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Dedication at Letterkenny honors soldier

May 28, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Seventeen months to the day after their son died of wounds he received in Iraq, Edward C. and Brenda Shaffer on Tuesday passed through a gate named for another fallen soldier for the dedication of the Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer Less Than Truckload Facility.

"This is overwhelming. Everybody coming together in the whole county and all the towns around and doing this all for my son. He was kind of a shy fellow anyhow," Edward C. Shaffer said. "It means a lot. It'll keep his memory going for a long time. Nobody will forget him."

"Every day, we miss him," Brenda Shaffer said.

A Mont Alto, Pa., native and 2002 graduate of Waynesboro Area Senior High School, the 23-year-old Shaffer was the gunner in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when he was injured by a roadside bomb in Ramadi on Nov. 13, 2006.

He died of his wounds Dec. 27, 2006, at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He was the first soldier from Franklin County to die in the war.

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"I'm a Vietnam veteran and we didn't get a lot of recognition," said Ronald Barnhart, an employee at the Letterkenny Munitions Center for 35 years, who came up with the idea of naming a facility after Shaffer. Barnhart asked the soldier's great aunt, Marcia Hill, another 35-year employee at the center, to get the family's approval.

Barnhart said he then took the idea "up the chain" of command. He credited Munitions Center Director Edward Averill and Depot Commander Col. Steven Shapiro with making Tuesday's dedication possible.

"They called him 'The Brain' in his unit because he was so smart with computers," said Brig. Gen. James Rogers, commander of the Joint Munitions Command. The general said Shaffer had been wounded before, but returned to combat because he "didn't want to leave his friends behind."

"He insisted on returning to action after being wounded, knowing full well the danger that he faced," said Col. Charles Kibben, commander of the Crane Army Ammunition Activity.

"As a parent, I don't know what I'd do if I was in this particular circumstance," Kibben said to the parents, who were joined by Shaffer's brother, Timmy, grandparents Edward L. and Goldie Shaffer, and other family members.

The $6.3 million, 15,500-square-foot building will reduce commercial truck traffic inside the munitions storage area and allow safe and secure overnight storage of munitions prepared for shipment, Rogers said. A less than truckload facility, he said, allows for the loading of a variety of munitions onto the same truck for more efficient delivery.

The building is about a mile away from Voelz Gate, named for Staff Sgt. Kimberly Fahnestock Voelz, a Cumberland County native who died Dec. 14, 2003, a day after being injured by an improvised explosive device near Fallujah. The bomb detonated as Voelz, who was trained in explosive ordnance disposal, was preparing to inspect the device.

"The last time he was home, he was never happier in his life," said Brenda Shaffer, holding a piece of the red, white and blue ribbon used for the ribbon-cutting. That was in the summer of 2006, when he came home on leave, she said. Eddie had a lot of job offers to consider and was thinking about getting married, she said.

"I guess that was the last time we saw him" before he was wounded, the father said.

"I thought, 'Am I ever going to miss you,'" Brenda Shaffer remembered thinking as her son's leave came to an end. "But he was grown up and he knew what he wanted to do."

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