ELKINS – Memorial Day has a special place in every veteran’s heart. But for those who serve alongside those who make major sacrifices, the excitement for the traditional May holiday goes even deeper.
“Monday is really a special holiday,” said Vietnam Veteran Jake Roberts. “Memorial Day for those killed in combat. This is special, it means the people we know pay the most for their sacrifices.
Roberts, who for three years (1966 to 1968), fought in the Vietnam War. He says he lost some friends during the war and will never forget who he was and the price he paid.
“I have some friends who were killed in Vietnam and their names are on the wall in DC,” said. “Randolph County had 23 deaths in Vietnam in six or seven years until it was finally pulled in 1973. I can count them all and tell you their names. They are not forgotten and we will honor those who have made major sacrifices.
Including 16 1/2 years with the National Guard, Roberts was in the military for a total of 20 1/2 years. While in Vietnam he was in the special forces where he worked mainly with weapons and demonstrations.
“Uncle Sam decided where you were going and what you were going to do,” he said. said Roberts. “It happened that I had a good gun and I always liked the M-60 machine gun, it was dandy. So I definitely wanted to be part of the weapon. Later we started cheating with demolition and it turned out I liked big sounds and exploding stuff.
Roberts said he bounced back when he was in Vietnam and when he enlisted in the Army in 1964.
“It spread at first. We did a year in Vietnam and I went back to Fort Bragg and then a second time, I was with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade as a Platoon Sergeant,” he said. said Roberts. “I started as an 11th Bravo was basic infantry when I was basic training. And I remember my parents telling me not to show off when I got to the gun field. Well, I was number two in the battalion for someone other than Elkins who was my friend, Mike Zirbs .Mike shot perfectly twice and he earned the highest gun of the battalion award.
Roberts said he and Zirbs have been dating until now when he was Roberts’ catcher in Babe Ruth League baseball. Both started as draftees and were sent to Fort Carson in Colorado.
“I hate that place (Fort Carson) because it’s so cold, and I hate the cold,” he said. said Roberts. “So when I asked for volunteers for Jump School I raised my hand. So when I finished the basics, I went to Fort Bennington (Georgia) to go to parachute school and was there for three weeks. When I was at Fort Bennington one of the drilling instructors told me me who didn’t think my skinny buddy was worth the nonsense when I got there, but he said he knew I would be pretty good when he found out I was from .West Virginia.He then asked me what I ever thought about special forces and I told him I had because my brother was already in. So, of course I went to Fort Bragg (North Carolina) and was able to finish it.
He said of the 127 personnel started at Fort Bragg, only 14 could pass, three from West Virginia.
Roberts is one of the original members of the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans. He was president of Chapter 812 until this year when he swapped places with another veteran. He is currently the vice president of the organization, which hosts food basket gifts each Thanksgiving to help those less fortunate.
In previous years, Roberts said the organization had won 273 sellers during one of its past basketball prizes.
In 1987 a friend of mine, Richard Doyle, wanted to start a local VVA thing. she recalled. “So we went out and hired enough members to start. So it’s been 35 years and I’ve been a member since the beginning.
Roberts says there’s nothing better than helping someone who can’t have Thanksgiving dinner not for Chapter 812.
“We raise money all year so we can help people on Thanksgiving,” he said. said. “My son helped me for a year and after seeing the difference it could make for some people, he told me that now he knows why I did it.”
Roberts said he is thankful for all that God has given him over the years and hopes that everyone can take some time on Monday and honor those who lost while serving his country.
“God has been so good to me,” said Roberts. “I have a wonderful life for my 77-year-old parents. All-and-all, it’s been going well and I thank God I’m still here. I may have been killed multiple times and I’ve been injured three times. but I’m still here and I feel like God has other plans for me.
The American Legion Post 29, of which Roberts has been a member since 1988, will hold its annual Memorial Day Celebration at the All-Veterans Memorial in Elkins on Saturday at 11 p.m. The event will feature guest speakers, laying wreaths and other tributes.