Thursday, October 19, 2006
A Mississippian returning to his roots
Master Sergeant Calvin E. James is coming home soon. He’s served in the military for many years, in many places. Currently, he is attached with 1-32nd Infantry Regiment and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom VII; he serves at the Base Defense Operations Center (BDOC) NCOIC at Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan.
MSG James hopes to be back in the U.S.A., at Fort Drum, NY in February 2007 and back in the company of the Hospitality State and its people in June 2007.
During his time overseas in the military he has learned one, very valuable lesson. The people overseas are just like us -- they have the same outlook on life, family and happiness that we do.
“The fact of the matter is, their outlooks are exactly the same but the places and rulers that they are under dictate their involvement. I will tell you that here in Afghanistan there are Christians, and many other countries there are Christians just the same as the U.S.” Calvin said. “The people really like Americans, for the most part, and really look up to them as the leaders of the world.”
Calvin has written of what he’s experienced in other countries and what he hopes to find when he comes home. The following is excerpts from his emails to The South Reporter from Afghanistan:
“When I when to Korea, I was just amazed at how many people are in that country and how they work in the field the same as Americans did many, many years ago. Asians are very talented people and you would not believe how they still work here. For instance, I saw these Afghans pour about 30 yards or more of concrete the other day with wash pans. I went to get my video camera but they had stopped for the day. It was just amazing and they still dig with shovels to pour foundations for buildings.
They can sew anything, any style, and pattern just by looking at the picture. I guess I have learned most of all that a person doesn’t need a fancy house, car, and clothing to live happy. Most of us feel if we don’t have a pocket full of money and the biggest house on the block, we are below the family next door.
In every country I have visited the people loved life for the simple fact that life is supposed to be happy, regardless of what you have, and they enjoyed it to the fullest. Many of the countries I have visited are war-torn countries and most of the adult men do not reach the age of 50. It is said that six out of every 10 children don’t live pass the age of 12. These are very sad statistics.
I have learned so much and I feel I can pass some of these teachings down to the young men and women of Marshall County -- that the simple things in life have the biggest rewards.
Now, what do I want to do when I get home? This is one very hard question and I don’t think I have enough time and space in this email to convey it all.
First, I want to move back home and build the house I have planned for more than 20 years. I have been in the practice of serving people for more than 95 percent of my life and I don’t feel this is something I can just lay down and never go and revisit.
Serving my fellow man, woman and child is my mission in life because I get a great sense of satisfaction from just knowing I helped someone today or I put a smile on a less fortunate child’s face. That is my main focus when I return home -- to start working in a capacity where public and community service is the cornerstone of my daily activities.
I have a degree in criminal justice; have worked extensively with the Department of Homeland Security, and I am only four classes from completing my BA in public safety management. I have many avenues to travel down but I want to ensure whatever I do is in the best interest of the people, all people.
Now, just to jump back to the first part of this email concerning what I have learned: I must point this out -- people of different countries are not at war because of the color of their skin; it has to do with history back in the B.C. era.
I want so badly for the people of Marshall County to see one another as equals -- not different because one is of a different skin tone. We are all God’s children and we must end this cycle of hate that is in America today.
Really, I feel we have come a long way in Holly Springs and we can only move forward. Therefore, I have learned mostly to get along and live in a very diverse society.
In 2005, I did something I have wanted to do since the time I used to work for Mr. C.C. Stephenson hauling hay when I was 15 years old.
I bought a tractor and I think I will just drive it for a month after retirement and be happy. I have thought about getting into the cattle farming and I would love to do something like that on the side.
Everything I want to do would not be possible without the health and strength from God and the guidance and excellent leadership I received from my father.
You know, I studied my father like a person studying for a test and I always wanted the knowledge of life he had over any level of education I could obtain.
One thing that has stuck with me all these year is the advice my father and grandmother gave me before I left for my first duty station.
The words were simple and to the point. They both insisted that whatever you do, make sure it is the right thing to do. They also told me that there was only right and wrong and you cannot be half right or half wrong. The most important thing was to ensure God stayed in my life and everything else would fall into place.
Lastly, my father used to always tell me that you can have all the book knowledge you want but without common sense, the book sense will not do you any good. I used to ponder on that all day sometimes and really wondered what he was talking about.
Well, the mid-90s came and brand new technology along with it. However, the soldiers were smarter but my, my, my, there was no common sense to accompany those outstanding brains.
To wrap this up, the bottom line is -- I learned patience in other countries and life is what you make it, not what you have. When I return home, I want to work with young boys and girls, teenagers, and young adults to prevent them from becoming a number in the judicial system.
I feel if we give them the tools at a young age, we can prevent using taxpayer money to retrain them when they could have received it free in the first place.
MSG James’ awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (second award), the Army Commendation Medal (eighth award), the Army Achievement Medal (11th award), the Army Good Conduct Medal (eighth award), the National Defense Service Medal (second award), the Korean Defense Service Medal, the NCO Professional Development Ribbon (third award), the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon (fourth award), the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Ribbon, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, The Air Assault Badge, the Field Artillery Badge, the Driver’s Badge, and the Army Physical Fitness of Excellence Badge.
In 1990, his howitzer section made battalion history by becoming the first section to obtain a score of 997 out of a possible 1000 points during the battalion section evaluation. In 1992, history was achieved once again in the same battalion when his section became the first artillery section to be selected for the V Corps Distinguished Small Unit Leadership Award. MSG James is member of several prestigious clubs and organizations within the United States Army as well as the civilian sector. He has been a member of the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara since 1995.
In 2001, he was ordained as a deacon with the Mt. Peel MB Church in his hometown of Holly Springs. In 2002, MSG James was inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and awarded the Major General Aubrey “Red” Newman Award for contributing outstanding leadership abilities. In 2003, MSG James was selected 2003 NCO for the Honorable Brigadier General William C. Bilo Support Forward Award. This award is presented yearly to only one NCO throughout the United States Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard who best represents outstanding qualities of teamwork, leadership and caring for soldiers. In February 2006, MSG James was designated an Affiliate Member with the World Safety Organization (WSO).
In April 2006, he was approved by the World Safety Organization Certification Board for the Certified Governmental Environmental Officer and the Certified Governmental Safety Officer. In May 2006, MSG James was named the winner of the 2006 World Safety Organization Education Award for his educational accomplishments in the areas of safety. He will be presented this award on May 14, 2007 at the World Safety Organization’s 20th Annual International Environmental/Occupational Health & Safety Conference in Denver, Colo.
MSG James was recently nominated for the Sergeant Major Larry Strickland Educational Leadership Award and the United States Achievement Academic Award for his outstanding educational accomplishments.
He is currently a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), the United States Army Field Artillery Association, Minuteman Cannoneers Chapter, the Noncommissioned Officer Association (NCOA), and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America (VFW). He was presented the National Homeland Security Medal Citation for his patriotic involvement in the Homeland Security programs and efforts to protect the citizens of the United States from the threats of domestic and foreign terrorism. He was also presented with the Humanitarian Service Citation for conspicuous humanitarian support of the disaster victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and other disasters as they occur, through the Disaster Relief Programs from the United States Joint Force Multiplier Command (USJFMCOM).
Master Sergeant Calvin E. James is the son of Willie and Doris James of Chulahoma. He was born on November 3, 1963 the eighth of 13 children. He graduated from Byhalia High School on May 13, 1981 and moved to Milwaukee, Wis.
MSG James joined the United States Army on February 25, 1982 and began his basic and advanced Individual Training on April 15, 1982 at Fort Sill, Okla. as a field artilleryman.
He is married to the former Rita Hernandez of Lansing, Mich. who presently resides in Memphis Tenn.
They have four children; Alicia Marie Hernandez (26), Memphis Tenn.; Charita Marie James (20), Memphis State University (biochemistry); Catrice Yevette James (18), University of Tennessee at Knoxville (business administration); and Calvin Eugene James Jr. (11), Memphis, Tenn.
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