HUTTONSVILLE?- The skies were cloudy and rain fell, but that did not deter the many friends, family and officials who came out to honor a hometown hero on Saturday at the former Becky's Creek Bridge near Huttonsville.
U.S. Army Sgt. Cecil W. Kittle Jr. was born on March 15, 1940, and grew up just two miles away in an area which is now known as "Kittle's Ridge."
He spent his teenage years working in nearby hay fields and helped his father dig a well by hand. Kittle walked the roads, hunted the hills and caught fish from the river. It was here that he grew up into a young man who loved his life, his family and his country.
State Sen. Clark Barnes unveils a sign dedicating a bridge in Becky’s Creek to Cecil W. Kittle Jr. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Sara Harris)
The idea for honoring Kittle started with a telephone call by his son, Randy, who was born 5 weeks after his father's death. Randy got in touch with Sen. Clark Barnes, and with the help of his assistant, Michelle Wright, set the entire process in motion.
During the verification process, it was discovered that Kittle had been approved in December 1965 for a Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguished "V" Device and a Combat Infantryman Badge. Due to a clerical error, no one had known of these honors. Wes Holden, director of constituent services for U.S. Sen. John?D. "Jay" Rockerfeller IV, was instrumental in discovering this information and obtaining all of Kittle's medals and awards, which were presented posthumously to his family at the ceremony Saturday.
In a statement on behalf of Holden and Rockerfeller, they said, "Sgt. Kittle's gift is a debt that we can never repay, but renaming this bridge after him is only a small token of our esteem."
The awards were presented to Sgt. Kittle's family by Jake Roberts, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 812. Roberts said it was an emotional time, because "we're dealing with heroes here."
He was not the only emotional one, as Barnes broke down as he read the resolution, telling the story of Kittle's bravery during the war.
Kittle was killed on Nov. 17, 1965, as a result of hostile action, and was the first Randolph County soldier to die in the Vietnam War.
Closing comments were made by Roger Ware, the commandant of the Marine Corps League.
"Dedicating a bridge is a perfect symbol of what Sgt. Kittle gave, because when somebody puts everything on the line, that creates a bridge and allows everybody else to live free and travel back and forth," Ware said. "For those who cross this bridge every day, the signs will serve (as) a reminder that freedom has a price, and Cecil Kittle gave his life to help pay for this freedom." This ceremony does not take away the pain, but it allows us to share that pain."
Immediate family members present included, sons Richard Nicholas Kittle and Randall Lee Kittle; brother Floyd Kittle; and sister Carolyn Kittle. Another sister, Eva Faye Collier Knight, was represented by her son, Eric Collier.
Floyd Kittle was "humbled and appreciative of everything the good citizens and Sen. Barnes has done for our brother."
Elkins Mayor Van Broughton also attended the ceremony and said, "It's really nice to be a part of this. I was in Charleson a few months ago when this was brought up in the Senate. To see it come to fruition and be a part of it, this is a proud moment. It is good to meet the Kittle family and pay my respects to a local hero. We would not be where we are today, were it not for our veterans and the men and women who are currently serving in our military."
Valley Head resident Leonard Barnett said he attended the ceremony to honor the memory of Cecil and thank him for his service and the sacrifices that he made.
Kittle's sister, Carolyn, presented gifts to Barnes and his assistant, Michelle Wright, as well as Roger Ware, Jake Roberts and the Valley Chapel Church for their part in the dedication.
"This is just a humbling experience, the honor that you have bestowed upon Cecil Jr. You bring him to life today, and I thank you," Carolyn said. "You were here for us 48 years ago and you are here today. I cannot tell you what this means. Thank you."