Local veteran reflects on the loss of his legs years after combat

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RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — He’s a face known among veterans here in southern West Virginia.  Jeremiah Murphy is a local hero, who lost both legs as a teenager in Vietnam. We sat down with him to talk about strength and resilience. 

“I was just a country boy, and I got a draft notice, and we went off to the military,” Murphy said. “I don’t think I had been any farther than maybe North Carolina.  All of a sudden, we were on a plane flying thousands of miles away to a country we had never heard of.”

Jeremiah Murphy was 18 years old when he was drafted as a convoy soldier toward the end of the conflict in Vietnam.  

“I wasn’t really scared, but there was this feeling of ‘am I going to be one of the next’,” he added.

He went off to basic training and was assigned to a company in the southern region.  Then, on what seemed like to be a routine day, everything changed.  His cavalcade was ambushed by North Vietnamese soldiers.

“This day we had run into the Yellow Star Division of the NVA – they were North Vietnamese regulars – and they were trained just like we were,” Murphy reflected. “These guys were pretty tough.”

There was a miscalculation with ammunition and at one point all the soldiers were reloading their guns.  Jeremiah looked up and saw something that would change his world forever.  

“After everyone ran out of ammo, one of the North Vietnamese soldiers crawled out of a bush, and he had a B-40 rocket that was one of ours,” Murphy told us.  “Once he exposed himself from the bush, he knew he was going to get killed. But, he just calmly crawled out and flipped up the site, and he fired on us.”

In an instant, 14 men in his company were killed and eight were wounded.  The once six-foot-four athlete lost both of his legs.

“Overnight, I had little old ladies having to open the door to help me get in,” he said.  “So, it was devastating for anyone.  It was a life-changing event. I think maybe I was one of the lucky ones because these other guys didn’t make it.”

Jeremiah is now back in his home in southern West Virginia advocating for veterans and supporting the local war museums to make sure stories like his are not forgotten. 

“I would like for the younger generation to know that freedom isn’t free,” Murphy added.  “Someone has to pay the price for it.”

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