HONOR TO ALL WHO SERVE OR SERVED!
I joined the US Marines in January, 1974. I was 17 years old by two days. After basic training in San Diego I was sent to Camp Pendleton. My first commanding officer was Capt. JD Rexroad. I had no idea the role he would play in my life. He was a man among men. Strong, authentic, and resolute. I will never forget him.
He was in charge of the motor vehicle training school where I was assigned. I happened to be in his last class. Two weeks before graduation he was reassigned to duty in Okinawa, Japan. Being an impressionable young man he had caught me attention. I looked up to him. I experienced a twinge of sadness when he said goodbye. Three months later I was sent there too. As good fortunes goes, I reported for duty and discovered he was the Commanding Officer.
We spent another nine months together before he rotated back to the states. During that time I developed an even greater respect for him. We had many conversations that have stayed with me to this day. He understood human nature. He knew men. He took an interest in me. I wasn’t exactly gung-ho! Had a bit of trouble with authority. Especially the superficial kind that permeated the military. I actually tried to turn in my ID, quit, and go home. Based on the idea that taking orders from idiots was stupid. I needed to mature and he saved me in the process.
Following his leadership led me to five promotions in three years. I was a sergeant at 20 years of age. Before he left Okinawa, he told me and a few others how to get a hold of him when we returned to the states. Contacting him before we checked in allowed him to get us reassigned to his Command. Four of us did just that. I served with him for another two years. During which time he was promoted to Major. He began as an enlisted man, became a Warrant Officer before receiving a full commission to Lieutenant.
When my original four-year enlistment expired I re-enlisted for three more years. They sent me to Brunswick, Maine. I had to say goodbye to the Major. I had spent most of my four years under his command. I found out he retired some time later. When my second tour ended I got out and returned to southern California as a private citizen. The Major lived there. One of the first things I did was look him up. I couldn’t find his name in the phone directory. There was someone with the same last name. I called them to see if there was any connection. It turned out it was the home of his son. I was speaking to his daughter-in-law.
After retiring the Major moved to Arizona to work in the prison system. Someone had come into his home while he was asleep in his bed and killed him. I was shocked, stunned, and confused. After serving two tours in Vietnam he’s murdered in his own home. I spoke briefly with his son who was still not over his father’s death. All I could think to do was tell him what his dad meant to me. I still think of the Major. A man who helped so many young men. And made a lasting impression on me.
For all you did for your country, and for me, Major J.D. Rexroad, I salute you! Honor you. I will always remember you!
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