Forty-seven years later, even the slightest movement reminds Mike Stubbs of Oct. 9, 1967.
That was the day Army Sgt. Stubbs led a 12-man “point squad” from Delta Company of the Army’s 28th Infantry through thick jungles of War Zone D in South Vietnam, searching for signs of Viet Cong when they surprised three chopping wood. Soon, on the edge of a jungle opening, they were ambushed by Viet Cong troops from a nearby supply base.
Stubbs was twice wounded by shrapnel from a booby-trapped bomb and shot in the neck by a Viet Cong who Stubbs killed. He kept fighting, refusing to quit until all his men – including eight who were wounded – were safe.
For his bravery, he received the Silver Star medal in 2001. For his wounds, he received a Purple Heart.
Saturday, Stubbs will be among dozens of other Purple Heart recipients from wars going back to World War II at a dinner to honor them at the Le Méridien Charlotte hotel.
The event, hosted by the Purple Heart Foundation of North Carolina, is the first of what organizers hope will be an annual dinner for Charlotte-region recipients. It has been held for about four years in Goldsboro, Winston-Salem, Wake Forest and Wilmington. Organizers hope to make the Charlotte dinner an annual event.
By Wednesday, about 80 recipients had registered for the dinner, with more than 1,000 people expected to attend.
Purple Hearts were established by George Washington in 1782 as a badge of military merit. It is awarded to those who were wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military.
Saturday’s dinner begins at 4 p.m. with a reception just for the Purple Heart recipients and their families. In a Walk of Honor at 5 p.m., each recipient will be introduced with their military branch, years of service and how they were wounded. They will be escorted by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Junior ROTC cadets.
Also in the crowd will be families of recipients who have died, along with a special recognition for those killed in action.
“For many, this dinner will be the first thank you they’ve received, especially the ones from the Korean and Vietnam wars,” said Stubbs, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 634, which represents recipients in the Charlotte region.
“Many of these fellows came home and didn’t tell anybody they were there. The dinner is helping bring them out. You’ll see a lot of pride. You’ll see a lot of tears.”
Stubbs has spent nearly 50 years helping the wounded get on with their lives.
He almost didn’t make it out of the war. That day, he tossed one wounded comrade over his shoulder and grabbed two others by their shirts and led them to safety.
The Americans captured the supply base where the attack had been launched.
“I didn’t have a single man in my squad killed that day,” Stubbs said. “All the recipients at the dinner Saturday will have a story to tell. You can’t go through an experience like that without having a story.
“It will be a moving night.”
Want to go?
Purple Heart recipients and two family members in and around Charlotte will receive free tickets to the Greater Charlotte Purple Heart Dinner at the Le Méridien Charlotte, 555 S. McDowell St. uptown. The public can buy tickets for $35 and attend. Organizers said tickets to recipients will be available right up to the start of the dinner. To register for the event: email email@example.com or call 704-927-7941. More details: www.CharlottePurpleHeart.org. The event is supported solely through sponsorships, ticket sales and volunteers. All proceeds pay for the dinner.