WARREN - Samuel Felton Jr. doesn't think of himself as a hero.
''Those who aren't here with us today are the heroes,'' said Felton, a 63-year-old Vietnam War veteran, who served as the featured speaker Monday at services hosted by Trumbull County's Memorial Day Federation.
He spoke to those who assembled in the Community Amph-itheatre after the wreath was cast upon the water in Perkins Park and before a parade through downtown that made its way to Oakwood Cemetery for another service by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1090 Auxiliary at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Richard McGrath of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1090 tosses a wreath on the waters of the Mahoning River in Perkins Park to begin Warren’s Memorial Day observance Monday morning. Photo by Christopher Bobby
Felton, of Lorain, was like many on Monday remembering those that never returned from combat while saluting all the veterans on hand.
''It wasn't luck that brought us home. It was the good Lord that brought us home to continue the work that was started on the battlefield,'' said Felton, the recipient of the Navy Cross for heroism on June 11, 1969.
He was a fire team leader with Company C, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, when his unit came under heavy rocket, mortar, recoilless rifle and automatic weapons fire, followed by a determined assault by about 100 North Vietnamese Army soldiers. His unit was 2 miles west of An Hoa Combat Base and he lost communications with a three-man listening post. All three were injured.
Felton left his hole and, even though he was wounded, traveled 75 meters ahead through open terrain to aid the two least seriously injured Marines. He supplied cover for the two men and then carried the most seriously injured man through knee-deep mud and water in a rice paddy, where he killed two confronting enemy soldiers by firing his M-16 rifle with one arm while holding the injured Marine in the other.
The Marine then returned to the perimeter and continued fighting.
Felton, who once dove off a 16-foot pier and saved a 12-year-old from drowning when he was only 10 years old, worked at U.S. Steel works in Lorain when he was discharged and taught martial arts to more than 1,000 students since 1972.
He was named Lorain Veteran of the Year in 2010 and is co-founder of the Sam Felton Jr. Community Program that works with at-risk youth. He is president of the Lorain Veterans Council for civic improvement and serves as chairman of the Lorain County Valor Home Advisory Committee that oversees development and construction of transitional housing for returning veterans.
Herm Breuer, director of Veteran Services, introduced Veterans Services Commissioner Sam Lanza who presented Robert Brothers as this year's locally honored veteran.
Besides Breuer, Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa also welcomed visitors to the service, explaining that Mayor Doug Franklin was observing Memorial Day in Washington D.C.
Trumbull Commissioner Paul Heltzel reminded the visitors to pay tribute to to ''those who lived in battlefield positions so we could live comfortably in our own homes.''
Former mayor and commissioner Michael O'Brien said the day was special for him since he had a chance to speak over the phone with with his son, Michael, a Marine corporal serving with the Special Forces in Afghanistan.
Richard McGrath with VFW 1090 performed the special ceremony that involved tossing a wreath adrift on the waters of the Mahoning River - a Memorial Day custom that was switched from the West Market Street bridge to the park in recent years.
Garey Watson played taps for the wreath ceremony and then was joined by Adam Shortread on an echo-like second bugle for the conclusion of the amphitheatre service.