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POSTED ON 5.6.2010


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POSTED ON 4.13.2010


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POSTED ON 2.5.2009
POSTED BY: Arnold M. Huskins

Greensboro News & Record article written by his sister

Lives lost on the battlefield leave lasting scars on those at home

February 3, 2009

By Reoma McGinnis
Greensboro News-Record

I couldn't imagine who would be knocking on our front door at 7:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7, 1969. But when I opened the door and saw the two soldiers, I knew why they were there.

My worst nightmare had come true.

Over my "no, no, no's," the Army lieutenant tried to confirm that this was the home of Mary Edmonds, the mother of James Thomas Edmonds. When he had done this, he told me my younger brother had been killed two days earlier in the jungle of South Vietnam.

The rest of that awful day is a blur. I remember my first concern was breaking the news to my mother. Tommy was her treasured only son.

But the Army took charge. The "grievance officer," a Lt. Aukenthaler, had done this before.

He drove me to Frissell Fabrics in Burlington where my mother worked as a winder, standing on her feet eight hours a day winding thread from big spools to smaller ones.

We went into the main office, and the lieutenant told the office staff what had happened. Someone let us into the conference room, while they went to get my mother from the factory floor.

I heard her voice rising with each step she took.

She came into the room with the plant manager, and like me, she knew what had happened. She screamed and collapsed onto the chair they grabbed for her.

The lieutenant told her that her son, Pfc. James Thomas Edmonds, had been killed by "hostile forces" on Feb. 5 in South Vietnam. He provided no details, not that she would have heard them. She was in shock.

Somehow we got her home, and I put her to bed. I called her doctor and told his nurse what had happened. The doctor prescribed something to calm her down. The other soldier - I never knew his name - went to get the medicine.

My next call was to my Aunt Ada, who lived a couple of blocks away. She was always a strong woman, not even breaking down when her husband, Lewis, my mother's only brother, died from a heart attack two years before. She made it up the hill to our house in about five minutes.

Mother barely noticed when Ada came in. She was getting quieter and quieter, staring into space.

I tried to comfort her, but she was withdrawing from the world where her adored son no longer lived.

I had to make more phone calls. My friend Marie would be looking for me. I usually picked her up, and we rode to work together. When I told her what happened, she was very kind and said all the things people say in such times. Marie said she would tell our boss in the Greensboro Daily News circulation department what had happened and not to worry about work.

Then I called Mother's oldest, best friend, Ernestine. They had been through so much together, and I knew she would be the best one to comfort her, better than me.

For my comfort, I called our cousin Mary. She understood me in ways my mother never did.

When they arrived, they hugged Mother and me and cried and prayed with us.

Then they went to Lt. Auckenthaler, the grievance officer, asking questions and making arrangements.

The lieutenant said we would receive a telegram from the Army giving the official information about Tommy's death. I found out later that earlier in the war, families had been notified of their loved one's death by a cab driver delivering the telegram. When the losses grew in Vietnam, a more compassionate method was initiated.

The telegram came, followed by several others giving details of when my brother's body would be arriving in Burlington. Because he had been shot and his body had been in a bag in the jungle, it would be a closed coffin. I think the body arrived the next day.

Mother and I had an argument then about seeing Tommy. After what the Army told me, I knew that even though she felt she had to see him, it would be better for her and me to remember him the way he was before he left for Vietnam. She couldn't go by herself, so she relented.

The Army needed someone to make the official identification, and Aunt Ada said she would do it. The soldiers took her to Rich & Thompson Funeral Home, which had handled the funerals of my father and my grandmother. When they came back to our house, the lieutenant told me Aunt Ada had collapsed when she saw Tommy.

During the next few days, our little apartment was filled with people bringing food and comfort. Relatives we hadn't seen in years came by. They were a great help. My father's sisters were kind enough to take us to the department store and buy us appropriate funeral clothes. I don't think either of us had anything black.

We decided to have the memorial service in the chapel of the funeral home. The soldiers took care of arranging everything, including military honors at the grave site.

Mother was a member of the First Baptist Church in Burlington, and she requested that her pastor speak at the funeral. She chose the songs, too - "Have Thine Own Way Lord" and something I didn't recognize.

The small chapel was filled with people - relatives, friends, schoolmates and co-workers of Tommy. Several of his buddies were pallbearers.

I vaguely remember the


Tommy's flag-draped casket was surrounded by flowers.

A photo of him in his uniform, which I took of him at Fort Bragg, was displayed on a table by the casket.

A soloist from First Baptist sang.

Mother cried.

Everyone cried.

The preacher said good things about Tommy and prayed that we would all see him again in heaven.

At the end of the funeral, an organist played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" as we walked out.

At Pine Hill Cemetery, the military took over. With practiced perfection, the honor guard fired the salute. A bugler played "Taps."

Then they removed the flag from my little brother's casket, folding it tightly into a triangle before they presented it to my mother.

She clutched it to her chest the way she had held Tommy when he was a baby.

Somehow we ended up back home. The relatives and friends began to trickle away. Mother sat in her rocking chair, still holding the flag.

I remember sitting on our old sofa, weeping and looking out the window at Tommy's prized '56 Chevy, the first car our little family had ever had. Tommy taught Mother to drive in that car. I wondered if she would ever be able to drive it again.

Aunt Ada stayed with us for a few days.

The two soldiers who were in town went on to bring bad news to another family.

I prayed that the war would be over soon and no other cherished sons and daughters would be killed before they had barely had a chance to begin a life. Tommy was only 20.

The war continued five more years. Thousands more died.

Now, 40 years later, the country is at war again. More than 4,000 men and women have died. My prayer is that one day soon, our loved ones will be coming home to stay.

No more deaths on foreign battlefields. No more grievance officers.

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POSTED ON 4.27.2006
POSTED BY: Grove Park Elementary School Fifth Graders

Thank you for your sacrifice!

The fifth graders at Grove Park Elementary School in Burlington, NC, visited the Wall on April 8, 2006, and found your name. We made a rubbing and took it back to school. Thank you for the sacrifice that you made for our country. We will not forget you!
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POSTED ON 11.20.2005
POSTED BY: Carol Soots Morse

first cousin

Tommy and I grew up together as first cousins in Burlington, N.C. I will always miss him and love him.
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