Thursday, October 21, 2010
Close to Nowhere
Corporal Judge Clayton Hellums comes home
(Writer’s Note: Bits and pieces of this were taken from an article on the front page of the Oct. 14, 2010, Calhoun County Journal — with publisher Joel McNeece’s permission.)
In the late 1960s and early ’70s, I had several friends who were serving overseas in Vietnam. I was lucky — all my friends came home alive.
Since then, I’ve met many more friends, who also served in Vietnam. Obviously, they all came home — maybe with nightmares, flashbacks and other problems, but they still came home.
Pop’s cousin David came home alive. There were holes in his legs from bullets and his psyche was deeply scarred, but he came home.
Later, he developed Hodgkin’s diesease — cancer in his lymph nodes — from being doused repeatedly with Agent Orange.
During those years, I wore a POW-MIA bracelet. Sadly, in one of the moves we made before we moved to Mississippi, that bracelet was lost. Worse, I don’t remember my MIA’s name or branch of service.
In the Oct. 14 issue of The Calhoun County Journal (Bruce) the front page story and photo was about an MIA who came home, 66 years after his death in World War II.
Corporal Judge Clayton Hellums was laid to rest in his native Calhoun County with a large gathering of family and friends in Shady Grove Church Cemetery.
Cpl. Hellums was killed with four of his comrades on Oct. 9, 1994 in Lorraine, France. The U.S. government listed him as “MIA” until a few years ago, when a Frenchman, Gerald Louis, discovered part of Hellum’s dog tags.
The wheels began grinding and three years after the discovery of the dog tags, the Hellums family was contacted.
Ironically, exactly 66 years after his death, on Oct. 9, 2010, Cpl. Hellums was laid to rest in his native soil.
The National Guard’s Honor Guard carried Hellum’s flag-draped casket and presented a 21-gun salute. “Taps” was played as the family wept.
Pop’s family has a KIA — and until the day he died, my father-in-law wasn’t sure that the body of his brother, John Paul Jones, was the one in the closed casket.
John Paul was supposedly in a hospital in Korea with minor wounds. Two days later, they said he died. No other explanation.
I was deeply touched by the story of Cpl. Hellums and I am grateful that he was able to “come home.”
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