HAMLET — Ed O’Neal’s name could be added to Richmond County’s VA clinic as a permanent tribute to the veterans’ advocate and retired Army command sergeant major.
U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson on Wednesday introduced a bill to rename the Veterans Affairs community outpatient clinic in Hamlet in O’Neal’s honor. Hudson said all 12 of the state’s congressional representatives signed on to the bill, H.R. 5265, as co-sponsors.
O’Neal died May 6 at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital. He was 75.
“Ed O’Neal was a dear friend of mine and a champion for his fellow veterans in Richmond County and all of North Carolina,” Hudson said in a statement. “After a long and distinguished military career, Ed and his beloved wife Mary continued to serve our country by tirelessly assisting and advocating for local veterans. We are all forever indebted to Ed and all of our nation’s heroes, but I am proud to introduce this legislation to honor his legacy and preserve his memory.”
Edward James O’Neal retired from military service in 1976 after guiding the Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg.
He served four tours in Vietnam and was awarded three Purple Heart medals for sustaining injury at enemy hands in the line of duty.
After his retirement, O’Neal and his wife became advocates for veterans in Richmond County and beyond, helping vets submit claims for federal benefits and shepherding those claims through the system.
O’Neal was a past commander of Rockingham’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4203 and a member of the local Disabled American Veterans post. In 2006, he was elected N.C. AMVETS department commander and remained on the group’s Past Commanders’ Council.
“If I can help the veterans, then I feel like I’m accomplishing something,” O’Neal once said.
The O’Neals worked together as a husband and wife team to help local veterans, and Mary O’Neal has continued working to support current and former military service members since her husband’s death in May.
Members of the North Carolina Senate gave Mary O’Neal a standing ovation on May 10. State Sen. Gene McLaurin took the Senate floor to read an official statement thanking her for her work as a volunteer and official in local and state veterans’ groups.
The full text of Hudson’s bill had not been posted to the Library of Congress website late Wednesday.
Hudson, R-Concord, represents North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District, which includes all of Richmond County.