Memorial To Honor Only Ocean City Native Killed In Vietnam

OCEAN CITY- Resort officials this week signed off on a proposal to create a lasting memorial to the only Ocean City native killed in action in Vietnam with a bench of reflection near City Hall where he attended school as a child.

Vietnam Veterans of America-Ocean City Chapter 1091 President Nelson Kelly presented the idea of creating a memorial honoring the memory of Barry Howard Berger, an Army Ranger and Stephen Decatur graduate who was the only Ocean City native killed in action in the Vietnam War. Kelly presented the idea during Tuesday’s meeting and the Mayor and Council approved the creation of a memorial bench and area of reflection near City Hall.

“Although we are open to suggestions, our preference would be a bench dedicated to Barry in front of City Hall,” he said. “The first plan was to put in a boardwalk-style bench with a little plaque, but now we’re thinking of a small black granite bench of reflection.”

Barry Berger, son of long-time Ocean City resident and community advocates Al and Beatrice Berger, attended elementary school in what is now City Hall and later graduated from Stephen Decatur High School. Like most kids at the time, he was involved in Little League baseball and the Boy Scouts and helped run the family clothing store in the resort during the summer.

He was attending college at American University during the late 1960s when the war began to escalate and enlisted in the army soon thereafter. Berger enrolled in Army Ranger school and was soon deployed to Vietnam. In his frequent letters home to Ocean City, which were shared by the Worcester County Veterans Memorial, Berger updated his family on his whereabouts and conditions and thanked them for their care packages sent from Ocean City.

On January 10, 1971, Berger was deployed on a reconnaissance mission with his unit when they came under heavy attack from the enemy and requested to be removed from the area. Four helicopters responded to help remove the unit and Berger was one of the last still on the ground during the process. The helicopters were unable to land on the ground because of the jungle terrain, so they were lifting the men out of the area utilizing a series of ropes and harnesses.

Berger was one of the last of the men being lifted from the ground when the helicopter came under fire and began to lose altitude. The helicopter clipped the top of the trees with Berger still dangling from the harness and he did not survive the injuries from falling to the ground.

On Tuesday, Kelly said the Vietnam Veterans of America Ocean City Chapter wanted to honor Berger as the only resort native killed in action in Vietnam with the memorial bench and plaque near the very building where he attended grade school as a child.

“Barry walked right through these very doors to attend school at what is now City Hall,” he said. “We think it is fitting and proper to honor him with this memorial not far from where we are standing.”

Kelly said the Vietnam Veterans of America-Ocean City chapter would fit the bill for the memorial honoring Berger and merely wanted approval from the Mayor and Council to move forward with the project.

“Our chapter would absorb all of the costs and would raise funds for this effort, so there would be no cost for the city,” he said. “If you could give us direction on how to proceed with this project, it would be appreciated. We just think it’s the right thing to do.”

With that said, Councilman John Gehrig made a motion to approve the memorial and Councilman Wayne Hartman said he would be proud to second it. Kelly explained the memorial could be in place and there could be a dedication in time for Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day in March.

“This is a great idea,” said Councilman Dennis Dare. “Not only will it honor Barry Berger, but all of the veterans who served in the Vietnam conflict.”