Stars & stripes forever: Local cleaners helps restore veteran’s uniform

In today’s wave of nostalgia for all things from the ‘60s and ‘70s, it’s hard to believe that back in the day, many Vietnam veterans returned to the states with very little fanfare or recognition for their efforts to serve their country.

Kenneth Penrod served in the 93rd Engineering Battalion during the Vietnam War.

Kenneth Penrod served in the 93rd Engineering Battalion during the Vietnam War.

Stephanie Penrod, whose father, Kenneth Penrod served in the 93rd Engineering Battalion, is about to change this with a fitting memorial tribute to the man who instilled in her a sense of pride and patriotism.

“There were some stories he could share with us – and some he could not,” relates Ms. Penrod. “But the one thing he always said is that he was actually sad when he had to take off his uniform and somehow change from a life where everything is regulated, to a more normal existence.”

Ms. Penrod’s father ended up opening an auto shop in Shumway, Ariz., in the White Mountains where he married her mother, Janet, and the couple enjoyed a 35-year life and marriage together.

Ms. Penrod explains that her father lovingly kept his uniform in a special trunk along with some other war memorabilia, and in discreet respect, he would sometimes relate his service memories. Stephanie actually wore the uniform to school one day in a special “Heroes’ Day” tribute to her father.

After her father passed away four years ago, Ms. Penrod had constantly been thinking about creating a special “Dad’s Corner” at her mother’s house where they could proudly display her father’s uniform. After performing some online research about restoration and preservation, Ms. Penrod recently reached out to the preservation specialists at Prestige Cleaners in Scottsdale.

“We have a soft spot for all those that serve our country, and randomly surprise our troops with an unexpected free cleaning of their service uniforms,” remarks Denise Testori, president of Prestige Cleaners. “Additionally, all our locations are drop-off sites for ‘’”

Along with wedding gowns, Prestige Cleaners has carved out a special niche in preserving the important physical items and treasures that mean so much to people – in Ms. Penrod’s case, her father’s Vietnam War uniform. Prestige’s Museum Style system of cleaning and preserving garments employs many of the same methods used by the world-renowned Smithsonian Museum to preserve the nation’s priceless artifacts.

Ms. Penrod’s father boarded a ship in 1967 headed for Vung Tau in southern Vietnam. From there, he flew to the Bien Hoa Air Base and was quickly loaded up on a truck and assigned to a mobile maintenance unit with no barracks or tents, and he often slept on a board in order to keep dry.

One of the first 12 soldiers to sign up for this hazardous duty, Mr. Penrod and his mates would fix, and then bring back equipment to where it was needed most. For his efforts, Mr. Penrod was once honored as the Engineering Soldier of the Month, which earned him three days of “R&R” (rest and relaxation) that he was never able to use.

“This was a man who came home with no bitterness, but rather a burning sense of patriotism and he instilled this pride in me,” beams Ms. Penrod. “I am so grateful to be working with Prestige Cleaners to honor his legacy. He often said that we live in a free country, and even if you don’t agree with the government, you should always support the flag and its symbols – and we will now honor his uniform forever.”

Ms. Penrod smiles and laughs when thinking of her father.

“I think his only regret about his service was not being able to take his three days of ‘R&R.’ The Tet Offensive had just started and my dad was pressed into duty!”

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