A hero’s welcome home – 43 years later

Troop 31’s Ray Coe honored at last for honorable military & community service

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By Kim Chiomento, Staff Writer, The Times

PENNSBURY – For Ray Coe, the experience of returning home from the Vietnam War was a far cry from the jubilant and packed Hillendale Elementary gymnasium; filled with patriotic well-wishers, who gathered to witness the long overdue military medal ceremony held in his honor last night.

Enthusiastic attendees give Coe a long overdue hero's reception

Attendees give Coe a long overdue hero’s reception.

“I had no idea the scope of what was going to happen tonight…this kind of reception was just unimaginable to me when I returned home 43 years ago.”  Due to the political climate and anti-war movements of that era, American service members returning home from Vietnam were most often given a chilly reception; mocked and rarely, if ever, thanked for their service.

In Coe’s case, he was never officially presented with several prestigious medals, including the Bronze Star,  the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor exhibited in combat, National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Vietnam Campaign Medal and four US Army Marksmanship Qualification Badges (Sharpshooter Badge, Automatic Rifle, Pistol and Rifle Bars.)

While serving 13 months in Vietnam, Coe narrowly survived four near-death experiences and witnessed regular, horrific trauma to his brothers-in-arms. One example is while serving with A Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Calvary he was involved in a reconnaissance operation when the lead vehicle detonated an enemy land mine; which in turn, initiated an enemy attack. Despite being injured in the initial blast, Coe helped move a wounded comrade from the vehicle while exposing himself to hostile fire.  His bravery and commitment to his duty was a major reason why his fellow soldier survived. “As you can imagine, it is very difficult for me to talk about the war.  When you see that much trauma, it keeps on ‘giving’…I think about those experiences every day.”  His selfless actions that day earned Ray Coe the Purple Heart.


Coe congratulated by PA State Representative Stephen Barrar and members of Troop 31’s leadership team.

During one of his darkest times he found himself attending a modest Vietnam church service; silently praying that he would just make it out alive.  He explains being constantly terrified and brokering a deal; of sorts, recalling telling God “If I get out of here; I will do whatever you call me to do.”

Coe says, “I was haunted by the debt of actually getting out alive and decided to become involved with the Scouts when my son, Andrew, was a Cub.”  The parallels between Scouting and the military are many, including: upholding the highest principles of patriotism, service, honor and being directly involved in the development of future generations of leaders.  It soon became clear that Coe had found his calling. Ironically, after Vietnam, Coe vowed never to go camping.  He wistfully recalls when he would accompany Scouts into the woods; he would  not just see trees, but rather, a place full of snipers set for attack.

For more than 25 years, Coe has served  the Boy Scouts – Troop 31, Chadds Ford; including acting as Scoutmaster for the past 15 years even after his son earned Eagle Scout rank.  Troop 31 has had an incredible record since its inception in 1948; serving over 1,000 Scouts; 106 of which, have earned the elite honor of Eagle Scout rank.  Under Coe’s leadership, 76 Scouts have earned Eagle Badges.  It is believed that Coe holds the Chester County Council’s record of 14 Eagle Scouts within one year; and the Troop under his guidance remains very highly regarded within the Scouting community.


Troop 31’s local heritage themed neckerchief.

When Luci McClure, Assistant Scout Master for Troop 31, heard that Coe did not receive the medals owed to him she worked very closely with a key resource and Veteran’s proponent, PA State Representative- Stephen Barrar (R-160), Chairman, House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committees.  Together,  McClure and Barrar set the wheels in motion to set this injustice right.  Soon, word spread about Coe, his valor, leadership, service and the momentum to honor him became unstoppable; with the end result being last night’s extremely well-attended medal presentation and celebration.

The ceremony was hosted by Coe’s dedicated and super-energized “home” Troop-31; and featured presentations of flags flown by both active military as well as flown over state and national capitols, color guard, patriotic music by Amerikids Chorus, a Troop skit, Scout testimonials and a reception that followed.  Troop  Committee Chairman, Michael Maxwell, gave a moving testimonial of Coe’s merits, “Thank you for your service as a soldier…the enthusiasm here tonight  has been overwhelming…it shows that people are lining-up to give back to a man who has given so much.” Troop 31 also presented Coe with a bound copy of his very personal Vietnam memoirs: Blood, Sweat and a Year.

After Vietnam, Coe earned a Business Management degree from Widener University in 1974; the same year he married his wife Cindi.  He has held many diverse leadership positions within the Scout’s Chester County Council and currently resides in Pocopson Township.  To learn more about the accomplishments and history of Troop 31, their events and service projects, please visit: www.chaddsfordtroop31.org

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