McMurray VFW honors Wall of Valor inductee

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In 1995, the Wall of Valor was created to honor the veterans of McMurray Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 764, who went above and beyond their call of duty in action against enemy forces.

Pasquale (Pat) Papalia of North Strabane will be inducted onto the Wall of Valor July 27

According to Bob Donnan, chairman of the Wall of Valor Committee, Mr. Papalia will be inducted for gallantry while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Silver Star.

“Pfc. Papalia distinguished himself by heroic actions on Feb 28, 1967, while serving as a rifleman with Company C, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry in the Republic of Vietnam,” Mr. Donnan said. “While on a search and destroy mission, his platoon came under heavy enemy fire. During the ensuing fire fight, Pvt. Papalia spotted an enemy claymore mine, which had been set up in the underbrush. With complete disregard for his own safety, he exposed himself to the heavy enemy fire, raced to the mine and successfully disarmed it by severing the detonating wire. When he had completed disarming the first mine, Pvt. Papalia spotted still another claymore mine further forward in the field and once again raced to the second mine, where he again severed the detonating wire.

“Through his actions, Pvt. Papalia opened the way for the rest of his platoon to advance and rout the enemy from their positions. Pvt. Papalia’s heroic actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army,” Mr. Donnan added.

When asked about his time in the Army, Mr. Papalia said simply, “War is war.”

“Mr. Papalia will join 30 other men on our Wall of Valor,” said Mr. Donnan. “He will join 10 of whom were awarded the same Silver Star for gallantry in action as he was.”

“The committee at the VFW looked at my background and saw that I had a Silver Star and they asked me if I would like to be on their Wall of Valor,” said Mr. Papalia. “I am honored to be up there with other men who fought for our country.”

According to Mr. Donnan, the Silver Star is awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy while in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing force in which the U.S. is not a belligerent party.

“I’‍m extremely proud of my dad. This is such a great honor and he should be recognized,” said Donna Contarino, Mr. Papalia‘‍s daughter, who lives in Maryland.

“He went on two tours of Vietnam and also served in the first Iraqi war,” Ms. Contarino added. “My father will be the 31st person added to the Wall of Valor.”

Ms. Contarino will be a guest speaker at the upcoming ceremony.

Mr. Papalia was drafted into the military at the age of 18, leaving his job as a baker at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. He served a total of 28 years in the Army and officially retired from the military in March 1991.

After he retired, Mr. Papalia worked with the Defense Department in the Army Material Command, where he provided logistical support to the troops. This job took him from Atlanta, Ga., to Fort Drum, N.Y., to numerous countries overseas such as Haiti, Germany, Panama, Bosnia, Iraq and lastly Afghanistan.

He finally retired in March 2012, and returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he is happy to be close to family, said his wife, Marlene.

“To be inducted onto our Wall is a great honor,” said Mr. Donnan. “I don't know of any other VFW posts having this sort of program in honor of our veterans, living and deceased.”

The Wall of Valor was designed by members of Post 764, including committee members, James Morin, Mr. Donnan, Joseph Malek and Daniel O’Neill.

The Wall now holds plaques from three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Those honored on the Wall are recipients of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Silver Star or Distinguished Flying Cross. The plaques on the wall re-create the deeds, medals and stories of those honored. 

For more information, visit www.vfw764.org/wallofvalor.htm.

Chasity Capasso, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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