In the lower section of the Whitting Funeral Home in Glen Head, U.S. Army veteran Scott J. Whitting has a large space to himself. Designed like a ranch-style home, it is decorated with plaques, medals, badges, and items that he collected during his years of service with U.S. Army Special Forces. They include the Isabel R. Dodd Award that he received from the Sea Cliff Republican Club last month.
“I was quite surprised, and I just felt very honored,” he said of his latest honor. “There were so many people who came up to me, and they were so grateful for what I was able to do.”
Whitting, 74, was recognized for his service as a medical specialist from 1963 to 1967, during the Vietnam War. In later years, the Glen Head resident extended his enlistment on a voluntary basis by serving as a co-organizer of several events in support of fellow veterans.
One of his most memorable moments was when he participated in the Army’s first Special Forces combat airborne assault, better known as Operation Harvest Moon, into South Vietnam. Whitting was responsible for carrying the weapons container along with the first aid equipment, which together weighed about 300 pounds. He weighed 170 pounds.
“It was a low-level altitude jump and we landed on rough terrain,” he recalled. “We certainly had our challenges, but it was a great invasion, since we were able to parachute into enemy territory.”
He found out a few years ago from one of his former lieutenants that tracer bullets were targeted toward him and his troops as they parachuted into Vietnam.
“All those years I thought I was just seeing stars, because I had such a jolt when I landed,” he chuckled. He added that he had no sense of fear at the time, and that the only thought he had was, “Just go.”
Whitting was just a senior at North Shore High School when he decided to enlist in the Army. He was excited about potentially becoming a member of the Special Forces. His girlfriend at the time, Francine Lenore, who later became his wife, wanted to get married. That motivated him to enlist and become a medical specialist. The part he was most thrilled about was that he was going to be a paratrooper.
“The Army wanted me to become a clerk typist because I had that kind of gift,” he said. “But I joined the Army because I wanted to go airborne and go into infantry. My major looked at me like I was crazy.”
Whitting explained that many of the troops refused infantry training because of its demands. In the first phase of training, candidates underwent a psychological assessment so officers could see how well they processed information. Of the 30 troops who took the test with Whitting, he was one of only three who passed. From there, he went on to join the Mobil Strike Force, which supported troops under siege.
He succeeded despite dealing with dyslexia, a disorder that was not well known when he was a child. He never thought much about it, he says today, adding that he believes everyone has his or her own unique gifts.
Today he runs the Whitting Funeral Home, which was founded by his father in 1946. Looking back on his years in the military, he says that all he tried to do was represent the country in the best possible way. “My agenda has always been to provide a good agenda for our military,” he said.