B Company 1966
I’ll do my best to say something about James. All through high school, James would follow myself, Gene Pittman, and Danny Judkins around I suppose feeling some need to belong to what was referred to as The 3 Musketeers in high school groups. We finally relented on his persistence and James became one of us. We weren’t much, just a bunch of young boys always talking about jumping out of airplanes. Well, 3 of us made that event a reality. James was one of them. He had this infectious grin and broad smile all the time. You just couldn’t make the guy go away thank goodness. Then we got word that James had been killed in Vietnam. The devastation among all those who knew him personally and in general stunned the class of 1964. James was the first out of that class to die in combat in Vietnam. But he wouldn’t be the last. Out of 17 that went to Vietnam, only 5 of us came home alive.
James just didn’t have an enemy anywhere that I knew of. He never stood back and let someone else do his work. James was just a good old southern boy from a little place called Lebanon, Tennessee, but he now has a bridge named in honor of his sacrifice. I know James didn’t want to die in Nam. Hell, none of us did. But I KNEW James. He always was out there pushing hard to be the best he could be. The day he got his jump wings and became a member of the Screaming Eagles at Ft. Campbell, KY. will live in my memory forever. He strode down West Main like John Wayne! Proud, tall, spit shined Cochran Paratrooper boots with the dress greens tucked in ever so crisply. And that smile of his! That I will always remember. James was the 4th Musketeer. God Speed and thank you James for allowing me the opportunity to have known you in your short life. Others’ would be just as fortunate. For those of you guys’ who remember him, AIRBORNE to all of you. For those who never met him, you missed a great human being and proud paratrooper!
(Former Sgt. James E. Baskin)
B Co., 4th Bn., 503rd ABN. INF.
173rd Airborne Brigade (SEPARATE)