CHAMBERSBUG – A Franklin County bridge has been dedicated to the memory of U.S. Army Sgt. Melvin Grayson Ehrhart, who was killed in action April 28, 1969.
“He was one of Franklin County’s best,” said Sen. Judy Ward (R-30) during a presentation Friday at the South Hamilton Community Ballpark pavilion. “He made the ultimate sacrifice to save his fellow soldiers.”
Ehrhart, a 1966 Chambersburg Area Senior High School graduate, was drafted and sent into combat in Vietnam in October 1968 as a member of Company D, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, 9th Division.
He was serving as a squad leader when his platoon came under fierce attack and he courageously took up an exposed position to direct his men into effective fighting positions.
Despite being seriously wounded in battle, he continued to direct his men and relay information to his company commander until he was killed by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade launched in his direction.
He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star with First and Second Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with First and Second Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal and the Purple Heart.
The Sgt. Melvin Grayson Ehrhart Memorial Bridge on Jack Road in St. Thomas Township will not only serve to honor a man who made the ultimate sacrifice in war, but it will bring warm memories for his family and those who knew him.
“He lived in Hamilton Township. I was from St. Thomas Township, so we always crossed this bridge back and forth when we were dating and to go to church. It just blossomed from there,” recalled Darlene Ehrhart Provencher, wife of Ehrhart. “Crossing that bridge will always remind me of two people who fell in love crossing over it when they were young.”
The couple shared a 3-month-old daughter, Melinda, when he was killed. He never met his daughter.
“I’m very emotional, very excited, very thankful that we had this opportunity to set up a memorial for Butch because he was just a very special guy,” Provencher said.
Local legislators Ward, Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-89) and Rep. John Hershey (R-82) worked together to moved legislation to have the bridge named in Ehrhart’s honor.
“It’s amazing how long it can take in Harrisburg to name a bridge,” Hershey said. “It took two years to enact the legislation. It’s a small gesture, but a gesture I hope will help his memory live on.”