Edward J. Ray, now 71, served as an office clerk in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971, during some of the most contentious years of the Vietnam War.
“He was the only one in his patrol who could [type quickly],” Ray’s daughter Brooke Whitaker said. “He got put in an office, which pretty much saved his life, because most of the rest of them didn’t come back.”
Ray volunteered for the infantry after seeing that he would likely be drafted, Whitaker said, but she doesn’t know much about his time in the Army.
“He didn’t talk about it that much. And I know he wouldn’t consider himself a hero,” Whitaker said. “But he did give his time and his talents and put himself in danger to do what our country asked him to do.”
Ray’s father was a military man who traveled the world, at one point visiting DeLand. When he retired, he chose DeLand to settle in, and he opened up DeLand Metal Craft Co., located at 300 W. Beresford Ave. After Ray returned from Vietnam, he joined the company and oversaw its expansion — his two daughters now work for and run the company.
Ray currently has advanced dementia, Whitaker said.
“My dad loved fishing and being around his friends,” Whitaker said. “Under the banner of DeLand Metal Craft, he did things for the community — he would donate to the high schools and help out in the neighborhood around the shop.”
But his time in the service left a mark.
Like other veterans who returned from the unpopular war at that time, Ray’s status as a veteran was not looked upon kindly, Whitaker recalled her father saying.
“Thinking about it, I remember my dad saying he changed into civilian clothes on his way home,” Whitaker said. “Those who served in Vietnam were not honored, they were spit upon and called killers. It was this treatment and the fact that the rest of his group from boot camp were killed made it so he didn’t consider himself a hero. I know he would have shrugged off the honor, because he wouldn’t think he deserved it.”
It was that reason that prompted her to nominate her father, Whitaker said.
“I nominated my dad because he served his country with honor, he did his duty. And it cost him,” she said. “I’ve only known my dad from after the war, and he has always carried the scars from that time.”