A Drive, In Memory of Edgar L. McWethy
Originally posted Nov. 11, 2016. Most people living in Leadville today take McWethy Drive at least once a week, if not daily, if you have school-aged children. But very few know about the veteran hero that bears its name: Edgar L. McWethy. In honor of Veterans Day Leadville Today brings you his story and some exciting news about this honorable Lake County life-saver.
McWethy is a native son of Leadville, born and raised in America’s highest city.
“I was a friend of the McWethy family in Leadville,” recalled former Leadville resident MaryJane Garner-Bish in an exclusive interview with Leadville Today. She remembers Ed (Jr.) as a shy teen, active in the Boy Scouts with his mom “Mike” as a Scout leader. After his graduation from Laek County High School, McWethy enrolled in the U. S. Army. According to Bish, McWethy served as a Medic in the Vietnam War. He had been in-country less than a year when he was killed in action treating other wounded soldiers during a firefight.
In 1963 the graduating LCHS class erected the Lake County Veterans Memorial in his honor when they contributed the granite monument for their classmate. After his death on June 21, 1967, McWethy received the Congressional Medal of Honor for acts of bravery above and beyond the call to duty in the Vietnam War. Eventually the street that now bears his name – McWethy Drive – was re-dedicated however no one seems to know the exact date when this occurred. It’s believed to be around the same time that the Veterans Memorial was established.
The McWethy family eventually moved to Kansas, where McWethy is buried near his mother and father, Martha (“Mike”) and Edgar McWethy Sr. Any remaining McWethy family is believed to live in the Baxter Springs, Kan. area.
Leadville Today recently received an exclusive news lead regarding an upcoming additional honor for this special Leadville veteran. Next June 2017 there will be a re-dedication of the McWethy Troop Medical Clinic (TMC) located at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)/Fort Sam located in Houston, Texas which already bears McWethy’s name.
The McWethy (TMC) provides primary health care to all soldiers in training, as well as soldiers assigned to Fort Jackson on temporary duty status. The Texas McWethy Clinic was originally dedicated in July 1983 and has since provided medical care to tens of thousands of military personnel, including more than 7,500 active duty service members training at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.
In January 2015 the clinic re-opened after a 16-month, $13 million renovations. Next June, the facility will be officially re-dedicated in McWethy’s honor! As more details of the re-dedication ceremony come in, Leadville Today will share them with readers so that those in the Houston area may consider attending the event next June 1017. Until then, find your own way to honor this special Lake County Veteran whether it’s taking a visit to the Lake County Veterans Memorial or just making note of it to the kiddos while taking that daily down McWethy Drive.
Happy Veterans Day, be sure to honor the dedicated men and women who sacrifice for all the freedoms Americans enjoy today!
Publisher’s Note: The following article is re-published here with permission from the US Army. The story recounts the special commemoration ceremony in honor of Edgar McWethy held last month at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Thanks for your service and sacrifice!
BAMC honors Medal of Honor Recipient with Run, Ceremony
By Lori Newman, Brooke Army Medical Center
Brooke Army Medical Center’s quarterly cohesion run held a special meaning June 23 as service members and civilians ran to the McWethy Troop Medical Clinic at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston to honor the 50th anniversary of the heroic actions of the clinic’s namesake.
Spc. 5 Edgar Lee McWethy Jr., Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions June 21, 1967 during the Vietnam War.
McWethy’s sister, Christy McWethy-Case, and her husband, Jim Case, attended the ceremony featuring one of his platoon members who reminisced about her brother, the hero, who gave his life fighting to help his injured comrades.
“We referred to him as Doc, that’s the only way we ever addressed him,” said John Olcott, describing McWethy as a tall, lanky fellow who was quiet and unassuming.
“He was always pushing his glasses up on his nose,” Olcott said. “He looked more like an out-of-place college professor than he did a medic.”
Olcott said McWethy frequently helped his platoon mates through difficult times and always had a positive attitude.
“We would often talk about what we were going to do when we got out of the service,” Olcott said. “I was going home to my girlfriend, others were going off to college, but Doc was studying the Vietnamese language. He was going to join the Peace Corps and return to Vietnam to work in some orphanage or hospital.
“He was a very kind, loving person,” he said, trying to abate his emotion as he spoke about his friend. “We all had our dreams but unfortunately, some of them never were fulfilled.”
According to the Medal of Honor citation, McWethy accompanied his platoon to the site of a downed helicopter. Shortly after the platoon established a defensive perimeter around the aircraft, a large enemy force attacked their position from three sides with heavy automatic-weapons fire and grenades.
McWethy rushed across the fire-swept area to render aid to his platoon leader, and realized the radio operator was mortally wounded. McWethy’s timely first aid enabled the platoon leader to retain command during this critical period.
Hearing a call for aid, he started across the open toward another injured man. McWethy was wounded in the head and knocked to the ground. He regained his footing and continued on but was hit again in the leg. Struggling onward despite his wounds, he reached his comrades and treated their injuries.
Observing another fallen rifleman lying in an exposed position McWethy moved toward him without hesitation. He was then wounded a third time but reached his fallen companion. Weakened and in pain, McWethy gave the wounded man artificial respiration but suffered a fourth and fatal wound.
“We were all trained to take lives, but not Doc,” Olcott said. “He was trained to heal the sick and take care of the wounded. His mindset was to save lives not to take them. Doc’s overwhelming desire to save lives at all costs fulfilled the unspoken Soldier’s code of honor, laying down one’s life for your fellow brothers in arms.”
The Medal of Honor citation states, “Through his indomitable courage, complete disregard for his safety, and demonstrated concern for his fellow Soldiers, McWethy inspired the members of his platoon and contributed in great measure to their successful defense of the position and the ultimate rout of the enemy force. McWethy’s profound sense of duty, bravery, and his willingness to accept extraordinary risks in order to help the men of his unit are characteristic of the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
Olcott asked the Soldiers in attendance to remember McWethy for the man he was. “When you come to this facility I hope that when you walk through the doors you just don’t see a plaque or see a name on the wall, but that you will actually see the man,” he said.
“For those of you coming through those doors seeking medical help, know that you are under the watchful eyes of the best medic the Army ever had,” Olcott said. “I count it a privilege and an honor to have known and served with this true hero who continued to do his job until his last dying breath.”
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