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Shinbur proudly carries title of 'veterans' veteran'

March 27, 2011|By ART CALLAHAM

This column is about retired CWO5 Fred L. Shinbur, the Maryland Joint Veterans Committee’s Veteran of the Year for 2011. Probably the most important word in that entire first sentence is “veteran,” and I believe Chief Shinbur is proudest of that title. In fact, some of his friends refer to him as “the veterans’ veteran.”

My wife and I got to know Shinbur at the Joint Veterans Committee banquet where he received his award earlier this month. Shinbur lives in Hagers-town and was chosen as veteran of the year from more than 470,000 veterans in the state. My wife accepted the invitation of the Joint Veterans Committee to present a certificate of merit honoring Fred from his local community.

In past years, the Maryland Veteran of the Year has been awarded to veterans residing in the large population centers of Maryland. Washington County has only 12,000 of the state’s veterans.

Shinbur’s resume is vast. His medals include the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit and multiple awards of the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. He was appointed by the state’s governor as chairman of the Maryland Veterans Commission. He also serves on U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s and U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski's veterans advisory boards. He is a member of many veterans groups and plays an active role in each of them.  

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown reflected about what every veteran knows; military service, regardless if a person goes in harm’s way or not, might be the toughest test anyone ever faces. Most military veterans started exactly the same way as did Brown and Shinbur, as a young person being told, and most times not very nicely, what to do, how to do it and when to do it. Long hours in physical training and long hours learning skills not usually taught in public schools are the norm rather than the exception.

In the beginning, there is no rank, no political party, no income differentiation, no class or racial exception, and recently no gender bias; just hard work and a fast pace. Protecting our nation is not an easy job, whether the effort is expended from behind a desk or in a foxhole. The job is non-stop, 24/7.

My wife, County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham, presented certificates of merit to Shinbur from the county and the City of Hagerstown. Few besides Shinbur saw the tear in her eyes as she remembered seeing her father and, later, her husband sent off into harm’s way. Shinbur and many of the veterans in the room had similar tears in their eyes as they recalled comrades-in-arms who were absent from the evening’s ceremonies.

As I reflected on remarks made by Brown and Shinbur, the faces began to come out of the dark: Capt. J. Will Taylor, whose name appears on a black granite wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; Capt. Stan Bossert, a three-tour Vietnam veteran; Paul Range, a Special Forces Warrior; and Dee D. Dahlgren, an Army nurse. Just like Shinbur, these veterans and millions more took an oath to support and defend this nation against all enemies foreign and domestic.

America can sleep peacefully tonight, and every night, because of the sacrifices and hard work of Shinbur and all veterans of this nation.

At the end of the evening, Shinbur concluded his remarks by making one request. There is a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives, having already been resolved in the U.S. Senate, to establish March 30 of each year as “Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans Day,” a welcome that Shinbur and many of us agree we never received.

Veterans and nonveterans alike, I urge you to call your elected representatives so that we might see this resolution passed.

God bless Fred Shinbur, God bless all veterans and God bless America.

Art Callaham is a local community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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