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POSTED ON 12.13.2014
POSTED BY: "Cricket"

My best Friend

The most significant event of my life and career as a Marine was when I found out my best friend SSGT James Leroy Beyerling (JB) was KIA on November 11, 1967 at 11 AM.

In October 1967, as I was on my last trip to Chu Lai before I reported in to the DASC at Phu Bai as their new communications maintenance chief, I visited him and everything was different. They had just come back from an operation near Quang Ngai and the nature of warfare was different.

In 1965 thru early 1967 we were fighting the Viet Cong. As the summer and fall of 1967 wore on, the enemy became more of the NVA regulars. The fight was nastier and the NVA were better trained and better armed. As I was leaving, JB’s Platoon boarded helicopters to start another month long operation in the Que Son Valley west of the Nom Si Bridge area.

I waved goodbye as he boarded the helicopter and, for a flash second, he looked like he was a dead man. It really worried me.

Late in November, just before Thanksgiving I had walked over to our unit’s Headquarters and picked up the mail for my team. On the way back I was reading my mail and got to an unopened letter I had sent JB shortly after arriving at Phu Bai. At first I couldn’t figure out why it was returned unopened. I turned it on the back and read the words: “Confirmed Deceased – Killed in Action”.

I was shocked! Not ‘JB’! He was indestructible. He and I were supposed to survive everything. But yes, Staff Sargent James Leroy Beyerling, USA my best friend, my school buddy, and my hero was killed on November 11, 1967 at 11:55 AM.

Also in that stack was a letter from his mother. I went back to my hut and read the other letter I had from Ida Beyerling, JB’s mother begging me to go to the area he was killed and retrieve his body.

I started calling everyone I knew in Chu Lai and was finally was able to contact his company commander. He told me the story of how JB had died. JB had been on a blocking action/patrol south and west of the Nom Si Bridge. It was a traditional hot spot even when the 5th Marines had the area. JB’s Platoon was patrolling in the western portion of the valley and the NVA ambushed the patrol. The first shot was the series of booby traps triggered by the point man. The first was a Bouncing Betty backed rigged 20 yards. It exploded by JB’s head killing him instantly. A second explosion from a booby trap followed wounding many of the others in the patrol. The NVA then dropped the ambush and shot many of the remaining soldiers. The surviving patrol members escaped the kill zone, leaving the dead for retrieval at another time. A back up unit later went back to retrieve the dead but because of darkness and the possibility of being ambushed again – they left the dead. It was a week before they returned and retrieved the bodies. During that week the Army had notified JB’s parents that he was missing and presumed dead. And, his mother wrote to me pleading for me to somehow find his body during that week.

The next day I received a letter from his father telling me they had retrieved his body and he was coming home for burial.

JB was one in a million guy. He was the quintessential All American boy. One that we all wish we could be: tall, blond, blue eyed, handsome and, had an electric personality that would light up anyplace he was. JB was the glue that held us together over everything and every activity.

I had just moved into the neighborhood and met JB during the summer before the 7th grade. We were playing sandlot baseball in a field across Pulaski Highway in Highlandtown. A group of larger boys wanted to use the makeshift ball diamond and chased our group away. They also grabbed our new baseball, which belonged to JB. He was furious; he had gotten the ball when his father had taken him to Memorial Stadium to see the Baltimore Orioles play the NY Yankees. It was a replacement for the one we had normally used. The old one had been taped with electrical tape so many times it was all black tape. They thought that because they were bigger than us they could bully us into giving them the ball and the ball diamond.

JB took on the biggest bully and proceeded to punch him silly, grabbed his head and rammed it into a telephone pole, picked up a piece of a cinder block and tossed at the rest of the guys trying to take the ball. I knew at that moment I was going to be his friend and NEVER anger him. He, Joey, and, I became the four musketeers.

The movie “Stand By Me” is especially important to me since JB, Alfie, Joey and I did many camping trips similar to the one portrayed in it. A whole book could be written just on the preparation, hiking, camping and the trouble we got in to or avoided on those trips.

JB, Joey and I accidentally flooded a brickyard over the Labor Day weekend. We had built a dam on a stream at the top of the rim in the brickyard. It overflowed and spilled the stream’s contents down in to the brickyard – all weekend long. By Tuesday morning it was flooded. The police were seeking the parties responsible and they canvassed the neighborhood since it was well known the boys from the area would go there to play.

They questioned us, our parents and everyone in the neighborhood – no one knew who flooded the brickyard. That weekend the three of us had gone on a camping trip with the Beyerling family and didn’t know about what we caused until school started Tuesday. We three agreed we would never admit to it – we also never returned to the brickyard.

He was my “truest brother” I ever had. Even to this day, his death is the deepest blow of my life. Not only was he my friend and my hero, I had become the third son in JB’s family; the Beyerlings are the secret to any success I’ve had in my life.

I was okay mentally until I stopped by to see Ida Beyerling. We visited JB’s grave and generally consoled each other. Leroy Beyerling was silent and did not talk about it, but it was plain he was suffering deeply. In one conversation told me he wished it had been me instead. Leroy Beyerling had seen men die in battle as a sailor during WWII but like me he was stunned it was JB. The whole neighborhood felt the same as Leroy; including Alfie and Joey! I sensed that during the visit and it added to my survivor’s guilt– they wished it had been me instead! That put me into a depression that lasted a long time.

On Nov. 10th 1968 I received some medals, got drunk and requested mass to go back for another tour. I was going to get some payback for JB. My 4th tour changed my life, changed my choice of careers and everything about me. Thus JB’s death was the turning point in my life just as meeting him the first time changed a new kid’s experience in the neighborhood.

Jim (Cricket)
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POSTED ON 8.21.2014

JB. my best friend in high school. We always. wanted to serve our country in time of war, He lo

POSTED ON 10.30.2013
POSTED BY: Curt Carter [email protected]

Remembering An American Hero

Dear SSGT James Leroy Beyerling, sir

As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.

May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. May he also allow my father to find you and shake your hand now to say thank you; for America, and for those who love you.

With respect, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir

Curt Carter
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POSTED ON 1.13.2011
POSTED BY: Robert Sage

We Remember

James is buried at Gardens of Faith Cemetery, Rosedale, Baltimore County,MD.
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POSTED ON 1.20.2003
POSTED BY: Jim Gerity

It is our duty to remember.

As one of the 1046 Marylanders who made the ultimate sacrifice we are honored to post your photograph. Operation Remember will continue until we have recovered the photos of all our fallen brothers from the State of Maryland.

Visit www.vva451.org and click on the Operation Remember banner for more details about this project of remembrance.

Jim Gerity
Operation Remember
Vietnam Veterans of America
Baltimore, Chapter 451
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