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Bridge dedication honors Vietnam veteran

Jul. 21, 2012 @ 11:28 PM

HUNTINGTON -- It took 43 years, but the late Pfc. Herbert B. Murphy of the Marine Corps finally got some recognition as a bridge on 29th Street near 8th Avenue was formally named in his honor on Saturday.

Murphy left the former Huntington East High School at the age of 17 to join the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam. Like 58,148 other American soldiers, he was killed during the war.

His name is among the thousands of others on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. -- a monument listing the names of the Americans who died.

Just seeing that name had a real impact on his boyhood friend, Danny Casey. Casey was among about 200 people on hand Saturday morning for the bridge dedication ceremony.

"When you see the wall, it's an eerie silence," Casey said. "You put your hand up there and there's a flood of memories. You hear someone crying and realize it's you."

Casey, a U.S. Navy veteran, was getting ready to ship out in 1969 when he heard about Murphy's death. "I attended his funeral."

As he was heading back to the Tri-State from Washington D.C., he kept seeing signs on roads and bridges and determined his childhood friend should have one, too.

"(Del.) Kelli Sobonya got this done," Casey said, noting that attitudes in the country have changed for the better toward Vietnam vets. Despite the draft, two-thirds of the Vietnam soldiers were volunteers, he said.

"I remember when I came home" from the war, Casey said. "There was no one to meet me. I had to thumb home."

Murphy's three brothers, Lester, Mike and Ron, sat in the front row of the bridge dedication ceremony.

"His death wasn't wasted," Lester Murphy said.

"Every letter he sent home, he signed it 'People Gotta Be Free,'" he said. "All gave some in that war, and he gave all."

Five people who served with Bert Murphy attended the ceremony Saturday, coming from places such as Virginia, Massachusetts and Missouri. One of them, Paul O'Connell, described Murphy as a "foxhole buddy."

"We were both 18," O'Connell said. "Murphy told me how he had been trapped in a burning building and got out. His story was one of pain and survival. I felt so angry when he died. He had survived severe burns as a child only to die in a hellhole in Vietnam. It's 43 years later. I became a husband, a father and a fire chief, yet I have not forgotten Murphy. Semper Fi."

The ceremony was sponsored by Tri-State Chapter 949, Vietnam Veterans of America. A number of local veterans groups were represented along with Boy Scouts of America Troop 38 of Proctorville, Ohio.

Sobonya said it took about a year to get the bridge on 29th Street named the Herbert Burgess Murphy Memorial Bridge.

Mayor Kim Wolfe, a Vietnam vet, told the crowd that West Virginia has the distinction of having more people in service, per capita, than any other state in the Union.

"This is a great day," Casey said. "Vietnam vets are still on a journey home."

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