Home / Creekbank Blog / What a Journey: From Harrisonburg to Rome

What a Journey: From Harrisonburg to Rome

A Word from Curt:

We’re on Day 11 of our Nairobi hospital stay.

  • Today’s word is Gratitude.

I’ve been without diarrhea for over 24 hours. This is the longest dry spell (literally and figuratively) since early May.

Still have a long ways to go but we’re moving ahead.

DeDe and I cherish your prayers.

 

  • To my early readers:   I depend (and welcome) on you to quickly notify me of any errors, glitches, or confusion in my blogs.
  • Simply send me a snippet and we’ll correct is ASAP.  You can do this through a social media button at top of post, the comment section, or via website contact us button.
  • Thanks in advance!

 

  • We’re in the third day of a homestand on Men and Women worth praising.

If you missed the previous two posts on Sgt. Leroy Johnson and his brave sacrifice in giving his life to protect three fellow soldiers, you’ll be touched by this memorable story.

The following day’s post tells of the life of Herman Clemenson, one of the soldiers saved on that fateful December 1944 day in the Philippines.

Today is much more of a personal story on a veteran I loved and admired.

 

No one loved H'Burg more than James Herbert Terry.
No one loved H’Burg more than James Herbert Terry.

 

 

Staff Sergeant Terry Reports for Duty.

As a boy, I watched the last veterans of The Great War—War World I—step off the stage one by one:

Manuel “Curt” Green. Howard Spurlock. Dan Iles.  The long line of the Doughboys marched by.

Now, I’m observing the same thing with the men and women who served our country in the Second World War.

The youngest are now in their early nineties.

Fewer obituaries read, “He served his country proudly in Europe” or “He was a Navy pilot in the Pacific War.”

I wish to remember these folks who are deservedly called the “Greatest Generation.”

  • That’s why I want to talk about Staff Sergeant J.H. Terry.

I love reading history and biography. Recently I finished Rick Atkinson’s history of the US Army in North Africa, An Army of Dawn. It’s a tome of the first battles of our then green army.

The second book in Atkinson’s trilogy, Day of Battle, details the invasion of Sicily and Italy.

That’s where Sergeant Terry entered the war. Mr. Herbert, as I called the Sergeant, was a medic with the 10th Mountain Division, which joined the Fifth Army in their northward march into Europe.

Only the Army would they place a Louisiana soldier in a ski mountain division.

Go figure.

IMG_0740

 

Herbert Terry as a young man during the time the Great Depression lessened and as the United States entered World War II.

Sgt. Terry was also my father-in-law.

The loving father of my wife DeDe.

 

In my nearly forty years with the family, I crossed the Atlantic and walked up the Italian peninsula many times with Mr. Herbert.

I ate C-rations on the ship with him and leaned seasick over the railing.

He shared of watching Lucille Ball in “Best Foot Forward”  eleven times on the voyage to Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 6.30.54 PM

 

Sgt. Terry waded ashore in Naples and joined the huge American Army snaking up the western coat of Italy’s boot.

He later saw the Pope waving from the Vatican balcony.

Walked up to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Was in Austria as the European war ended.

Author’s Note: Terry Family (and others):  I’m looking for photos of Mr. Herbert in uniform as well as wedding picture of the Terry’s  Thanks!

Waited for the other shoe to drop with his unit’s transfer to the Pacific and the upcoming Invasion of Japan.

Was on a troop transport near Gilbratar when the atomic bombs ended the Pacific War.

His ship turned around when the Japanese surrendered.

Mr. Herbert loved Harry Truman and felt he owed his life to the President’s decision to drop the bombs. Regardless of how you feel about the President and the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mr. Herbert had a direct perspective. He strongly believed this saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers, including his own.

I repeatedly heard all of the stories above.

And I loved hearing them from him.

I learned so much about his life and the wisdom and experience he carried with him.

He and his wife, Mrs. Juanita, were survivors of two events that shaped their generation.

The Great Depression.

And the Great War known as World War II.

 

Herbert and Juanita Joyce Terry.  Circa 1980
Herbert and Juanita Joyce Terry. Circa 1980

After the war, Mr. Herbert met and married Juanita Joyce, a home demonstration agent new to Catahoula Parish.

With her help the the GI Bill, he returned to college at LSU and returned to Harrisonburg as an Ag Teacher.

The Terry’s started a hardware store that they operated for decades with the help of their family.

 

Mr. Herbert and Mrs. Juanita at one of their final family Christmas parties together.
Mr. Herbert and Mrs. Juanita at one of their final family Christmas parties together.

 

Christmas was always a special time for this large family of five sons and growing generations of grandchildren and greats.

 

 

This past Christmas,  2014,  we celebrated a bittersweet holiday.

We’d suddenly lost Mr. Herbert’s oldest son, Malcolm in September. Malcolm and his wife Kay lived in the Terry home, taking great care of my ninety-one year old father-in-law.

DeDe and I returned from Africa to spend a month with family.

We knew this visit at the end of 2014 might be the last time we were with her father. Even though we would return from Africa later in October, we sensed this was our final goodbye on earth.

  • Unsurprisingly, it was. He died less than two months after we returned to Africa.

I’ve been reviewing our final month with him.

IMG_0663
Mr. Herbert, an only child, deeply loved his maternal first cousins. Slage McGuffee and his wife Wilma at the Terry Rentals Office. December 2014

 

Up until the final month of his life, he worked daily in the various businesses he owned and operated.

HERBERTLukeJan15

I smile as I think about taking our grandson Luke (above) on a day trip to Harrisonburg. Mr. Terry was at work in his office, keeping Harrisonburg and the larger world safe.

He looked at four year old Luke and said, “How’d you get to come by yourself?”

Luke, who closely resembles the Terry clan, smiled and shrugged.

 

The week after Christmas, we spent a memorable day with Mr. Herbert.

We drove him to Monroe to visit the Claire Chennault museum. Another cousin, Melba Bradford, joined us at the museum.

IMG_0732

 

Louisiana native Claire Chennault was the leader of The Flying Tigers, a volunteer group of pilots who helped the Nationalist Chinese fight the Japanese in mainland China.

Chennault

 

We arrived at the Chennault Museum.

Sadly, it was Monday and the facility was closed.

I was determined to get us in.

I kept knocking and peeking at windows until a museum worker came to the door. “I’m sorry but we’re closed on Monday.”

“Ma’am, we’ve come from Harrisonburg for my old father-in-law to visit. Besides, we’re family.”

She eyed me suspiciously. “What do you mean family?”

“General Chennault was my mother-in-law’s uncle.   Chennault’s first wife Nell and my mother-in- law’s mother were sisters.”

She softened. “I’m Nell Chennault Calhoun, the General’s granddaughter. Let me get a wheelchair for your father-in-law.”

Mr. Herbert at Chennault Museum. From L to R: Cousin  Melba McGuffe Bradford, Janell Terry Agan, DeDe Terry Iles, and Nell Chennault Calhoun.
Mr. Herbert at Chennault Museum. From L to R: Cousin Melba McGuffe Bradford, Janell Terry Agan, DeDe Terry Iles, and Nell Chennault Calhoun.

 

Over the next several hours we had a memorable visit as they traded stories and memories.

I’ll never forget—nor regret—that visit.

Nell Chennault made Mr. Herbert promise to return for an interview on his war years.

 

He never made it back.

But the day was wonderful.

 

The week before we left for Africa, Mr. Herbert accompanied us to a Sunday service at his grandson Reid’s church near Jena. I’ll always remember his fatherly smile as DeDe shared about how God is working in our part of Africa.

After the service, the large Terry clan (large in many ways) gathered for a meal at a Jena restaurant.

Mr. Terry sat regally surrounded by good food and family,. Many customers came by his table to speak. I told DeDe it was like being with Don Coreleone at the wedding in “The Godfather.”

 

The next day we drove him around Harrisonburg as he surveyed his kingdom. He explained about the new Ouachita River bridge. “They think they’ll complete it by the end of 2017.”

The Turning/Swinging Bridge over the Ouachita at Harrisonburg, LA
The Turning/Swinging Bridge over the Ouachita at Harrisonburg, LA.  It’s on my bucket list: see it turn one last time with my grandchildren.

See video of the bridge turning.

Nodding at the old turning bridge he’d watched built as a preteen (in 1932) he said, “It’ll be sad when they tear it down. My daddy was the bridge tender for years. They’d call the neighbor’s phone for him to open the bridge for passing river traffic.”

“Mr. Hebert, you’ve seen lots of changes.”

He smiled. “Did I ever tell you about being on the Vicksburg Bridge the day it opened?”

I’d heard it a half dozen times but said, “No.”

I truly wanted to hear it one more time.

“My Uncle Lonnie drove us over and about ten thousand folks were gathered on the high span across the Mississippi. Suddenly a bi-plane came down the river and flew under the bridge. Folks scattered like quail.”

 

Didn’t he see lots of life!

Three quarters of the twentieth century plus a lagniappe slice of fifteen years of the next.

 

 

The day DeDe and I left (again) for Africa was especially memorable.

I believe both DeDe and Mr. Herbert knew it would be their earthly parting.

He looked at her and squeezed both of our hands. “Now, you go over there and finish the work God’s given you. Don’t worry about me.”

We left.

Within two months, he’d left also.

Read Mr. Herbert’s Obituary.

View the funeral celebration of his life.

DeDe chose not to return for the funeral so this video has meant the world to us.

But we carry a heart full of photos and images.

Some are in this post.

Most are stamped in my soul.

All of them make me smile.Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 10.44.57 AM

Postscript

After we returned to Africa, I went to Amazon and found Day of Battle, the Atkinson book about the Invasion of Italy.

I ordered it to be delivered to the address below.

TwoSgtTerry 2015-04-03 at 10.24.54 AM

 

Several weeks later, Mr. Herbert asked DeDe, “Did Curt send me that book on the war in Italy?”

I knew he’d probably never read it.

His eyes had weakened and the book was a heavy tome.

 

I simply wanted him to have it as a gift.

 

Greg, DeDe’s brother, said the book is sitting on the shelf at Mr. Herbert’s office. It’s the only heirloom I want.

In the flyleaf I plan to write about this man, James Herbert Terry.

Try to explain how I loved and admired this hero.

Then  plan to pass it on to one of my sons. Who’ll pass it on to one of their children.

An heirloom.

In memory of Staff Sergeant James Herbert Terry.

10th Mountain Division

5th Army of the United States

PO Box 179

Harrisonburg, La. 71340

 

MEMORIAL GIFTS:

You can make a donation in memory of Mr. Herbert and his wife Juanita at:

Gideon’s International

or Open Hands Africa  PO Box 332 c/0 Mary Iles  Dry Creek, LA 70637.

Your gifts will be used to buy Bibles.  It was the compelling mission Mr. Herbert carried throughout his adult life: getting God’s word into the hands and hearts of people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

Check Also

December 5 A Christmas Gift: A New Story “Christmas Eve in Winterset”

      “Christmas in Winterset” was written during our African sojourn.  I met a ...

2 comments

  1. Thank you Curt. Beautiful. Praying for you and DeDe.
    Lynn McGee Erwin ( sister of Kay Terry)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shares