Services set for O’Neal, ‘a veteran’s veteran’

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

The pallbearers for the funeral of former Command Sergeant Major Edward James O’Neal should have plenty of room to carry out there task.

“When a CSM walks down the aisle, you make a hole and you make it wide,” said Larry Evans, quartermaster for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4203 in Rockingham.

CSM Edward O'Neal

CSM Edward O’Neal

O’Neal, 75, died Tuesday at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham after an extended illness. He was a retired Army veteran, haven earned the rank of command sergeant major and guided the Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg. He retired in 1976.

A memorial service was scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Outreach for Jesus, 440 Battley Dairy Road in Hamlet.

Visitation is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Harrington Funeral Home in Hamlet. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Paul Lutheran Church. Burial will be in the O’Neal Family Cemetery.

Hamlet City Councilman Eddie Martin called O’Neal “a veteran’s veteran” who championed the cause of veterans long after retiring from military service.

O’Neal served four tours in Vietnam and was awarded three Purple Heart medals for being wounded in combat.

After his military service, O’Neal continued to advocate on behalf of veterans and served as past commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4203 in Rockingham and also was a member of the local Disabled American Veteran chapter and commander of the state DAV. O’Neal also was elected department commander for the North Carolina AMVETS.

“He was the best of the best,” said Evans said.

The tank in front of the VFW’s headquarters is there because of O’Neal, Evans said. “There’s no telling how much he helped veterans in Richmond County.”

It’s part of O’Neal’s legacy that people simply can’t recall all the times he’s been of help. However, one of the biggest projects O’Neal was a catalyst for getting the Veterans Affairs clinic in Hamlet.

“There’s a lot of veterans who called him a legend around here,” Evans said.

O’Neal’s career was one for the books — so legendary, some felt, that it was hardly believable. On one military-friendly site online, some questioned the reality of of his career — that is, before verifying it.

According to that report, O’Neal entered the military at the age of 17 on June 20, 1956. He retired Nov. 1, 1976. In between, he established an incredible military career.

He survived more than five years in combat in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam — at one point, enduring enemy fire for 30 consecutive days.

He made First Sergeant in 10 years and CSM in 14 years — a move up the ranks, O’Neal reportedly said, that “was unheard of” at such a rapid pace.

O’Neal joined the Special Forces, completed Ranger School and was a HALO (High-Altitude, Low-Opening) jumper. He was trained as a medic and, among other missions, parachuted into enemy compounds at night to free American prisoners.

 

 

 

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News, Obits

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