I wonder if I should have done more
By Bobby J. Williams - Guest Column
Aug. 10, 2017 at 4:45 p.m.
Updated Aug. 11, 2017 at 6 a.m.
Back in 1962, I was single and looking for a job with Alcoa. Formosa wasn't around at that time. Alcoa told me that they wouldn't hire me because of my 1-A status. I could be drafted. They wouldn't spend the time and money training me, then have me be called away for military service.
I joined the Army and was stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C., for eight weeks of basic training. Our barracks had 40 people - four squads with 10 people in each squad. Since I was the oldest, they gave me a red arm band to wear, signifying that I was the squad leader.
This was because I was older than the other recruits. The others could come to me with their little problems. I was like a mother hen. If I couldn't help them, I would send them on to my first sergeant. This was the first time I came to know Jeremy.
Jeremy was too young and much too immature to be in the service. Being in my squad, I tried to help him as best I could, but the third week into our training, Jeremy slipped out one night and went home. The M.P.s (military police) brought him back to recycle - meaning that he had to start his basic training all over again. He was training in our general area, so I could keep up with him.
The fourth week of basic training, Jeremy fled again and went home. They brought him back to start his basic training over once again. He was training several blocks from my outfit, so I still was able to keep up with him. Just two weeks into that tour, he fled again.
The M.P.s went to his home, but instead of bringing him back to base, he was sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. That's the Army prison. Since no war was going on at that time, I stayed stateside. I was in the states the rest of the time that I was in the service. I remember walking guard around Fort Knox, Ky., guarding the building that stored all of our nation's gold. That's the only time off-base we used live ammo in our weapons. I always wondered if there was really any gold in that building because it was rumored that Russia and China had all of the gold. I'll never know for sure.
I then spent the next several weeks at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and several weeks at Fort Hood. During all of this time, in the back of my mind, I wondered about Jeremy. Could I have done more for him?
At 78 years old, I think back to that base in Fort Jackson and wonder why I didn't try harder to help him. Even to this day, as I look back, I feel a little pang of guilt. Did I give up on Jeremy too soon? Where is he now? Is he still alive? Could I have done more? If so, Lord please forgive me.
Bobby J. Williams is retired from Alcoa, after 33 years of employment, and resides in Edna. He is an usher at First Baptist Church of Edna and also enjoys some occasional fishing trips to Port O'Connor.