Major James R. Bell
Major James R. Bell
| November 11, 2021 1:00 AM
It’s been three years since Dad passed away at age 89. Most of his life was dedicated to serving this country at great cost to himself. He served in three conflicts — the tail end of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. It started when he was 16 years old. He ran away from home, lied about his age and served initially in the Merchant Marines aboard a hospital ship serving in the Pacific. Once he was finished with the Merchant Marines, he joined the Army.
Through the Army, he started college at Clemson University in South Carolina. However, the Korean War broke out and off he went to war. During that conflict, he was shot 33 times and sent to Japan to recover. During that year of recovery, he managed an Army hotel and met my mother who was working with the Civil Service Corps. After three dates they got married and stayed married for over 30 years until my mother passed away.
My sisters and I were all born in military hospitals while my dad continued serving with the Army in various posts. During those years, he managed to attend college at night. Education was important to him and getting a college degree was his goal.
He fulfilled his active combat duty serving a year in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Through an Army program he was able to get permission to attend college while still serving in the Army. He only had to train troops in Hawaii for going to Vietnam. (remember, we had the draft back then)
After training his troops for battle, he chose and volunteered to go with them to Vietnam. He had already fulfilled his combat duty. He was already approved to attend college. But he chose to serve with his battalion. No wonder why this generation is known as the “Greatest Generation.” Choosing the greater good over comfort and ease. Willing to lay down his life for his country.
While he survived the horrors of this war; he returned home broken in many ways. He retired soon thereafter but continued serving this country by teaching ROTC in a high school in Guam. Guam was chosen because they had the highest volunteer enlistment rate per capita over all the states. Through my Dad’s training, his ROTC group brought back many trophies in competition.
After this he finally was able to go back to college using the GI Bill and get a law degree. He was over 50 years old by then. While this was my Dad’s story, the honor and bravery are common to all our veterans who serve. God bless all our veterans.