opportunity, a global defender of freedom and peace, as well as a beacon of hope for all nations.”