Write Again … A promise that was kept

Published 12:57 am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Not for the life of me can I remember his name. I do remember his rank, Spc. 5, and that he was a career Army man. Also, he was black.

While I had completed both basic and advanced training, and also an eight-week clerical school, he was a member of the permanent (there is really no such thing as “permanent” in the Army) cadre. That is, his regular duty assignment was with I Co., 3rd Battalion, 6th Armored Cavalry, Fort Knox, Ky.

I was in the orderly room one evening, doing what I can’t recall. When he walked in, it was obvious he was quite anxious, concerned, about something.

We talked a bit, and he shared with me the cause of his concerns.

Seems he had an outstanding bill with some entity in Louisville, Ky. He said he just didn’t have the money to take care of it all at once.

His main concern, though, was that he’d heard he might be court-martialed for his indebtedness. If this happened, he felt he’d be reduced in rank, thereby reducing his monthly pay. (Now, there’s a real irony.)

Then, almost as an aside, he mentioned a letter he had kept for years.

What about this letter, I asked.

He then told me the story.

During the Korean War, he had been cited for bravery under hostile conditions. A lieutenant in his unit had been wounded and couldn’t get back to his men. He was caught in a no-man’s land, and he was wounded and vulnerable.

Of his own volition, the soldier (who was now facing problems) risked his life and went out and managed to carry the wounded lieutenant back to his own lines.

Then he showed me the letter. The writer commended and thanked this soldier for his heroic, life-saving act of courage.

The writer, who was a Tennessean, noted that the wounded officer also was from Tennessee.

This letter was concluded by a pledge that should this brave man ever be in need to please contact him (the writer), and he would do anything within his power to assist him.

So. After reading this letter, I proposed contacting the man who promised assistance should there ever be a need.

I knew that sending a request for help need not be publicized. I typed out a letter stating the specifics of the problem; we promised each other never to divulge the contents or even the existence of such an outside the chain-of-command communique, and the letter was mailed the next day.

Less than two weeks later, I mentioned to someone in our company that I hadn’t seen the Spc. 5 recently. Had there been a court-martial?

Hadn’t I heard? Heard what?

Oh, he was transferred to a new assignment, where he was now the post chaplain’s assistant and driver. For an enlisted man, it can’t get much better than that. No court-martial was going to be held.

Should any of you have any curiosity about to whom the letter was sent, I’ll share that with you now.

It was sent to U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn. He was a powerful member of the upper chamber  — and the 1956 Democratic nominee for vice president.

That all happened in the fall of 1959.

It’s a true story.

A promise was kept.