Vietnam veterans to be honored at Hamilton’s 2024 Memorial Day parade

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Hamilton native and retired Brigadier Gen. Lawrence Gillespie will deliver the 2024 Memorial Day keynote, addressing the end of the Vietnam War five decades ago and speaking about a friend who died a hero in that conflict.

Army SSG Fred Brown, whose banner can be seen on the High-Main Bridge with other Hamilton heroes who were killed in action, will be part of Gillespie’s speech, including his efforts to get his friend the Medal of Honor, the highest medal awarded to a member of the military.

Brown, who’s buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton with others who served in Vietnam, was killed March 15, 1969, after jumping on a grenade to save wounded soldiers from grave danger. That action earned Brown the U.S. Army’s Distinguished Service Cross on July 22, 1970, but the second-highest heroic medal wasn’t enough for Brown, said Gillespie.

“When I first read his citation for his Distinguished Service Cross, I said, he deserves the Medal of Honor for this, and that’s what we’re trying to get,” he said, an effort he started last year along with Hamilton City Council. “But it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Brown was one of more than 53,200 Americans, 3,093 Ohioans and more than three dozen from Hamilton who died during America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

“That’s what I’m going to address primarily to the veterans there and others in the audience; what Vietnam was all about, and give them a flavor of the things we went through,” said Gillespie, who served during the Vietnam War.

Vietnam veterans were not received with open arms when they returned home. Vietnam was a political controversy.

This year’s Memorial Day parade’s theme is “Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans.”

The Memorial Day parade will step off at 10 a.m. Monday, starting in downtown Hamilton on South Monument Avenue and traveling east on Court Street then moving to High Street before turning onto North 7th Street as it winds its way in the North End to Greenwood Ceremony’s main gate. There will be 35 Vietnam veterans riding in Corvettes, said Michael Cupp, Memorial Day parade chairman and Butler County Memorial Committee member.

U.S. Army Vietnam veteran Charles Stidham is the parade grand marshal.

Cupp said the day is about remembering those veterans who have gone before us, and for him, his memories drift toward his father, Frederick Cupp, a World War II veteran, and grandfathers, Howard Frybarger and Charles Cupp, who served in World War I.

Some 5,000 people are expected to watch the parade, but before the march downtown toward Greenwood Cemetery in the North End, there will be a 9:30 a.m. laying of the wreath by the Hamilton High School Junior Navy ROTC students at the Butler County Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneer’s Monument. The American Legion Post 138 hosts the ceremony with honor guards from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and the Hamilton Fire and Police, as well as members of AMVETS Post 1983 and DAV Chapter 15.

The Greenwood ceremony is expected to start around 11:15 a.m. and is set to take place in the G.A.R. Section of the cemetery.

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