A call to action to honor all Purple Heart Veterans

A call to action to honor all Purple Heart Veterans

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mike Stubbs had just finished high school in Charlotte.

"I think I weighed 110 pounds soaking wet," said Stubbs.

It was 1966 and without telling his family he made a decision, to take chance out of the draft. He volunteered to join the United States Army. It meant his getting a ticket to Vietnam.

"Never heard of Vietnam," said Stubbs. "It was never brought up in any history class, or anything of that sort."

A few weeks after induction he was finished with basic training and on his way to southeast Asia. A few days in country, he was in the jungle, in the fight.

"You lose guys. I went from Private to Sergeant in nine months," said Stubbs.

He was with the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry.  Stubbs was first a rifleman then a tunnel rat. He jumped into spider holes, crept through the darkness of underground passages looking for the enemy and their weapon caches. It was as awful and dangerous as it sounds.

"I know I've used several of my 9 lives," said Stubbs.

His last brush with mortality would come October 9th, 1967. He was just 12 days from heading home. It was 7 am and the company he was leading was chosen to run point on a search and destroy mission. A walk through the jungle brought them to a clearing.

"I said I'd like to take my squad across the opening," said Stubbs. "If anything is there there we'll be the guinea pigs."

Across the clearing, 30 yards back into the thick of the jungle they found three Viet Cong soldiers chopping wood.  They weren't just moving through the area it was the edge of a North Vietnamese base camp. Sgt. Stubbs called back to his Lieutenant to say he'd made contact with the enemy.

"They were running and I'm going to pursue so they can't set up an ambush and wait on us when we got there," said Stubbs.

It didn't take long to find trouble.

"We went another 30 to 40 yards and all heck broke loose," said Stubbs.

Automatic weapons rattled, Claymore mines exploded. Eight of Stubbs soldiers were down.  The firefight raged on. Reinforcements and help were trying to get there, but it was slow going as the enemy took up positions in trees and other places.

"Your adrenaline kicks in and it's all about taking care of the men you are with," said Stubbs.

Stubbs returned fire and one-by-one and helped carry his wounded men to cover to wait on help and a chopper out.

"I wasn't going to get on (the chopper) until all my guys got out," said Stubbs.

The part of the story he glosses over, almost fails to mention, is the part where in the initial flurry, he had been shot as well, right in the neck.

"I saw the flash of the rifle and it hit me in the neck and knocked me back and I got right back up," said Stubbs.

The bullet missed a main artery be a quarter inch.  His heroism earned him a Purple Heart, two bronze stars and one silver.

And for the next two decades, he kept it all to himself.

"My wife never even knew what I did," said Stubbs.

In fact, for 22 years, no one back home in the States even thanked him for his service, for what he'd gone through, for all he'd done.

"They are so humble about their service," said Scott Teel.

Teel is determined to make sure no soldier, who quite literally shed blood for this country, every goes without recognition.

"We are so fortunate to wake up in a safe place with a roof over our heads," said Teel. " And in many cases it is due to the sacrifices of these Purple Heart veterans."

Teel is part of a committee bringing a "Purple Heart Dinner" to Charlotte, Saturday August 15th. It'll be a night to honor, salute and properly thank those like Mike Stubbs.

Organizers want to see all Purple Heart recipients in our area at the event at the Le Meredian Hotel in Charlotte. A donation from Wal Mart ensures they receive free tickets for themselves and two family members. The public is also invited to purchase tickets. You can learn more and order tickets here. 

"In many cases this could be the very first time these people, these soldiers, men and women have been honored in such a way," said Teel.

"Each (Purple Heart Veteran) will be introduced and their story will be told," said Stubbs. "There will be tears."

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