John A. Graham III – Captain, United States Army

John A. Graham, III

Born December 22, 1927 – Died October 4, 1992


Born in Riverside, California on 22 December 1927, red-headed Jack became an “Army brat” five years later when his family moved to Fort Hamilton, New York to live with his maternal uncle, L. V. H. “Red” Durfee, USMA 1917. “Red,” his guardian and Jack's twin sister, mother, and grandmother (widow of L. L. Durfee, USMA 1886) became the family that motivated Jack toward West Point and a military career. A few short assignments took them to Fort Wadsworth, Fort Jay, Schofield Barracks, and the Presidio, but most of Jack's formative years were spent at West Point, where his uncle enjoyed three tours of duty. One set of quarters was very close to the old ice rink where Jack became especially keen on skating and later, as a cadet, played on the Army hockey team. He also spent many hours delicately crafting model airplanes, but his main love was trout fishing. As a teenager he became an avid fly-fisherman, tying his own flies. In later life he enjoyed many fishing trips from his home in Virginia to eastern Pennsylvania and as far away as Montana, Belize, and Chile. Jack attended four years of prep school at The Kent School in Connecticut, graduating in 1946 and served a short stint in the Army prior to entering West Point in July 1947. There he found academics a continuing struggle. His roommate for all four years, being more gifted academically, undoubtedly deserves much of the credit for helping Jack get through the maze of mathematics to a final “just barely made it” graduation in 1951.

His first Army service was at the Infantry School and Airborne Course at Fort Benning. In 1952 and 1953, he served in Korea with the 40th Infantry Division and flew as spotter with the Tactical Group of the Fifth Air Force. There he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals and the Combat Infantryman's Badge as well as the purple Heart when enemy fire shattered the canopy of his plane. In 1954, he took qualifying courses for flight instructor in light aircraft – 18 weeks at Gary Air Force Base, Texas, and 11 weeks at the Army Aviation School at Ft. Rucker. In the early 1960's, his tour of duty in Europe with Headquarters Sixth Army was his most enjoyable posting, as he was able to get in some interesting travels and enjoy a bit of the “good life!” Then in 1963, he went to Thailand, where he flew helicopters and light aircraft for the Joint US Military Advisory Group until his return in 1965. From Bangkok, Jack managed his share of Rest & Recreation leave. One particular “cruise” he enjoyed talking about was of several weeks' duration, island-hopping on a freighter.

After his 20-year stint of Army and cadet service, Jack retired on 31 July 1967 in the grade of Captain and settled in Alexandria, Virginia near his mother, uncle, and step-father, L. V. Warner (his uncle's classmate in the Class of August 1917). He bought a small town house in Old Town, Alexandria and spent the next 25 years working for the Department of the Navy, first in oceanography and then as a program analyst. During these years, he found time for many trips, ocean voyages and fishing jaunts.

Jack never married but always kept in chose touch with his family and his sister (married to J. D. Miley, USMA '46) and her four children, spending many holidays and short vacations at their various homes and being in attendance at all the weddings and some of the grand-babies's events as her family grew.

His young great-nieces and nephews especially enjoyed a visit from “Scary Uncle Jack,” as he teased and played with them in his gruff manner and always brought gifts that they weren't supposed to ask for! He was still working for the Navy Department when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 1992. With his sister's help, he moved into the retirement community at The Fairfax, Fort Belvoir, Virginia and endured many trips back and forth to Walter Reed for treatment. His friends and classmates were monumentally supportive in these efforts.

By September, in weakened condition, Jack transferred to the Nursing Facility at The Fairfax and, after only a few weeks, died peacefully on rainy Sunday morning. His funeral at Arlington National cemetery on 7 October, a glittering fall day, was attended by classmates, old friends, and neighbors as well as family, and he was laid to rest in simple ceremony with military honors. The flag of our country was folded by the Honor Guard and presented to his sister Joanne.

José Andrés Chacón
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