The Secretary of the Army, upon recommendation of the members of the 327th Infantry Regiment, has conveyed to Lodi resident, Jim Wilson, the honor of Distinguished Member of the Regiment (DMOR). Jim was one of 14 soldiers recognized recently during the Week of the Eagles at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne Division.
The DMOR selection committee takes nominations for this honor from members of the unit. Candidates often have spent a career in the service and then gone on to live lives of contribution and character in their non-military years. Of the 200 or so individuals that have been selected in the history of the regiment, there are very, very few junior Non Commissioned Officers, especially with less than twenty years of service. Jim Wilson is one.
In early 1966, Jim Wilson enlisted in the Army. He arrived in the Tuy Hoa region of Vietnam as a replacement trooper assigned to company B in September ‘66. Vietnamese forces overran his unit the night before he arrived. The CO and others were killed in the assault. He learned quickly to adapt to the unit, the hills and jungles of Vietnam, and to the realities of frequent combat.
In early ‘67, the company created a six-man team of experienced soldiers to perform recon patrols. Jim volunteered. He describes this as going the opposite direction as his unit, to try to detect enemy movements, and provide early alerts. At 19 and E-4, Jim was a key part of the squad. Jungle patrols in the heat of day, the cold of night, constantly on the alert and vulnerable. Jim’s earlier time as point man for the company, helped prepare him for these patrols.
Jim’s leaders and squad mates wrote of his commitment and character in their letters of nomination. Common character traits mentioned are loyalty, confidence in himself and his leaders, composure, compassion, fearlessness, and ferocity. On August 7 1967, Jim’s Vietnam tour ended with an AK-47 bullet wound to the thigh.
His CO at the time wrote, “Even in knowing the serious nature of his life threatening wounds, Jim never lost his composure or will to fight and defeat the enemy. Instead, his character and courage took over. I witnessed Jim yelling directions to his squad as he was being loaded into the dustoff helicopter. Seriously wounded in the middle of a Vietnam jungle, Jim remained the epitome of an 101st Airborne trooper.”
In the last several years, as Jim and his peers have entered the later stages of their professional careers - he is now 64 - a longing to rekindle the relationships of their youth has emerged. Jim started Googling, emailing and phoning all the guys connected to his squad, Spider 6, and then on to his unit, Bravo Company of the 327th. He quickly became the spark for impromptu reunions and late night phone conversations.
Jim’s met his wife, Judy back in 1968 while still in the Army attending jumpmaster school at Ft Bragg, North Carolina. Jim and Judy raised two sons here in Lodi while he had a variety of careers, including owning a very successful business. Judy died less than two years ago while traveling with Jim to attend a reunion of the Brigade. Jim frequently mentions her loving skill at helping him through life’s challenging and difficult days.
In the 1960’s, returning veterans received few acknowledgements, except from fellow warriors. Some say patriotism was not popular then. Soldiers, like Jim, were always fervently patriotic.
Jim has connected with our soldiers of today. He and Judy have met with them. They have hosted them to a meal. Talked about combat. Talked about the how-to’s of survival. Talked about our nation’s gratitude, respect, and appreciation. He continues that service to them today.
They say combat creates bonds for life. Soldiers love those that have led them, those that go on to live a productive, upright life, and those that make you proud to say, “I’m a bit like him.”
The soldiers of the 327th Infantry love Jim Wilson, a Distinguished Member of the Regiment.