May 30, 2010 — Meridian, Mississippi
As the nation pauses to give remembrance on this Memorial Day, my thoughts turn to family members, classmates, and fellow Marines who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Throughout this great land, gravesites, markers, and memorials serve as reminders of the countless men and women who unselfishly desired to serve their country, even if it meant losing their lives.
My thoughts in 2010 are centered on Jerry Roe Grubbs who was killed in Vietnam in 1968. While I have no one-to-one recollection of our years spent together in elementary and junior high, I do have fond memories of my years at Mendenhall School -- from Mrs. Hennington’s fourth grade class to Mrs. Neely’s eighth grade homeroom -- during the years 1957 - 1962.
We were the kids of the baby boom in the truest sense, running carefree with no thoughts of the death and hardships that the war brewing a world away in Southeast Asia would bring to small towns all across America, including Mendenhall.
Jerry joined the Army a year after high school graduation in 1966. Who would have ever imagined that the young man from the Jupiter community, who classmates recently described to me as “skinny, freckle-faced, quiet, sweet, and never caused any trouble,” would soon be jumping out of airplanes as a paratrooper or leading a group of infantrymen against an enemy stronghold? On April 20, 1968, at the age of 20, Jerry became the sixth soldier from Simpson County to lose his life in Vietnam.
For his heroism on that fateful day, Private First Class Grubbs of the famed 101st Airborne Division was awarded the Silver Star medal by the U.S. Army. A huge honor for a little man who gave his all in the heat of battle. Jerry’s name will forever be enshrined on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. and at the Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Ocean Springs. Jerry’s memory is also kept alive in Mendenhall’s V.F.W. Post 122, which bears his name for being the veteran of honor in the post’s WWII-Korea-Vietnam namesake (Ross-Williamson-Grubbs).
Jer-Roe, my friend. As I mentioned earlier, I would be telling a story if I claimed any specific memories with you in the classroom, scurrying up and down the hallways, or having fun on the playground in Mendenhall. However, your legacy of true patriotism will always be remembered and honored by your classmates. While I regret that I have waited over 40 years to say “thanks,” I want you to know that I, along with all the Class of ’66, will never forget the price you paid by stepping forward and answering your country’s call during a very uncertain time.
Van K. McCarty
Class of 1966 Bay Springs High School
USMC Vietnam Veteran