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Hometown Heroes

Peter J. Dawson, who grew up in Skillman and now lives in Pennington, phoned The Montgomery News this summer to invite a reporter to attend a Princeton Corridor Rotary Club luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Princeton as his guest.

A museum curator was to tell a story with a strange twist-of-fate about Skillman resident Stephen H. Warner — a fervent anti-Vietnam War protestor who earned a degree at Gettysbury College, was drafted, and ended up serving in Vietnam.

The US Army assigned Warner to be a photographer and public relations specialist. While he held a privileged position that did not require him to venture anywhere near the front line, Warner wrote in a letter dated Jan 7, 1971:

“How can I cover the war if I am not part of it ... Do you know what it’s like to be in the field with a dozen others and to know death could be in the very next step,” he wrote. “The cost of admission is fear, but in the bargain you get brotherhood, yes brotherhood, your are so close — close like two five-year-olds are close out alone in the dark.

“Somehow knowing you’d do things for the other guy that you’d never do anywhere else. For me, it’s knowing that if I am to die, I can’t ask more than that it be among a bunch of grunts. Why? Because grunts are the ultimate in humanness.

“And so you ask me how I can be an optimist about humanity, well it’s because I’ve walked with Johnny and Joe and I’ve laid my life in their hands and been richer for the experience.”

Warner was killed in February 1971, a week before he was scheduled to come home. Read his story. ■

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