Saturday, May 28, 2016

PFC James Clayton Reed

Re-post from May 2011:

My thoughts are turned this Memorial Day weekend to my first cousin, Jimmy Reed. He is one of 3 children born to my aunt Delores and Uncle Clay who lived in Los Angeles, California, light years from where I lived in West Virginia and later Montgomery, Alabama. We shared some happy childhood experiences. We did not see each other often but when we went to visit them or vice versa it was for extended periods of time. I remember him as being funny and entertaining. He was my younger brother's age almost exactly. They could always make me laugh.

Well here I am turning 65 in two days. I had a thirty year career with DuPont and got to travel a lot. I was able to carry some important assignments for DuPont and achieved some degree of recognition. I met a wonderful girl and we fell in love and raised 3 children. We have 7 grand children. I used to coach softball and baseball, volunteer in scouting, work in PTA, go on family vacations and just generally have had a great life.

Jimmy died just west of Khe Sanh during operation Purple Martin March 20,1969. That was just a little more than 30 days before his 19th birthday. He was a member of the D Company, First Battallion, Third MarDiv, USMC. He died that day along with 2nd Lt. Mike McCormick of Wellston, Ohio; LCpl Max Baer of Goshen, Ind; LCpl Steve Byars, Lakeland, Florida; LCpl Ernest Elders of Shelby, NC; PFC Norman Beck of Rockford, Il.; PFC Jeffrey Forry, Marion, OH and PFC Larry Knox of Harrisonville, MO.

I graduated from college in 1969 and rode a student deferrment to avoid military service. I also pulled a 344 as my draft lottery number. Were it not for those two happenstances I well could have had my name engraved onto that war memorial wall in Washington, DC. I have been there and was able to find Jimmy's name on that wall. It is a somber and eloquent memorial fitting as a requiem for those who gave their lives on various battlefields of the Vietnam war. For whatever purpose that war served I honor his memory this Memorial Day. I wish I could pick up the phone and call him and tell him a joke or two but that opportunity was nullified by the winds of war. His Mother, my aunt Delores, has grieved every day for her fallen son for 42 years now.

It is pure irony how some of us end up pursuing the military option. Today we have a totally volunteer military. You press the statistics on the makeup of our armed forces and you will see a lot of people who just seemed to have no other option than to join the military. The impetus is largely economic with job prospects being what they are. In mine and Jimmy's youth the draft was rampant. The selective service boards were steaming at full speed. In my case, had I not been a student it was a certainty that I would have been drafted into the miltary.

I recall that in those days you would report for a college class and two or three of the people that had been in the class the day before would be gone. You had to maintain a class standing to keep your draft exemption of 2-S. In order to do that you had to be in the upper 1/4th of your freshman class in academic performance. Fail to do that and you were draft fodder. Sophomores had to be in the upper 1/2 and Juniors in the upper 3/4. If you made it to be a senior then they left you alone. Along about my freshman year they administered the selective service standardized test. The guys at Harvard made the claim that the students in the bottom 3/4 of their freshman classes were superior to the upper 1/4 of the freshman class at State College X. So the selective service came up with the standardized test and administered it to us all in the second semester of my 1st year. You either had to maintain your academic standing or have scored 75% or better on the test. I remember scoring a 78 and my worries were ended.

There was also a point at which I was thinking I needed to drop out of college. I checked with the draft board and I was told the day after I did I would be reclassified 1-A and almost certainly drafted into the military. I do not know of Jimmy's circumstances but while I was studying Mark Twain in English 301 he was most likely doing basic training at Paris Island. Talk about worlds apart.

When I ponder the freedoms under which I live and also ponder the 58,220 war dead from the Vietnam war, the 405,399 from WW2 and the 116,516 from WW1 I feel guilty and appreciative at the same time. I do believe that those fallen willingly sacrificed their lives so that we could continue to breathe the free and unfettered air of liberty. I have to ask myself what sort of life have I led to justify the single death of my cousin Jimmy, not to mention the 100's of thousands of war dead who made similar sacrifices.

I suppose I have made small sacrifices but the bumper sticker I read once that said "All gave some but some gave all" makes me realize what an investment we all have in our freedom. Just about every American can tell a similar story as mine about my cousin, Jimmy. I contemplate why he had to lay down and die that day in Vietnam. It was because he felt the call to duty and like others of his family before him felt the obligation to serve. Pure and simple.

May we take a little time to really remember those who sacrificed their lives and well being to keep us safe and free this Memorial Day weekend. God bless you Jimmy. You were way too young to die. I hope to see you again someday, if I am worthy, and shake your hand and say thank you in person. I hope that you will see someone standing in front of you who you can feel justified your sacrifice. I need to work to become such.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


How many times have you been lying in your bed at night and just drifting off to sleep and some Neanderthal comes driving by with his woofers at full WOOF?. He is very likely to be a pimply faced little boy who looks like a troll and could not buy himself a date with a girl. So he and his friends are cruising in your neighborhood, sharing the milk of their taste in Rap music. Wait a minute, delete the music from that sentence, because it ain’t and insert a capital C in front of the rap because it is.

There was such an event that occurred recently in Jacksonville that resulted when a citizen in between doses of his Adderall emptied his 9 MM magazine into a car of punks who were playing their music in a loud and obnoxious fashion in the parking lot of a convenience store. He asked them to turn the C-rap down and they refused. He then went off the reservation and killed one of them and mortally wounded 3 others. Betcha the one who assumed room temperature wishes that he had just turned it down if only for a brief moment. I think he earned a life sentence in Federal prison for his action. Betcha he wishes now that he had just gone home and taken his Adderall.

My wife and I were recently at the beach to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. We drove down to Mexico Beach one of our favorite hangouts. We always rent a room at the same place and enjoy the sounds of the surf. US Highway 98 runs right through the middle of Mexico Beach. Everywhere we looked we saw motorcycles. From the moment we checked into our room we heard the sound of motorcycles. For two days we got to see and hear, first hand, the participants in a week long gathering called “ Thunder Beach.”  I respect people’s right to own and operate a motorcycle. They are a fascinating sub-culture of people. Most of them wear Harley Davidson monogrammed clothing. Pretty much all of them have numerous and sundry tattoos many of which you would be ashamed for your minister, daughter or granny to see and read. The bikes they ride cost a pretty penny. I am not sure that Harley-Davidson stock is publicly traded but it bears looking into about like Smith and Wesson stock. One profile that I think demarcates the subculture is that most of them are OLD MEN. They have to have been successful to afford those Hawgs.  By the way do you know what they call motorcyclists down at the ER? Organ donors. In the meantime, ride those damnable things somewhere else besides my neighborhood or my beach.

I live on a busy street. The traffic at certain times is unmerciful. Everyone in Tallahassee cuts through Killearn Estates to get somewhere else. We also happen to have a very nice sidewalk that runs in front of my house. The joggers, walkers, bikers, pogo stick enthusiasts, etc. comprise a steady stream of traffic by my house. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have been awakened prior to 6:00 AM by runners and/or joggers that come by my house guffawing and talking to each other at the top of their lungs. It is the rudest, most selfish activity that I can imagine. Now I am proud of people who exercise. Heaven knows I could use a little more of it myself. However could you not do it without noise? How about give me your address so I can get my golf group together and drive golf balls off the side of your house at 4:00 AM.

I love the people who go walking through the supermarket with their cell phones on speaker. They are talking at the top of their lungs to someone on the other end talking at the top of their lungs. Do you really think the rest of humanity gives a rip what you and your genetically deficient friend are talking about? At the very least take it off speaker. At the very most wait til you get home to hold this meaningless, superfluous conversation.

Even mother nature intercedes on our quietude at times. I love mockingbirds. I think they are our state bird here in Florida. I have had numerous experiences at 3:00 AM where a mockingbird has decided to serenade me outside my balcony. A pellet gun can be useful during such episodes. Waving a towel at the energetic little insomniac is effective. I remember once upon a time visiting friends in Arizona. Now that is a serious time lag. If you can last to 10:00PM their time you are retiring at 1:00 AM your time. On this particular occasion I remember a mockingbird serenade beginning at about 2:00 AM EST and persisting well past morning. Maddening!

Why do the inhabitants of our world have to be so incessantly loud? Is it installed into their DNA? Do they need to be noticed? Are they lacking something in their personal lives? How many times have you stayed in a hotel where a party begins at midnight and persists for many hours right next door to you? This usually happens when you have to be at a meeting at 7:30 AM. I remember one such occurrence in the Rennaisance in downtown Atlanta. The party began at 1:00 AM. No pounding on the walls, calling the front desk beating on their door could tone it down. The smell of Mary Jane wafts through the door between your rooms. They have numerous bouts of wrestling on the bed that bangs up against your head board. They could care less that they are keeping you awake. On this one occasion I had to arise at 6:00 be in my meeting at 7:30. By this time they are sleeping comfortably in their beds. The last act before I leave the room is push the TV to face their door and turn it up to full volume. I am sure that they were so stoned that it mattered little. I still smiled as I pushed the button to summon the elevator.

Our US Constitution was written with these words in the preamble “….to ensure the domestic tranquility………” What the heck ever happened to that notion? In parting I find irony in the fact the army, CIA, UN, etc. brought the ruthless thug Manuel Noriega to justice by flushing him from his mansion by playing rock and roll at killer decibles 24/7 until he crawled out in a state of humble silly-puttiness and surrendered. Something to think about.