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Local veterans reflect on service ahead of Memorial Day

Posted at 7:20 PM, May 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-27 21:23:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Commemorative events and displays are a big part of Memorial Day weekend.

But for local veterans, like Smith DeVoe, it means more than that.

"Memorial Day in my heart is different from every other holiday," he said.

For some, like veteran Raymond Bliley, it's a day to educate and help young ones understand.

"Rebuilt and shown so that we can teach the younger generation what the greatest generation had to go through," he said, describing a military Jeep he rebuilt in honor of his dad.

For DeVoe, it's a day of reflection on stories of his past.

"Some of those people that were killed were friends of mine, and the sacrifice they did for me to still be here today," he said reflecting on his service.

DeVoe fought in Vietnam. He saw one of the war's more brutal firefights when his company, of just over 130 men, was sent in to lure out the elusive and highly-trained D800 Viet Cong Battalion, roughly 500-600 strong.

"Unfortunately, we found them," he said.

Reinforcements did not arrive for 14 hours.

DeVoe says that brotherhood, the bond he and his men forged, was put to the test that day.

He described the lifesaving actions of one of his fellow soldiers, James W. Robinson Jr.

"When one of my squad leaders jumps up in Vietnam with a hand grenade in each hand and charges at a machine gun, knowing he's going to die — and that happened — and he got the Medal of Honor for it, but that's way beyond brotherhood," DeVoe said.

It's stories like those that Bliley hopes to keep alive.

He rebuilds military vehicles, and restores them to be exactly like the ones his dad could've been in throughout WWII.

"I thought, that's what I'm going to do, I'm going to honor his service and tell his story that I can't tell, or he wouldn't tell," he said. “So that I can honor my dad."

To both men, Memorial Day is more than a holiday. It's a memory meant to be shared and honored.

"Memorial Day is the one day a year that I think everyone should take at least a minute or two out of their lives and just sit there and reflect in silence where they are today and who gave their lives to be where they are today," DeVoe said.