“Linking …..the past to the present”

May 31, 2007

PFC Jerry Wayne Gentry of B Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry. Vietnam Hero’s family finally honoured.

Jerry Wayne Gentry honored with memorial in Cartersville

Rebecca Long
Staff Writer
Published May 24, 2007 11:23 PM CDT

Hero was a word that people who attended a memorial dedication ceremony Thursday for U.S. Army Pfc. Jerry Wayne Gentry heard quite often to describe the fourth of the 15 Bartow County residents to be killed in action during the Vietnam War.

The crowd of veterans, family members, friends, classmates and elected officials sat in the warm May sun to hear the stories of those who served with Gentry, who was killed in action Nov. 9, 1967. Gentry is the 21st Georgia veteran to be recognized by the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association, which honors one of the Atlanta area’s 418 veterans killed in action in Vietnam. The event featured personal accounts of those who served with Gentry and a dedication of a new memorial in his honor.

“Over 58,200 men and women were killed, but today’s ceremony is about one man — Jerry Wayne Gentry,” said Bryan Tate, chairman of the AVVBA. “Yes, it happened 40 years ago, but it is still fitting.”

Gentry was described by many as a quiet man and a good friend to all.

Johnny Roberson, a Bartow County resident and Vietnam veteran, said Gentry was “just like the man in the photograph. No matter what was asked of him, he just smiled.”

That is how many of those gathered remembered the 1965 Cassville High School graduate, who seemed to have an abundance of friends and supporters. As members of the Albany Marine Band played patriotic selections, the old friends greeted each other on the plaza steps, remembering with laughter and tears the days they had shared with him.

“He was hard to get to talk,” said one classmate who had sat behind him in an English class. “But once you did, you were in for a treat. He saw everything and knew everything. He could tell the best stories.”

Around 40 members of Gentry’s graduating class attended the event, wearing blue and gold ribbons. Many of the members of the class said class members were still extremely close, having lost more than one member to the war. The class, according to one of the women there, was and still is proud of all their war heroes. (source)

And Deb Tainsh (Gold Star Mother of Patrick Tainsh) who was there, wrote the following:

Linking Gold Star Families Past to Present

Deborah Tainsh, May 31, 2007

From Cartersville, Georgia, PFC Jerry Wayne Gentry of B Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry, the only uninjured member of his crew, in the face of enemy fire and with complete disregard for his own safety, aided his wounded comrades by carrying them to safety. Then with that which only a soldier is driven, he attempted to mount a vehicle and return fire to the enemy only to be mortally wounded and posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry and unselfish devotion to duty.

Forty years after twenty year old PFC Gentry’s gallantry on November 9, 1967, west of the city of Que Son in South Vietnam, I was privileged to meet Mrs. Doris Gentry, Jerry’s mother, a mother who had never received her Gold Star service flag; that is until this special day, May 24, 2007.

With her soft white hair gleaning in the sun as did her gentle face and smile, this petite mom still appeared strong as her two surviving daughters, other family members and several hundred strangers surrounded her. An occasion that would never have occurred without the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association whose mission statement is to promote patriotism and sponsor activities of a patriotic nature among the business community, to recognize those who served and honor those who gave their lives in the Vietnam war; to promote the positive image of the Vietnam veteran, their dependents and the widows and orphans of deceased Vietnam veterans.

Each year since 1987 this organization of great Americans has honored Georgia fallen Vietnam heroes and their families by dedicating memorial sights throughout Atlanta and the surrounding area. The 2007 dedication in memory of PFC Gentry was held at Friendship Plaza, downtown Cartersville, Gentry’s hometown where his mom still resides.

In this quaint patriotic community the train still roars through several times each day and beside the train depot stands a cut stone etched with a flag, eagle, and the words God Bless America, In memory of those who serve and protect our country. Near these words Mrs. Gentry, family, and guests sat facing the speaker’s stage and the Albany Marine Band from Marine Corp Logistics Base, Albany, Georgia and the presentation of colors by members of 1st Bn, 108th Armor 121st Infantry Division, Georgia National Guard.

After a patriotic concert and opening statements by Cary King, President of AVVBA, comrades from other states who served with and were with Gentry the night he died, but who had never met or spoken with his family, shared their emotional and heart spoken memories, an exercise that the veterans and family said brought a sense of release for them.

To the side of the stage sat a group of Gold Star moms from across Georgia who had also experienced the death of a child in service to our nation in past and present wars. I sat with two of my peers, Jan Johnson, mom of U.S. Army Specialist Justin Johnson who gave his life in Iraq, April 2004, and Stacey Holley, mom of U.S. Army Specialist Matthew Holley who gave his life, November, 2005.

After the dedication of the memorial monument now at Friendship Plaza in Cartersville, standing below the speaker’s stage, Jan held a Gold Star Service Flag and Stacey held a Gold Star lapel pin as I stood at the podium and read these words:

Mrs. Gentry, in honor of your son and hero, U.S. Army PFC Jerry Wayne Gentry, we Gold Star mothers of this new century and new generation want to present you with this Gold Star Flag, the service flag created during WWI for families to hang in their homes in honor of loved ones killed while in service to our great country.

As stated in the history of the national organization of American Gold Star Mothers, Incorporated January 5, 1929:

“We stand tall and proud by honoring our children, assisting our veterans, supporting our nation, and healing with each other.”

And as stated in the preamble to Public Resolution 123, 74th Congress, June 23, 1936

“The American mother does much for the home and the moral and spiritual uplifting of the people of the United States, does good for government and humanity, and the American Gold Star Mothers have suffered the supreme sacrifice of motherhood in the loss of their sons and daughters…”

Mrs. Gentry, we Gold Star Mothers of today know the depths of your broken heart and the scar that forever remains. And we are honored to stand in support of you today with pride and thanks to you for your supreme sacrifice made in 1967 on behalf of our great country.

Please accept our condolences regarding the death of your son. We now present you with this service flag which holds the blue star that represents hope and pride and the gold star that represents liberty and freedom.

We will never forget your son and hero, PFC Jerry Wayne Gentry. We will never forget you.

Jan and Stacy then presented the flag and pin to this Vietnam war mom who for forty years believed she, her son, and family had been forgotten; a mom and family that wasn’t sure at first about accepting to have their fallen hero and family honored by the AVVBA; a mom with other children who had never experienced the support of peers as they lived their own “hell.” A mom who said through tears, “I always saw blue and gold star flags in homes during WWII when my daddy served. I always wondered why I never had one during Vietnam.”

Then with smiles and tears of gratitude, Mrs. Gentry and family accepted the hugs, love, care, monument, and service flag they had deserved since November 9, 1967. They knew, finally and for sure, that they were no longer alone, thanks to these brave heroes from another era who have felt let down and unappreciated, but who found the strength to carry the flag and memory of their comrades forward.

The Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association provided a gift greater than they will ever comprehend as they have now linked the past to the present. And together we moms, dads, and other family members will continue the journey of healing and carrying forward the flag, honor, and love for our children, their comrades, the fallen, wounded, and those heroes continuing to serve this nation on our behalf. May our past and present always remain linked, and may no family ever be forgotten.

PFC Jerry Wayne Gentry: Thank you for your service. Mrs Gentry, to echo Deb Tainsh: NO! We will never forget.


2 Responses to ““Linking …..the past to the present””

  1. sue on June 1st, 2007 2:18 am

    Beautiful Brat!! I love it. Thanks for sharing!! All the Viet Nam Vets deserve better than they have gotten, I only wish they would be given the respect that they deserve. I am always so touched when I hear them talking so protectively of the young men and women serving today. How they want to make sure what happened to them, doesn’t happen to a new generation of heroes! Thanks to all of them! I for one am grateful. Very grateful for their service. God Bless Jerry Gentry.

  2. CommanderMom on June 1st, 2007 8:09 am

    I second that, Sue! (every word!)

Got something to say?