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Honoring a hometown hero

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This Memorial Day, the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in downtown Galax will honor a native of the city and a true hero.

The chapter will dedicate a special memorial to Sgt. Major Charles Morris, who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest honor for military bravery — in November 1967 for his effort to save his fellow soldiers pinned down by enemy fire.

Morris shrugged off talk of his courage, but the man exerted a seemingly superhuman effort to protect his men. Ripped by machine gun fire to the chest, bleeding and wounded from a grenade blast, Morris valiantly rescued, defended and treated members of his squad before single-handedly — literally, he could only use one hand — silencing the deadly barrage of Viet Cong fire. He was wounded more than 30 times by bullets and shrapnel.

Despite this, he told a friend that he “did nothing heroic that I remember.” Luckily, others have remembered — and been inspired.

Equally tenacious and dedicated are Bill Edwards and the VVA Chapter 710 of Galax, who have fought for years to have a memorial in the city for one of its most proudly remembered sons. A week from now, their mission will finally be accomplished.

Last year, the bridge in Carroll County at the interchange of U.S. 58 and Interstate 77 was dedicated to Morris, but a lasting and reverent monument is needed.

No matter how ordinary Morris believed himself to be — “I was a soldier,” he humbly explained — he was extraordinary. He leapt into almost certain death to protect others from harm. If that’s “just a soldier,” then Morris is the standard by which they all should be measured.