Capt. Arthur Rogers III

Decorated disabled veteran of Vietnam War served several Baltimore County boards promoting parks and preservation

January 08, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Capt. Arthur N. Rogers III, a highly decorated disabled Vietnam War veteran and a former member of the Maryland State Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators who earlier had been chairman of the Baltimore County Board of Recreation and Parks, died in his sleep Friday at his Towson home. He was 67.

Captain Rogers was born and raised in Baltimore. After graduating from City College in 1959, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1964 from what is now Morgan State University.

In 1973, he earned a master's degree in secondary education from what is now Towson University, and six years later earned a master's degree in geography and environmental planning, also from Towson.

Commissioned in the Army in 1964, Captain Rogers was sent to the Dominican Republic in 1965. After serving in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, he was assigned as adjutant of the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

After the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Captain Rogers was responsible for the military guard that escorted his flag-draped coffin aboard the Pennsylvania, an observation-business car, on the rail journey from New York City to Washington. Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

It was during a second tour of duty in 1969, as a senior adviser to South Vietnamese forces, that Captain Rogers was severely injured, when his jeep hit a roadside bomb.

In addition to being shot in the head by the Viet Cong, he lost his right leg, use of his left leg, and suffered burns over 50 percent of his body in the attack.

"He endured 100 surgeries over the next 2 1/2 years," said Wayne Harman, former director of Baltimore County Recreation and Parks, and a longtime friend. "He was my hero. He was the real deal."

Because of his wounds, Captain Rogers would spend the balance of his life in a wheelchair, but he gained mobility after learning to drive an automobile with the aid of hand controls.

His decorations included the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Parachutist Badge.

The citation for the Bronze Star with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster lists his achievements as "heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force. ... He fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire as he moved about various positions encouraging his Vietnamese comrades and directing their fields of fire."

"Obviously he was high-grade military field material and was a very capable guy. He was a real role model," said Joseph M. Coale III, a Ruxton historian, author and preservationist who got to know Captain Rogers regarding county preservation issues.

With his dreams of a military career at an end, Captain Rogers turned to public service.

"He used to say, 'I have to give back to my country. They took care of me, and now I have to do what I can to help,'" Mr. Harman said. "It wasn't some phony line with Art. He meant it."

Douglas B. Riley, a former Baltimore County councilman and now a Towson attorney, first met Captain Rogers in 1990. The two became close friends.

"His service locally to Baltimore County was commendable," Mr. Riley said. "He loved public service. If he couldn't do it wearing an Army uniform, then he would do it as a civilian."

From 1974 to 1977, he was director of veterans affairs at Towson University, and was an adjunct assistant professor of geography there from 1974 to 1984.

Captain Rogers served as a member of the county Parks and Recreation Board and was later chairman from 1989 to 1991, and again from 1995 to 1997.

From 1982 to 1997, he was a member of the Baltimore County Adult Public Guardianship Review Board.

"He was an absolute tireless Baltimore County worker who sat on many boards, and what he did he always did to perfection," said retired District Court Judge John F. Fader II.

Captain Rogers served on the county Landmarks Preservation Commission, the county Planning Board and the county's Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, which directed the construction of a memorial beside the county courthouse.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Roman Catholic Church, 20 E. Ridgely Road, in Timonium.

Surviving are a daughter, Christina B. "Kristy" Opheim of Lusby; two brothers, Vincent Rogers of Philadelphia and Barry Rogers of Alexandria, Va.; and three grandchildren. His marriage to the former Phyllis Morris ended in divorce.

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