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Lest We Forget

Published: May 18, 2017 12:00 AM

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey Charles J. Watters grew to be a tall, lean man. Ever since he was in the fourth grade in school, he expressed the desire to become a priest. After high school he entered Seton Hall University, hen then attended the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, New Jersey.

Watters' first parish assignment after his ordination in 1953 was to St. Mary's Church in Rutherford, New Jersey. He later spent seven years at a parish in nearby Paramus. In the early 1960s, Father Watters decided he wanted to serve his country as well as his God. He enlisted as a chaplain with the New Jersey National Guard. In 1965 he requested a transfer to the army and active duty.

Never a man to shrink from danger, Father Watters (at age thirty-eight) volunteered for Airborne training. He spent some time with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before being sent to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in South Vietnam.

Father Watters had been in at least 50 engagements with the enemy. He was one of just three chaplains to make the war's combat jump, which occurred near Katum during Operation Junction City in January 1967. He said it was the only one of his 17 jumps on which he had "no uneasy feelings because there was too much else to think of."

Father Watters' one year tour ended in June 1967, but he felt that his boys needed him, so he extended another year. Watters never completed that year. He died on Nov. 19, 1967, during the battle of Dak To.

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Father Watters was in the forefront of the paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, became embroiled in the battle on Hill 875. He moved among the battling paratroopers and gave encouragement and first aid to the wounded. When he noticed a wounded soldier wandering in shock and confusion between the two forces, Father Watters ran into the open, hoisted the man onto his shoulders, and carried him to safety.

During that brutal afternoon the Airborne chaplain left the safety perimeter at least five times to retrieve casualties. When he was satisfied that all of the wounded were recovered, Father Watters busied himself helping the medics, applying bandages, gathering up and serving rations and providing spiritual and mental strength and comfort.

According to reports later filed by survivors of that grim battle, Father Watters was on his knees giving the Last Rites to a dying paratrooper when at dusk, an American plane accidentally dropped a 500 pound bomb in the center of the paratroopers. Father Watters died in the blast. His two brothers accepted his posthumous Medal of Honor on Nov. 4, 1969.

Please remember to keep all of our military personnel and their families in your daily prayers.

Charles R. Pearson

Chaplain, Malvern Legion Post 375

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