November 10, 2017

Manchin Presents Purple Heart to Vietnam Veteran Roger Champ

Moorefield, W.Va. – In a Veterans Day ceremony this morning, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) presented a long-overdue Purple Heart to Moorefield resident, two-time Vietnam Veteran and Silver Star recipient Roger Champ. Senator Manchin has been working with the U.S. Army for two years to secure the Purple Heart Roger earned in Vietnam in 1970.

“Growing up in West Virginia, we are surrounded by the strength of awe-inspiring mountains. That might be why our state has one of the highest rates of military service. We are made of tough stuff; it’s just who we are,” Senator Manchin said. “Roger Champ is made of that tough stuff. He’s a West Virginian through and through, a two-time Vietnam Veteran, a Silver Star recipient, and an American hero. It was a profound honor to help secure Roger’s Purple Heart, and it was a profound honor to present it to him today – surrounded by his wife Sheila, his family, and his many friends.”

In addition to the Purple Heart, Roger was awarded with the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with a Silver Service Star, the Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar and the Korea Defense Service Medal.

On March 12, 1964 at age 18, Roger – who was born in Grant County – enlisted in the Army. He completed basic training at Ft. Knox in Kentucky and was then reassigned to Ft. Riley in Kansas, 1st Infantry Division, with his oldest brother. He spent a year in Korea and was assigned to the 2nd & 17th Mechanized Infantry. Roger was honorably discharged on February 25, 1966, and began working at the General Motors Plant in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1968, Roger reenlisted in the Army. There was a need for Construction Engineers so he volunteered for his first tour in Germany, which lasted from 1969 to 1970. He reported to the 54th Trans Battalion 523rd Trans Company and began as a machine gunner running security for convoys. The company built five-ton gun trucks, which carried 50-caliber machine guns and numerous other weapons. One of these trucks was named “The Eve of Destruction.” Roger was awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry and heroism after his gun truck was ambushed, and he protected his men and assaulted the enemy.  The “Eve of Destruction” gun truck is currently in a museum in Ft. Eustis, Virginia.

Roger was later named 1st Platoon Sergeant by Company Commander Joseph McCarthy where he led with great confidence and authority.

For an entire year, Roger’s job with the gun trucks was to secure convoys, which were ambushed almost daily. He was dedicated to making sure his men and the equipment got where they needed to be, safely – all while engaging the enemy. Though he was injured several times, he remained vigilant.

In Roger’s words, “When we heard the word ‘contact,’ we knew we were in an ambush and we ran wide open to the kill zone with guns blazing to protect our men and trucks.  We would stay in the kill zone until everything was secure.  This was my 24-7 job for one year of my life, and I was injured three or four times.  I was more interested in my men and my equipment getting to safety than a Purple Heart.”

Roger returned home to the Mountain State in August of 1971 and settled in Moorefield with his wife, Sheila.