John Willie Caldwell – Sergeant, United States Army

This is submitted in eternal, loving memory, by his daughter, Simone U. Caldwell-Philson:

My father, John Willie Caldwell, was born on 20 January 1942 in Rockhill, South Carolina.  At the age of 17, he joined the U.S. Army in hopes of a better life.  Sergeant Caldwell was a dedicated soldier who served his country proudly.  He had many assignments during his 13 years of continuous service and served in the Vietnam War.

On 18 July 1972, my father died a tragic death as a result of a self-inflicted gun wound at our military home located at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. I still can't believe he shot himself on my brother's birthday!  Sadly to say, he never truly found that better life he was searching for.

He was finally able to rest in Arlington with a full-military funeral on a very hot day in July 1972.  His permanent address is Section 52, #467, Weitzel Drive, Arlington National Cemetery (his is the one with the dent in it from where the lawnmower damaged it).

I was only 7 years old at the time, but I remember the funeral as if it were yesterday.  And to this day, I cannot listen to TAPS without tears streaming down my face (whoever composed TAPS knew exactly how to tear into your heart & soul with just a few notes).  I believe what was left of my father's spirit was killed while in Vietnam. He was nothing more but a shell of a man upon his return to us and he simply finished the job.

Sergeant Caldwell leaves behind my mother, Jacquie Ursula Caldwell; two sons, John and Maurice Caldwell; five grandchildren, Bianca, Tierra, Jordan, John and Dorien; and myself.  I visit him anytime I am in the Washington, DC area.  My father may be gone but he will never be forgotten.  And so shall the many, many honorees buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

P.S. Daddy, I still have that postcard you sent while in Nam marked “free postage” with the two little bears on it written in your broken English. In addition to your Rosary beads that I am sure you held tightly and prayed would keep you safe while you were in those jungles.  We all forgive you. May you rest in eternal peace.

I Love You,

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