Carol Woodruff moved to Hillsboro after her husband’s death to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren, but all of them spent Father’s Day weekend in the nations’ capitol to hear the name of her late husband, SSgt. David Woodruff, be read into the record with 534 other Vietnam veterans whose lives were shortened due to their service in the war in Southeast Asia.
She said it was a fitting way to render honor to those like her husband who didn’t hear “thank you for your service” when they returned home from what had become an unpopular and divisive war.
More than 2,500 family and friends were in attendance June 15 on the east knoll of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with Woodruff adding that the names of nearly 4,000 veterans have been added to the “In Memory” honor roll since the program began.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website said the In Memory program was created in 1993, with the first induction ceremony held six years later, to honor those like Woodruff who returned home and later died as a result of their service, but are not eligible for inscription on The Wall under defense department guidelines.
The couple had been married for 39 years at the time of David’s death from lung cancer on Feb. 21, 2010, and Carol Woodruff confessed when she met him, it was love at first sight.
“I met him and I think I fell in love with him right away,” she said. “Everybody loved him. He was just one of those people who I don’t think ever met a stranger, and if he did, they weren’t strangers for very long.”
A decorated combat veteran, Woodruff was proud of his service to his country, she said, and that pride in a job well done meshed with a heart of compassion when he began his civilian career with the Waverly Elementary School as a maintenance technician.
“There were some kids that he knew who didn’t have very much,” she said. “And he asked me one time if I’d be OK with maybe taking one in as a foster child for a while just to help out — he loved kids and they loved him, too.”
Carol Woodrff recalled many times when her husband would ask her when she was going to the grocery to pick up specific things for certain children he knew, in particular a little red-haired boy he nicknamed “Firetruck” that had a sweet tooth for Butterfinger candy bars.
The Woodruffs owned and operated a body shop in Waverly up to the time of David’s death in 2010, with Carol moving to the Hillsboro area in October of that year to be closer to her daughter, Michelle Ryan, who is the school nurse for the Bright Local School District.
Since the official end of the war in 1975, according to the VVMF, thousands of Vietnam veterans have died each year from cancers that were caused by exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange, suicide that resulted from post-traumatic stress disorder and other causes related to their service.
The plaque on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site in Washington, D.C. that honors veterans was dedicated in 2004 and is inscribed “In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”
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