Virgle A. Raper spent more than 15 years serving his country. If he were alive today, this interview may not have taken place.
“He was a silent soldier,” said Terry Raper of his father, who was born in April 1925. “That’s what I call it. He never talked about it. He never told us anything about where he was, or what he did. All I knew was he was in the military. That was pretty much it.”
What hid behind the quiet will never truly be known. Those unspoken words were forever sealed when Virgle passed away in 1977.
Memorial Day is a time to honor soldiers who died in service to their country. These are soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their life for America.
Virgle didn’t die in military service, but he did compile a distinguished military career.
Terry says he began digging into military records and found his father was a well-decorated serviceman in both World War II and the Korean War.
Raper, at age 19, enlisted in the U.S. Army and served under the United Nations from July 2, 1943 to Dec. 19, 1958.
He fought in World War II battles and campaigns in Southern France, Normandy, Rhineland, Africa, and the Middle East. He was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in France, European African Middle Eastern Service Metal, and three Bronze Stars.
He was Rifleman 745. He also had a Combat Infantryman Badge and was an expert rifleman with a Marksmanship with Gold Leaf.
During the Korean War, he served in the United National Defensive, United Nations Offensive, Chinese Communist Forces Intervention, First United Nations Offensive, Chinese Communist Forces Spring Offensive, United Nations Summer-Fall Offensive.
He was awarded a Korea Service Metal, Bronze Star with Silver Star, Bronze Service Star, Distinguished Unit Citation, National Defense Service Metal, and Marksmanship (Carbine) Expert Award.
“It took me about a year to get his military service records,” said Terry. “It just blew my mind to see where he went, all that he was involved in, and all the metals he received. He was a silent soldier. He served his country and he shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Raper rose to the rank of sergeant and was honorably discharged on Dec. 19, 1958.
There were signs his dad saw things in those 15 years he would have rather forgetten.
“When we were growing up, we couldn’t watch anything on TV that had to do with the military,” said Terry. “We weren’t even allowed to watch ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’ That was a very popular show at the time. Not in our house.”
He taught his son how to shoot a gun, but he also educated him on some self-defense tactics to prevent bullying at school.
“I didn’t like to fight,” said Terry. “I hated confrontation. He showed me some self-defense moves. During the war, he was a gunner but he also trained soldiers to go to war.”
Terry discovered pictures that his father sent home during the war.
“He wrote little notes on some of the pictures. He sent them to my grandmother and she kept them all these years. I can’t believe she had all these pictures.”
One photo was of his dad in a group and he wrote, “Part of my crew. Good boys, but a little reckless.”
“Lonesome polecat fired 147 rounds today. Had to be checked,” was written on the back of a picture that featured Raper with what appeared to be an M1 Howitzer.
“There are a lot of silent soldiers out there,” he said. “Each of them deserves recognition. We shouldn’t allow any of them to be forgotten.”
What Terry knows about his father’s military service could be all he ever knows. A fire occurred in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center and records were damaged or destroyed. He has requested his father’s metals and is awaiting the arrival of those.