A Company 1966
The best of Reuben Louis Garnett, Jr., was poured out in Vietnam. I know this because I knew him; he never did anything half way, especially when it came to letting people know how highly he regarded and valued them. He was a year older than I and he taught me quite a lot about loving and accepting people at face value. He was gentle and tenacious. Therefore, I know he loved hard and soldiered with resolve.
When he was KIA, March 4, l966, we knew he would never realize the hope of the college education he had planned, we knew he would never have sons or daughters for us to hug, we knew he would never send letters to our mail boxes and we fully understood he was gone forever!
In the morning of the day he left home to return to Ft. Campbell to ship out for Vietnam, he asked for and got a promise from me to “look out for Mom and our sisters.” It was a strange morning. I was aware that he was letting me know that he knew that his return was not guaranteed. We talked that morning. We talked about life, family. and his tender views of those he loved. He had no jokes, no laughter. He spoke softly and looked into my eyes. That is how he was with me. He could spin around from laughter and say, “Sis, let’s talk.” And we would–about life, justice, love, music, the latest dance craze. He was young and full of life. Yet, on this final morning of my seeing his face, he and I talked about what to do while he was gone. I had no idea it would be for so long.
Reuben had a love for humanity and for reading, because he was passionate about those issues from within–not because he was told to care. He was his own person. Yet, when he was killed, the Steelton Taxi Cab Company were the bearers of the bad news; a taxi driver delivered the news. Then the Gold Star Mothers of Harrisburg denied our Mother membership because of her race. We bore that for years.
The Screaming Eagles were represented by Sgt. Alfred C. Meyers; he accompanied Reuben home on March l0, l966. He stayed with us throughout the heart rending days just before and following the funeral. He was a gentleman and a soldier. Sgt. Meyers made it possible for us to fully appreciate the reality that Reuben was important to his brothers and sisters in the 327th.
Reuben LOVED his family, friends and the Screaming Eagles! He was not lukewarm in his loving. Because of his provision–his assuring me that the Screaming Eagles were the best, the most faithful, I was able to reach out to them after all these years and find brothers and sisters of the greatest quality. Reuben was right. He NEVER lied to me. He was always straight up with me. Always. Now, because of him, our family can heal and share love with the best.
India “Elaine” Garnett
I was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. from March 1963 through the middle of July, 1965. If this is the same person I remember, he was a large black man. We were in A Co. 1st. Bn. 501st. As I recall Grace would do almost anything for a laugh. Once on a maneuver In Greenville, North Carolina we all found a bar. We were buying drinks for many of the local farmers and having a great time. Well soon the local police arrived and told us we couldn’t drink there because the bar was for blacks only. Well hell we didn’t care. Hell, we all lived together. We left and came back a little later. The cops showed up again and it was told that one of them attempted to take a night stick to Grace. The story goes that Grace relieved him of that stick and quickly incapacitated him. Soon squad cars were arriving at the bar but also was the entire 1st Bn. of the 501. Of course this spelled bad news for the police force of Greenville. Just one of the amusing memories I have of him. My tour of duty was over in July, 1965 just as the 327th was moving out to Viet Nam. Sorry to hear of his death.
My Phu in Vietnam on 4 March 1966, to some may seem like an unimaginable place, far in the past. However, to others of us, it’s as though it was only yesterday in a place never to be forgotten. It seems as though yesterday that SP4 Reuben L. Garnett Jr. was taken from us to become a sky soldier. Reuben made a massive and everlasting impression on everyone he met, which wasn’t influenced by his great size but by his character, charisma, presence, and an infectious smile that I still see to this day. I was so captured by that smile, along with his charisma, that it made the situation more tolerable by allowing me to escape from the realities of war. It was just yesterday that we met because his presence in my life was truly unforgettable. Unforgettable, that’s what you are, Reuben, and the very thought of you brings a smile to my face as I remember your smile. On 4 March 1966, some gave all and went from the wings of Eagles to the wings of Angels. Reuben was one, never to be forgotten, who always was and will forever be ” Above The Rest.”
20 Mar. 2003
Sgt. Galen G. Mitchell
3rd Plat. Co. A, 1st Bn. (Abn.), 327th Inf.,
1st Bde, 101st Abn. Div.
The following are letters Reuben wrote in 1966 they give you a glimpse of the kind of man Reuban was, and why those knew Reuben, loved him dearly.
In a letter, published September 15, 1966, in the Harrisburg Patriot Evening News, Reuben wrote:
My name is SP-4 Reuben L. Garnett, Jr. My home is in Steelton. I have been with the 101st Airborne Division since September, l960, and I know a trooper’s likes and dislikes. During peacetime he likes his loved ones, money, a fast car and a good time. Oh yes, also doesn’t like to pay his bills.
Now during the time of war in Viet Nam, the only people we get letters from are the bill collectors and none from the ones we love. So please write to the public and tell the people to write their sons and relatives serving here because it helps a trooper’s time go by a lot faster. It also helps build up morale and gives a reason to want to back home.
So when I get mail I want my buddy next to me to get some also, even if I have to write to them myself.
SP-4 Reuben L. Garnett, US. Army Paratrooper.
The second letter was published January 15, 1966 on page 6 of the Harrisburg Patriot Evening News:
I, Reuben L. Garnett Jr. SP/4 of ABU Co. 1st BN 327 Airborne Infantry, would like to thank the people for the support they have given to the troops serving here in the Republic of South Viet Nam. It is people like these that help keep the world free today. I am from Steelton and I am proud to serve in the forces which guard our Country and our way of life and protect fellow Pennsylvanians like you. May God bless and protect you all.
SP/4 Reuben L. Garnett, 101st Airborne Division.
He evidently wrote to the Governor who was then William Scranton, because in the later part of March, l966 which was referenced in an article in the paper. The article said, in part, “The message to the Governor, written by Garnett in the last days of his life was similar to one he had written to The Evening News earlier this year.”
(I have never seen the letter to Gov. Scranton in its entirety).
Part of the Resolution from the Church to which he belonged read:
“The name of Reuben L. Garnett, Jr. has been engraved on the hearts of the members of the First Baptist Church for a lifetime…and all because he was unselfish and because he believed the same divine provision was in Viet Nam as well as Steelton, Pennsylvania.
Reuben grew up in the Sunday School of the First Baptist Church, was baptized in his youth and was a firm believer in God. We remember Reuben as a friendly and mannerly lad whose winsome smile glorified his personality. As he developed into manhood he excelled with honor and character and felt especially proud to be serving his Country.
The First Baptist Church extends deep sympathy to the Garnett family and pray that your hearts will be comforted in this hour of bereavement. Reuben was proud of his church and kept faith. Is it any wonder that we feel proud of the following letter written such a short time ago?”
January 3, l966
Dear Pastor and Congregation:
I am taking this time to write to the home town church, who one very seldom forgets. I know that it is a little late to say this, but I am wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and if you have time, you can say a prayer for me.
May God Bless You All.
Reuben L. Garnett, Jr.
P. S. Here is my offering…. (he enclosed $l.00).
This photo of Mom Garnett and Linda Patterson was taken at the reunion in Phoenix.
Mom Garnett, mother of Reuben L. Garnett Jr. & Elaine Garnett, and Linda Patterson, sister of Joe Artaivia and wife of Steve Patterson. Reuben and Joe were both ABU’s, though they never got to meet each other in this life, I’m thinking they together now, looking down on us and watching over their loved ones.
If you remember Reuben “Sweet Daddy Grace” Garnett, his sister, India Elaine Garnett, would like to hear from you, [email protected]
I am the baby sister of Reuben L. “Sweet Daddy Grace” Garnett. At the time when news came telling of Reuben’s death, I was six years old and playing in our “playroom” which was the first room of our large house at 306 Ridge Street in Steelton PA. My dad created that room for his youngest children which consisted of a kitchen complete with a play refrigerator that was taller than me, a play stove, sink and kitchen table and chairs – kid size. My mother was sitting in our living room answering a very sad letter from my brother. In his letter, Reuben stated that he was tired of seeing his buddies getting maimed and killed and he knew it was a bullet out there with his name on it.
I was sweeping the playroom floor, when I heard a knock at the door. I went to the door and opened it and there was a taxi cab driver at the door and he asked to speak to my mom or dad. My mom and dad came to the door and I remember the driver handed the telegram to my mother. My mother handed it to my father and said in a frightened and quiet tone, “you read it”. I saw a tear rolling down my father’s face and then I saw my mom crying. I said, “what’s wrong, mommy?” They sat me down and told me Reuben was killed. Well I was six and did not really know what that meant so I said “oh”, and I went back to and continued sweeping my playroom floor.
At my brother’s funeral I was so excited to see so many people who came to see my brother “sleeping”. You see, this is what my six year old mind thought. It wasn’t until two years later, almost to the date of my brother’s death, did I really come to understand just what dying meant. My father, Reuben L. Garnett, Sr. died on March 10, 1968 and he and my brother were both buried on March 14th, two years apart. From that experience, I knew I would never ever see my brother or father here again on earth. I felt cheated and I still do, as there is such a void in my heart.
I have very few memories of my big brother, but the ones I do possess were of happy and joyous times. I remember when Reuben used to carry me on his shoulders on the way to our grandmother’s house and when he would give me a shiny nickel, and I remember when he would take us for a ride in his Mustang to my Aunt Gloria’s house. I also remember that he had these words engraved on his Mustang. “How Sweet it Tis.”
Sweet is his memory, for he shall be my hero for all eternity. I miss my brother tremendously and it is inexplicable just how much my heart still aches, 42 years later.
Loving my brother always,
Tracie Garnett (Reuben’s baby sister)