Local military family continues tradition at historic chapel - Martinsburg VA Medical Center
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Martinsburg VA Medical Center


Local military family continues tradition at historic chapel

May 15, 2013

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Air National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Joseph Harper and family gathered Mother’s Day for a service at the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s historic chapel, where in 1981 he and twin brother, Joel Harper, were baptized. Even though it was Mother’s Day, the service was not to celebrate a mother, but rather, to baptize Joseph’s 1-year-old daughter, Arya Harper.

Joseph Harper said it was important to continue the tradition his parents started by baptizing his daughter at the historic chapel that has special meaning for his family. “My oldest sister was also married at the chapel,” he said. “Because I was baptized here as a child, I thought it would be interesting to have a second generation Harper baptized here too.”

Joseph’s grandfather, James E. Harper, began the family tradition of military service in 1943 when he enlisted as an infantryman in the Army. He earned a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart for his service with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy.

Following in the family military tradition, Joseph’s father, James V. Harper, served two tours in Vietnam and two in Iraq in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. During his military service, he also served in the 167th Air Lift Wing in Martinsburg. After a 26-year military career serving in the Army, Marine Corps and Air National Guard, James V. Harper worked at the medical center here as a nursing assistant and machine operator.

“What a blessing for Joseph and his family,” said Christina J. Brooks-Signo, medical center chaplain who conducted the service. “It’s an honor and privilege to conduct this
service because Joseph’s father and grandfather both served in the military; That’s three generations of military service.”

The family connection to Martinsburg VAMC also includes Joseph’s mother, Jeanette Harper, who worked as a VA nurse here for 21 years and retired from the VA after 31 years of service. She said the baptism was special because of the significance it will one day have to her granddaughter. “I think it’s a continuation of something that started in the ‘80s with the baptism of her father and two uncles,” she said. “When she is older, she will understand the meaning.”

The Martinsburg VA Medical Center mission is to honor America’s Veterans by providing exceptional health care that improves their health and well-being. Located in West Virginia, the medical center offers a comprehensive range of services, including internal medicine, ambulatory surgery, audiology and speech pathology, dental, nursing home, nutrition, podiatry, prosthetics, women’s health, mental health, and rehabilitation medicine. With a service area of nearly 130,000 Veterans in West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, the medical center operates four VA-staffed Outpatient Clinics in Cumberland, Hagerstown, Fort Detrick, Md., and Stephens City, Va. and three contract clinics in Franklin and Petersburg, W.Va. and Harrisonburg, Va.