New plaque memorializes West Virginia Green Berets birthplace

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – At the Raleigh County Convention Center, a special dedication ceremony was held for a new plaque. The plaque memorializes Beckley as the birthplace of the West Virginia Green Berets.

More than 60 years ago in 1959, West Virginia became one of the first states selected for the creation of the Army National Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets.

The ceremony had numerous speakers, including Major Robert Luther III, the Vice President of the Special Forces Association Chapter 68.

Major Luther has served with the 19th Group in many deployments, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You look back and you start to look at how much the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard, and specifically the special forces, have achieved during that time,” Luther said. “It really shows the patriotism of soldiers from West Virginia.” 

Also at the ceremony was Merle Cole with the Raleigh County Historical Society. He’s a dedicated historian with a strong focus on military and police history.

Both Major Luther and Merle co-wrote a book detailing the strong history of the West Green Berets. And to commemorate his support, during the ceremony they made Merle an honorary member of the special forces association.

“I really appreciate the recognition, I have spent a lot of time on this over the years,” Merle said. “But I also think Major Luther and I were equally responsible for the book. He’s had a long-term interest too.” 

Merle was also given a special painting commissioned by the late Brigadier General Craig Broadwater, who also served as a federal judge in West Virginia. 

Throughout the ceremony, the speakers detailed the history of the West Virginia Green Berets throughout the decades and even in recent years with the war on terror, and even more recently with deployments to Eastern Europe. 

The plaque can be seen in the main entrance at the Raleigh County Convention Center.

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