by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
Robert Edwards, a Riley Township resident, remembers a time when soldiers were afraid to come home due to the treatment they received.
Now, though, the Vietnam veteran looks forward to celebrating Memorial Day alongside local residents at the Romeo Cemetery this weekend.
“It seems like the last few years have been even better than the years before,” he said. “Instead of just a vacation day, people are looking at what the soldier has actually done for them and what it takes.”
Edwards will take part in the local VFW Post 2052′s celebration of Memorial Day, starting at 10 a.m. on Monday with a parade beginning at the Main Street and St. Clair Street intersection that ends at the Romeo Cemetery.
Following the parade, a ceremony will be held at the cemetery that will include a medal presentation.
Leonard Monfils, commander of the local VFW, said like the ceremonies of prior years, this will be all about honoring veterans from all wars that have made the supreme sacrifice.
“We also mention the police and fire departments for their services,” Monfils said. “They also sacrifice their lives for freedom.”
In a showing of respect for veterans, Edwards will be presented with a Bronze Star for meritorious service that he hadn’t been presented with in the past. This will be the third Bronze Star he earned for his military career.
“It makes me quite proud,” Edwards said. “Apparently someone thought I did something right.”
U.S. Congresswoman Candice Miller, who will be the main speaker at the Memorial Day event, will present the medal to Edwards.
“I am honored that my office was able to assist Robert Edwards with obtaining his Bronze Star, and I look forward to presenting it to him on this upcoming Memorial Day, a day in which we all gather as a nation to offer our gratitude to those who have given so much and bravely served America,” said Miller
Edwards served from 1965 to 1968 in the U.S. Army, serving two years in the states and one year in Vietnam.
He served with the 173 Airborne Brigade and with the Company F long range patrol, 51st Infantry Regiment II Field Force. He left the military as a staff sergeant, having led a five-man team to support operations behind enemy lines.
He earned two Bronze Stars for heroism as well as a Purple Heart. He received the latter due to an injury he sustained while trying to escape with his men via helicopter from an enemy attack.
He said he is glad more people are attending events such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day to recognize the efforts made by soldiers.
“People are more aware now, and that makes me extremely happy that people are really looking at what we’re doing and why,” he said.
Edwards’ wife of 46 years, Carol, agreed it is important to honor veterans due to the adjustments they must make upon returning home.
“I appreciate everything they’ve done and I’m very thankful,” she said.
The VFW will have the traditional presentation of the wreath as well as a rifle salute and the playing of “Taps.”
Audrey Brown, her daughter Olivia and Elizabeth Beadle will sing the national anthem, “America the Beautiful” and “My Country `Tis of Thee