Love of his country and his hometown has made Perry F. Shelton an active community member, and a patriotic one at that.
Those characteristics stood out when the Summit Hill Memorial Day Parade Committee members got together recently to select the parade's 2011 grand marshal, unanimously selecting the Vietnam War veteran to lead Carbon County's largest tribute to America on Monday, May 30. The parade will step off at 11 a.m. on Ludlow Street in the center of town, continuing west on the main artery, rounding St. Joseph Catholic Church and then proceeding the long distance east on White Street.
"I'm honored, very honored," said Shelton, 64, adding, "I appreciate my comrades and the parade committee giving me this honor."
Thomas Vermillion, chairman of the parade committee, announced the grand marshal recently, noting, "Perry is very deserving of being the grand marshal. Summit Hill is lucky to have a veteran like him living in town. He is involved with many organizations, like the Summit Hill American Legion and Little League. Personally, as a kid growing up in Summit Hill, I always remember Perry playing a big part in the Little League program. People like Perry, who dedicate much of their time to serving the community, make Summit Hill a better place to live."
Shelton is a 1965 graduate of Panther Valley High School who enlisted in the Navy the same year. He initially trained at the Navy Recruit Training Command at Camps Nimitz and Decatur in San Diego, before working at the air terminal at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington State, in support of military aircraft, after which time he was deployed to Japan for 1-1/2 years with the USS Mars AFS-1, a supply ship assigned that provided support to the U.S. 7th Fleet in the western Pacific. After a three-year stint, he returned to his hometown.
Since that time, Shelton has been involved in veterans' organizations in and around the Panther Valley. A member of American Legion Post 316 for the past 42 years, he became the first Vietnam War veteran to hold the position of commander and has held several other offices during that time, including currently being the second vice commander.
"I love America," he said. "And I've always wanted to promote veterans' organizations as a way of upholding what this country stands for," he said. "When you go to fight for your country, you have got to believe in your country, and you don't want to see it threatened. Unfortunately, things change with the passing of time, but I really wish this country was the way it was in the 50s and 60s."
Shelton received a Presidential Certificate from President Jimmy Carter and honors from the Carbon County Commissioners, while also receiving the Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal with two Stars from the government.
In addition to his Legion involvement, he is a life member of V.F.W. Post 8067, Jim Thorpe, and AMVETS Post 83, Lansford, where he is the current judge advocate.
Meanwhile, he has been active in recreational concerns in Summit Hill since returning home after his military service.
"(Joseph) Chubby (Carnish) was an inspiration to me," he recalled, noting the late Summit Hill Little League president prompted Shelton's interest in youth athletics.
"I love kids and want to see them all grow up to be good Americans and to respect everybody," he said about his reasoning for over four decades of involvement in Little League. "I wanted to see all of the kids play baseball. Now, it seems, not many want to play the game."
He became a coach, manager, umpire and officer of the SHLL, including holding the presidency and numerous other offices, and is still involved in the program for the 43rd consecutive year, currently being a member of the board of governors.
Shelton was also the first president of the former SHORE (Summit Hill Offers Recreational Enjoyment), which established the Bill Black Memorial Park, a recreational facility in the community.
He is a past president of the former Summit Hill Community Ambulance; member of the Jeffersonian Democratic Club and Diligence Fire Company No. 1; and a former member of the Summit Hill Water Authority, where he was the assistant secretary-treasurer.
Shelton is married to the former Barbara Sniscak of Summit Hill for the past 39 years. The couple has two sons, Perry Jr. and Jamie, married to the former Jo-Lynn Hutta, both of Summit Hill, and have two grandsons, Joshua and Jacob.
The grand marshal is a son of Gloria Shelton of Summit Hill and the late Charles Shelton.
He worked for 35 years for the United Parcel Service, where he was a shop steward for nearly 20 years, and later served as a Business Agent for Teamsters Local 773.
Most recently, Shelton helped organize the Carbon County Labor Council.