In recognition of Memorial Day, I reviewed the list of fallen classmates we lost in Vietnam. While many of the names I recognized and can say that I knew several of them, I was not confronted with losing a company mate or close friend from my academy days. However, there is one name that stands out and it is James “Woody” Woodrum. Although Woody and I were in the same Battalion at the Academy, I do not recall any classes or activities we shared—he was probably smarter and did not have to endure the high numbered sections where many of us on the lower end of the academic order of merit took up residence!
However, Woody and I were assigned initially to the same Squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis, WA he to command a platoon and I to the Howitzer Battery as the Assistant Executive Officer (XO)/Fire Direction Officer and then as the XO.
Woody was on one of those short tours to prep him for Vietnam, his personal goal to deploy there and serve as soon as possible. I was on a regular tour that would end a bit early, and I would deploy later. Woody had a young lady, Pat, who hailed from the Central Valley, N.Y. area or thereabouts, close to the Academy. Shortly after being assigned to Fort Lewis, they decided she would join him until it was time for him to go overseas. My wife then, Diane, and I were living in a pleasant apartment complex in Lacey, WA, and we convinced Woody that he and Pat should get a unit there, which they did. Pat and Woody were married before he deployed, and Diane and I had the privilege of standing up for them at that ceremony. The four of us became quite close friends during the several months they were together. It was not much longer before he departed to fulfill his career goal and Pat returned to New York. Several months later I found out that Woody had been killed in Vietnam; of course, it was before the days of email and social media, so I still wonder how I learned of his demise, perhaps a phone call or note from a classmate or an Army Times notice. I was acting Battery Commander still at Ft. Lewis at the time and passed this information on at the next Command and Staff meeting. I still recall the Squadron Commander rather than leading us all in reflecting on his passing, he semi-admonished me by saying we should not be putting out this kind of information without some official confirmation. But that is another story about this commander and his strange leadership style. Woody was one of the most positive and gung-ho officers I had the pleasure of knowing and I am sure he served his troops and comrades well in Vietnam. His loss, as many of our classmates and soldiers in general, is a tragedy that tugs at my heart strings even today.
Woody is buried at West Point and I visited his grave during one of our reunions. Unfortunately, we did not keep contact with Pat so I am not sure what her life became after losing such a loving spouse. On this and every Memorial Day, I shall reflect on the loss of all from the Class of 69 during that conflict but will especially have Woody in my thoughts and prayers.
Pete Drower says
I recall Woody from some classes as a quiet, considerate nice guy. Not a bad epitaph.
Denis Gulakowski says
Nice memory Tom.
Sometimes it’s the simple things that make a big impact.
Jesus Valdivia says
Good Afternoon LTC Mastaglio, my name is Jesus Valdivia Jr, University of Colorado Freshman Class 1979, and one of your students for the MS2 Class, I totally understand if you are right now going who the heck is this. However, I do believe that things do not just happen, there is always a purpose and our lives are already written in a magnanimous book by the all mighty and we merely players and going through the motions.
If that is the case I am forever grateful that I enrolled and rejoin the ROTC program after a sabbatical from High School. The reason that you left such a long-lasting and affectionate memory on me was because, after a presentation to the class from one of your assignments, you took me aside and talked to me, not in a patronizing sort of way but one of encouragement. I can still quote your words ” Mr. Valdivia I know that you prepared for your presentation and knew the subject better than anyone in the room, but I am sorry I could not understand a word you said in there, it might be because you are so used to thinking in your native language than try to translate it at the same time. But it is nothing that cannot fix all we have to do is have you read books, magazines, newspaper anything that comes your way and then we will sit and talk about the subject. I did that for an entire semester and by the end, I could carry on a conversation with the best.
A year later transfer to Metropolitan State College of Denver, but continue in ROTC graduating and receiving my commission as a 2LT US ARMY Chemical Corps earning one of two regular Army Commissions, and my first assignment was as a Platoon Leader for the 63rd/89th/507th Chemical Detachment, 3rd Armored Cavalry
Regiment “Brave Rifles”, and yes I also earned my Spurs, Stetson, and Saber.
Again that story would have gone totally different if you would have just no cared to let me know that my problem had a solution and all I have to do was to focus on the solution and not on the problem.
Again a very sincere thank you from a fellow trooper “Brave Rifles, Veterans; Blood and Steel, Ahi ha”
PS, I achieved the grade of Captain and was involved in the certification of the Patriot Missile System.
Donald R Moeller says
Hi LTC Mastaglio
Thanks for your memorial for John Woodrum. I was a classmate of his at Clairemont High School in San Diego. Since I flunked out of college and got drafted, I deployed as a medic to Vietnam in 1968. I did not learn of John’s death until 1980 when I was in a surgical residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It was from a West Point classmate of his who was assistant chief of anesthesiology at WRAMC. (Bill Illingsworth MD LTC USA MC) small world.
Thanks again for bringing his memory to mind.
Don Moeller DDS MD LTC USA DC (ret)
Rick Dienel says
My dad was stationed at West Point during Woody’s years there, and our family was lucky to have him as one of “our” cadets. Pat and Woody were frequent guests in our home, and both my brother and I have fond memories of the couple. His loss is still felt.