Shelby County










POSTED ON 7.9.2002
POSTED BY: Frank Montalbano

The Indomitable Spirit

I believe that leaders are born, not made. And I believe that John R. “Butch” Baldridge was the most extraordinary natural leader I have ever known. My first exposure to Butch came in the fall of 1966, when I, and about 43 of my classmates reported to Squadron One (Huslin’ One), a company level organization in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets. Butch Baldridge was the Squadron First Sergeant, and he came charging into our lives that day and changed them forever. Over the next two years, my classmates and I studied leadership, and leadership was Butch Baldridge. He was tough, he was demanding. We learned from watching, and are better men for the experience.

We were Aggie seniors in 1969, when we learned he had gone down in Laos. We refused to believe he was gone, and buoyed our spirits with Baldridge “fables,” which most often placed Butch in the center of a Southeast Asia prison camp, driving his captors insane with his indomitable spirit and his sharp wit—hazing his captors into submission. As time passed, it began to soak in that Butch wasn’t coming home. But he lives in our hearts, as I’m sure he does in those others of you who knew him, and loved him. Dan Wimberly put it well. If tomorrow we learned that a ragged old aviator walked out of the jungle in Laos, we would automatically assume that it had to be Butch.

I’ll share a few facts, that may warm the hearts of those of you who knew Butch through Huslin’ One at Texas A&M University. Butch passed on some “acquisitions” to John Sutherland, who returned to Huslin’ One as its Commanding Officer (CO) for the 1968-69 school year. Those “acquisitions” included “Butch’s Bomb” (which I believe to have really been some kind of fuel tank, but it looked like a bomb). The “bomb” was yellow when I first saw it in 1967, but it was painted black when John Sutherland returned it to the outfit in 1968. The bomb was kept on display in the Huslin’ One CO’s room, and commonly served as a “rack” for the CO’s Sam Brown belt. Another “acquisition” was a pair of carved wooden elephants, which legend held that Butch’s father had earlier brought home from Southeast Asia. Finally, there was Butch’s Sam Brown belt. These “acquisitions” and some other “stuff,” were passed on from Huslin’ One CO to CO through the years.

In 1995, Joe Tortorice’s (Huslin’ One Class of 70) son Jay (Class of 95) became CO of Huslin’ One. A few years later, Jay took me to the A&M dorm room of the then current Huslin’ One CO, and there, roughly thirty years later, adorned with the Sam Brown belt, was Butch’s Bomb. Butch’s name, John Sutherland's name, and the names of all the succeeding Huslin’ One COs were painted on the “bomb.” The elephants were there too, as was the Sam Brown belt. The Sam Brown belt had subsequently been “enhanced,” courtesy of the Huslin’ One class of ’76 (then under the command of John Adams ’73) by the addition of a new shoulder strap emblazoned with the words “BEVO.” I believe the “enhancement” of the Sam Brown belt, and the perpetuation of the bomb, the elephants and the other “stuff” are all manifestations of the spirit of Butch Baldridge, which, like the Spirit of Aggieland, lives on in the hearts of those of us who knew him.

I understand that Huslin’ One is gone now. Maybe even that eventuality is a manifestation of the spirit Butch instilled in the fish of the Class of 70. But my heart tells me, that somewhere at Texas A&M, in some successor outfit, the “bomb,” the elephants, the “enhanced” Sam Brown belt, and some vestige of that indomitable spirit that is Butch Baldridge, is still to be found.

He enriched our lives.
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POSTED ON 11.12.2001
POSTED BY: Dan Wimberly

Remembering Butch

I too was privileged to be able to call Butch a good friend. Like Mike Beggs, I was in the same cadet unit with Butch at Texas A&M. Butch was liked and respected not only by his peers, but also by upper and lower classmen alike. He was a natural leader and everyone looked up to Butch. However, there was a lot more to Butch than his leadership abilities and his military bearing. He was an all-around great guy. He was always fun to be around because he had a great sense of humor combined with a little bit of a mischievous streak. To this day I can hear Butch's infectious chuckle. I can also remember how devastated we all were when we learned that Butch had been shot down. I think we also all felt that if there was one person that could survive in that situation it was Butch. He was a warrior, a patriot and had as strong a will as anyone I've ever met in my life. However, that all happened over thirty years ago and Butch never returned. But, if I heard a CNN report today that said an American airman from the Vietnam War had been found alive in Laos, my first thought would be "maybe it's Butch".
Dan Wimberly
Texas A&M, Class of 1968
Major USAF (Retired)
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POSTED ON 10.25.2001
POSTED BY: Monica Wormington

I wore Capt. Baldridge's bracelet

I just tried to email Jennifer and hope she received my message. I also wore John's bracelet for three years when I was in junior high. Although I only knew him as "Capt. John Baldridge, Jr. 11-20-69", please know that his life has impacted mine and he continues to live in my heart and memory. In 1986 I "visited" Capt. Baldridge at the Wall in Washington, D.C. and was able to find an address for his mother, Sara. I wrote to her and she was gracious enough to write me a lengthy letter about her son "Butch" and included a photo of him leading cadets! I sent Mrs. Baldridge my bracelet and the wall rubbing of his name, and my hope is that Jennifer is now in possession of it. Please know that Capt. Baldridge's memory continues to live, even in the hearts of those who barely knew him.
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POSTED ON 9.11.2000
POSTED BY: Dianne Mason

He will always live within those who knew him.

I am so moved to see remembrances from people who knew Butch. We were high school sweethearts and married when he finished college. To Mike and Rich, I say thank you for remembering him with such kind words. It has been a long time but in a sense it seems like just yesterday. I still miss him although I have been married for 20 years to a wonderful man. In fact it was my husband who directed me to this web site. To Cheryl who wore his POW/MIA bracelet, I would like to put you in contact with my daughter. She was born 5 months after he was shot down and is now 30 years old, living in south Louisiana. Thank you all for sharing your feelings. It provides great comfort to know that memories of Butch are still alive.

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POSTED ON 3.27.2000
POSTED BY: Rich Engel, Major General USAF

A Remembrance

Like Mike, I too remember Butch from days at Texas A&M. We worked together a lot in the Corps of Cadets. He was a class act. I have a picture at my parents home in California of several of us in Ross Volunteer uniforms before some formal function. Every time I look at that picture, I think about Butch, his commitment to the Cadet Corps and his nation. Cheryl, appreciate your notes also, and thanks for wearing his bracelet.
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