James Ray Sargent – Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps

  • Date of Birth: 2/28/1950
  • Date of Casualty: 5/10/1968
  • Home of Record: ANAWALT, WEST VIRGINIA
  • Branch of Service: MARINE CORPS
  • Rank: LCPL
  • Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
  • Casualty Province: QUANG TIN
  • Status: MIA

Once-missing Anawalt Marine receives burial in Arlington National Cemetery
Posted: Friday, October 07, 2005

An Anawalt Marine missing in action since 1968 was laid to rest Friday during a solemn group interment at Arlington National Cemetery.

The identification of the remains of Lance Corporaql James ”Jimmy“ Sargent was announced by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office in early August.

Sargent was a fair-haired youth growing up in the O'Toole section of Anawalt during the 1950s. He attended Anawalt Junior High School, but dropped out of school to join the Marines.

The son of Millard and Izettie Sargent, Mrs. Sargent was not happy about her son's decision to join the Marines during the Vietnam war, Sargent's sister, Alice Faye Davis, recalled. ”My mother kept refusing over and over to sign the paper. He wanted to go and serve his country. He wanted to do something good.“

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A promise kept: Marine fulfills 15-year vow, offers closure to MIA’s family
September 1, 2005
By Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin, MCB Camp Pendleton

Gunnery Sergeant Mark Oliva made a promise to never forget the name of the Marine Vietnam War veteran engraved on the steel band he’s worn on his right wrist since high school.

Oliva, a 14-year Marine veteran, also vowed to return the bracelet to the veteran’s family if the Marine ever returned home.

Now, nearly 15 years after he first put on the bracelet bearing the rank and name of Lance Corporal James R. Sargent, Oliva will finally be able to keep his promise.

Sargent’s remains were positively identified last month by the Department of Defense along with 11 other U.S. servicemembers who went missing in action during a 10-hour battle with North Vietnamese forces at the Laos-Vietnam border May 9, 1968.

The remains of five of the identified servicemembers are being returned to families for burial, while the other seven, including Sargent, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., on October 11.

In a few weeks, Oliva will personally return the bracelet to Sargent’s family at the funeral.

“I don’t want to take it off,” said Oliva, who contacted Sargent’s older sister, Alice Faye Davis, after discovering Sargent’s remains were positively identified. “It’s been such a part of me.”

“I think it’s great, and I thank the Lord every day for Mark,” said Davis, 61.

Davis and another brother donated blood to the DoD to help identify Sargent through a DNA match. When the match was made, Davis said the news hit her and the rest of Sargent’s family hard, especially after 37 years of not knowing what happened to her younger brother, who she knew as “Jimmy.”

Oliva found out about the identification of Sargent’s remains from a DoD press release early last month. He noticed the date the MIAs were listed missing – May 9, 1968. Oliva’s bracelet bears Sargent’s MIA date as “10 May 68.” Quickly noticing the similar dates, Oliva reviewed the list of 12 names. He could not believe Sargent was among the dozen.

“It just hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Oliva. “I said, ‘Holy cow, this is my guy.’”

Shortly after the discovery, Oliva’s wife contacted Davis about the bracelet. Davis said she felt enlightened to discover someone had remembered her brother’s sacrifice and honored his memory for so long.

“She (Oliva’s wife) contacted me and told me he had been wearing the bracelet longer than they’ve been married,” said Davis, who resides in Sargent’s hometown of Anawalt, W.Va. “To have someone wear a bracelet for that long … I can’t even put it into words.”

During a 1990 trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, Oliva, in high school at the time, “met” Sargent when he came across a vendor selling Vietnam prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action bracelets. Reaching into the box of bracelets, he pulled out a red bracelet bearing Sargent’s name. He put it back and reached into the box again, hoping to find a missing-in-action/prisoner-of-war bracelet bearing the name of a Marine closer to his own hometown of Londonberry, N.H.

Again, he withdrew Sargent’s bracelet. He put it back in the box again, and withdrew it a third time.

“It dawned on me that maybe this is the one I’m supposed to have,” said Oliva, the public affairs chief for 1st Marine Division.

The only time Oliva removed the bracelet from his wrist was when he attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., he said.

At the time of his enlistment, Oliva was less than a year older than Sargent at the time of his enlistment in 1967.

Davis recalled Sargent – one of 13 siblings – as a “fair-haired teenager” who convinced their mother to allow him to enlist in the Marines to get out of the small town they lived in.

He went to Vietnam shortly after boot camp and his follow-on training, said Davis. “He aggravated my mother until she let him go in the service,” she said.

She would never see him again.

But now, 37 years later, Oliva’s simple promise has turned into closure for Davis and the rest of Sargent’s relatives. Davis received no personal affects from her brother after he was listed missing in action.

While the bracelet offers additional closure to Davis, meeting the man who bore her brother’s name for so many years has added extra comfort and a sense of familiarity between her and the branch of service her brother served in so many years ago.

“I felt like I knew him (Oliva) a long time,” said Davis, who is the mother of seven children; one of whom served six years in the Marine Corps as an infantryman. “When I think about him doing this for Jimmy, he’s a hero too.”

For Oliva, returning the bracelet and “bringing him (Sargent) home” is comparable to the fatherly relief he experienced in Iraq whenever his Marines returned from a mission “outside the wire” and out of harm's way.

“It tears you apart to have to send them (outside the wire), but you feel great when they come back safe,” he said. “It’s the same feeling with this bracelet. Now, I can send this Marine home.”

Originally, Oliva was intending to mail the bracelet back to Davis. But after considering the 15 years of countless deployments Sargent’s memory has traveled with him to – Africa, Iraq, Cuba, Haiti, Alaska, Albania – Oliva decided it would be best to deliver the bracelet and to tell Davis in person, “your brother was loved by his Marines.”

“We have an unwritten rule to take care of each other as Marines,” said Oliva. “To look her in the eye and tell her, ‘we never forgot your brother. He’s that important, just like every Marine is important.’”

Oliva will be making his third deployment to Iraq next year, his first in 15 years of service without Sargent’s name on his wrist.

Though he’ll miss bearing Sargent’s name while he serves abroad, Oliva said he plans on selecting another bracelet, another Vietnam veteran’s rank and name to bear, instead of Sargent’s.

“It’s a promise you make. By putting that bracelet on, you are telling the family, ‘Hey, I’m going to remember this guy,’” he said.

  • DATE OF BIRTH: 02/26/1950
  • DATE OF DEATH: 05/10/1968

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