By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
As a young man, Phill McDonald had to leave his home in Ritter Hollow near Avondale to find work. He dropped out of Iaeger High School in 11th grade and found work in a cedar plant in Greensboro, N.C., and hoped to enter the ministry one day. However, in 1967, his draft board contacted him and he entered the U.S. Army.
At 26 years old, Private First Class Phill G. McDonald, was serving in Vietnam as team leader with 1st platoon, Company A, 14th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. During a battle near Kontom City on June 7, 1968, McDonald’s unit came under heavy fire. He volunteered to escort two wounded soldiers back to an evacuation point, and used grenades to silence an enemy position that was firing on the evacuation.
McDonald returned to his initial position, and put heavy fire down on the enemy that enabled his unit to reposition. McDonald was wounded by heavy enemy fire, but manned the machine gun of a wounded soldier so that soldier could be evacuated. The enemy continued firing on McDonald’s unit, so he crawled toward the enemy position to attack it with grenades. McDonald was mortally wounded in the action.
On April 7, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon presented McDonald’s family the Medal of Honor in recognition of his valor in combat. On June 6, 1988, Guilford County, N.C. dedicated the Phill G. McDonald Plaza at the Guilford County Government Complex and the state of West Virginia named the I-64 bridge crossing Glade Creek in Raleigh County the Phill G. McDonald Bridge.
In recent years, local lawyer, Ed Rotenberry initiated an effort to gain recognition for McDonald in his home county. Rotenberry made contact with McDonald’s family members, found a photograph of him in uniform and framed it along with the narrative of the combat that resulted in McDonald’s posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.
State Senator H. Truman Chafin D-Mingo, took up the cause to create a public recognition of McDonald in the county where he was born. With the help and support of fellow Senator Bill Cole, R-Mercer along with Delegates Clif Moore, D-McDowell, Marty Gearheart, Joe Ellington and John Shott, all R-Mercer, the state legislature passed a resolution naming a section of Route 80 from Iaeger to Bradshaw the Army PFC Phill G. McDonald Memorial Highway.
“I’m really glad they’re honoring him,” Rotenberry said. “I had thought about trying to get something like this done when I was doing the research, but I didn’t get around to it. It’s well deserved. He’s a local boy and he’s a hero.”
“A ceremony honoring the sacrifice of PFC McDonald will take place toward the end of May where the resolution will be presented to his family and highway signs will be erected,” Chafin stated in an e-mail message announcing passage of the resolution.
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com