* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
How I got my appointment to West Point
In 1938, when I was five years old, our family moved from Hohenwald, Tennessee to a delta cotton farm at Paynes, Mississippi left to my father and his siblings by my paternal grandfather, Dr. Thomas Jefferson Denman. Paynes is located on MS Hwy 35 in Tallahatchie County, just north of the Ascalmore Creek. The “Old Home Place” was just south of the creek.
My father grew up on that farm, and among his many friends was Jamie Whitten. The Whittens lived in Charleston, the County Seat of Tallahatchie County, about five miles north of Paynes. Jamie was elected from the 2nd Mississippi District to his first term of Congress in 1942, and while I was in grade school at Paynes, he told me that if he was still in office when I graduated from high school he would appoint me as a candidate to one of the military academies. Fortunately for me, Representative Whitten was reelected 25 times.
In the summer of 1946, just before I entered the 9th grade, our family moved to Sardis, Mississippi, and I graduated from Sardis High School in a class of 34 students in the summer of 1950. True to his word, Jamie Whitten appointed me as a candidate to West Point, and I took the entrance exam at Hot Springs, Arkansas the spring before I graduated from high school. On the entrance exam, I was introduced to calculus.
[I remember thinking that those odd little symbols might be Egyptian hieroglyphics, an opinion I maintained throughout my math classes at West Point.] Fate intervened (or logic prevailed), and I failed the math exam by 10 points narrowly missing entering the Academy with the Class of 1954.
When I got the rejection letter, I was embarrassed and disappointed, but there were distractions. Sardis is about 35 miles, as the crow flies, from Oxford, the home of the University of Mississippi, better known as the Ole Miss Rebels. One of my summer jobs in high school was lifeguarding at the beach on Sardis Lake. During long lazy summer hours on the lifeguard stand I had an opportunity to carefully observe Ole Miss Coeds, and I became convinced that my calling included “higher education” and law school at Ole Miss. But when Jamie Whitten offered me another shot at West Point, the sound of distant drums and flags snapping in the breeze overshadowed even the sound of gentle breezes in the magnolia trees at Ole Miss where my father had been a KA and classmate and friend of William Faulkner. I took some exploratory classes in math, history, English, and French at Memphis State University; retook the math exam and passed; got a waver on height; and headed for the Point in June of 1955.
Before leaving for the Hudson Valley, I had never been north of Nashville, and strongly felt there wasn’t much up there worth seeing. Boy was I wrong. I visited with cousins on Long Island for a few days and cousins in Ridgewood, New Jersey for a few more, and then drove with the New York cousins up 9W to West Point. When Upper Classmen would brace me during Beast Barracks and shout, “How did you get here, dumb smack,” I would respond, “Political pull, Suh!” – And, that’s really how I got there.
I admit that on that June morning when I stood proudly and patriotically with my Yankee cousins outside the Central Area sally port my world view was very small. I had no idea what “Duty, Honor, and Country” would come to mean inside those bleak stone walls. But, at least I was more aware than our unidentified flanker classmate whom I overheard telling his cute blond girlfriend that he was just going to run inside, drop his bags in his room, and be right back out.
23 AUG 2010
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jerry Linwood Denman
USMA, CLASS of 1955
Jerry Linwood Denman, the second son of Kenneth Arlington Denman and Evelyn Terrell Denman was born on 28 November 1932 in Memphis, Tennessee. Two years later, the family moved to Hohenwald, Tennessee; and then, when Jerry was five, to the Denman farm in the Paynes community in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi on the edge of the Mississippi delta. Jerry’s boyhood years were spent in this rural area where his paternal grandfather had been a country doctor.
He attended grade school at the Paynes School and spent his afternoons and summers exploring the hills that rose gently from the delta along the eastern edge of the Paynes community, riding his pony, possum hunting with his cousin in the hills, swimming in the Asclemore Creek, fishing for crayfish in the drainage ditches on the Denman farm, and for bream in the Blue Hole on the edge of the farm and in delta lakes with his father.
In the summer of 1946, the family moved north about fifty miles to the town of Sardis, Mississippi in Panola (the Choctaw word for cotton) County. Jerry attended Sardis High School where he played football and added bass fishing, squirrel hunting, life guarding, the saxophone and girls to his interests. Jerry graduated in 1950 as president of a senior class of thirty-four members and a 145 pound linebacker on the state-champion football team.
He was appointed as a candidate for appointment to West Point by Jamie Whitten, Congressman from the 2nd Mississippi District and after passing the entrance exam entered the Academy as a member of the Class of 1955. Jerry began his military indoctrination in Runt Company 6 in South Area for Beast Barracks. After Beast Barracks, Jerry was assigned to Cadet Company M-1 in South Area. His roommates included Dan Moses, Paul Martin, Durf McJoynt, and Tom Turner, and Bob Brown. Though never in serious trouble academically, he had to fully utilize study opportunities, some after hours. It might be noted that Jerry was disappointed but relieved to learn that the weird stuff on the math entrance exam was calculus and not Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Jerry went to West Point planning to be a fighter pilot, but when during Cow Year the Flight Surgeon tested his eyes and then asked him if he brought his dog, Jerry’s plans changed. He selected Infantry as his branch choice and assignment to the 11th Airborne Division that had been alerted for deployment to Germany. With dreams of the autobahn, the Alps, and German automobiles on his mind; Jerry went home to Sardis, Mississippi to enjoy his graduation leave before reporting to Fort Benning, Georgia for the Basic Infantry Officers’ Course and Jump School.
One of the highlights of his graduation summer was a trip to Mexico with classmates Jim Napier and John Myers. It was when they returned to Memphis that Jerry, on a blind date, met Anita Corinne Haney who completely changed Jerry’s vision of the future. He proposed before leaving for Fort Benning in August and they were married in December in Memphis.
Denied concurrent travel for Anita to Germany on completion of jump school and pathfinder school in January 1956, Jerry chose to remain at Fort Campbell in the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team that became the nucleus of the 101st Airborne Division when it was reactivated as an airborne unit at Fort Campbell 26 September 1956. Secretary of the Army Wilbur M. Bruckner and the Army Chief of Staff, GEN. Maxwell D. Taylor, presented the colors of the 101st Airborne Division to MG T.L. Sherbourne, the first commander of the new ROTAD airborne division. This was the official ceremony reactivating the famed "Screaming Eagles" of World War II.
Jerry gave the Youngest Graduate response at the Founder’s Day Dinner at Fort Campbell that year. Classmates at Fort Campbell during this period were Fred Bliss, Dick Cheesborough, and Chick Chikalla.
Assigned as Rifle Platoon Leader in Company C, 2nd Airborne Battle Group of the 187th Infantry, Jerry spent most of that first winter in the field with a summer sleeping bag and a leaky air mattress. Jerry and Anita’s first daughter, Dianne, was born in October 1956. When he was promoted to First Lieutenant, Jerry was assigned duties as Company XO. In the summer of 1957, expecting orders to Korea, Jerry was posted to the Army Language School at Presidio of Monterey, California to study Persian with subsequent assignment to MAAG Iran.
Jerry left Anita and Dianne in Memphis to await the birth of a second daughter, and traveled to Monterey to begin language training. Andra was born on 5 November, and Anita and their two daughters joined Jerry in December of 1957. Jerry finished language school first in his class in 1958 and settled Anita and the girls in Memphis before departing for Iran.
Upon arrival in Tehran in October 1958, Jerry was assigned to Training Team 6 in Mashed, about 600 miles northeast of Tehran. Jerry served as advisor to an Iranian Infantry Regiment. The regiment had three infantry battalions which rotated between the regiment’s headquarters and training base in Mashed and duty along the Russian and Afghanistan borders. There was an Iranian Cavalry Unit in Mashed next to the regiment Jerry advised, and Jerry enjoyed riding with the unit or using one of their horses to check the Infantry Regiment’s training at the training base. While in Iran, Jerry acted as best man at the Tehran wedding of classmate Elisha (Mike) Gallup.
Returning from Iran to Fort Benning in 1959, Jerry was assigned as a member of the Map Reading Committee at The Infantry School in the world before GPS. The Denman family lived off-post until quarters became available on Candle Drive. Surviving the Infantry School faculty Murder Board experience, Jerry taught map reading to students in the Basic Infantry Officer courses, OCS classes, and the Ranger School.
A third daughter, Lou Ann was born in Memphis in August 1961, and Jerry was assigned as a student to the Advanced Infantry Officers’ Course at Fort Benning. The Denman family moved into larger quarters on Arrowhead Road. Upon Jerry’s graduation from the Advanced Infantry Course in 1962, the family moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where Jerry was assigned to the 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry, and 82nd Airborne Division. He served first as a Battle Group staff officer and then commander of Company E. During his command, the company was deployed to Columbus, Mississippi when James Meredith entered Ole Miss as its first black student. Shortly after his company returned to Fort Bragg, the division was alerted for the Cuban Missile Crises. One of his fond memories of his time as a company commander was a letter from General Mark Clark for a briefing as the commander of the Immediate Ready Force to a visiting group from the Citadel.
In the spring of 1963, Jerry was selected to serve as Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier General Willard Pearson who had just been assigned as Chief of Staff of Headquarters Land Southeast, NATO headquarters responsible for the LAND DEFENSE OF Greece and Turkey. Jerry traveled to Turkey with General Pearson in April, and Anita and the girls joined him later that summer. While in Turkey, the Denman family enjoyed trips to the Aegean beaches, Ephesus, and other points of interest. The Commander of Land Southeast was Lieutenant General John H. (Iron Mike) Michaelis who had commanded the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division in Normandy. … patch reversed.
Returning to Fort Campbell in 1965, Jerry served as a staff officer and then Assistant G-3 Operations, 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell. In the year that Jerry served on the staff, Fort Campbell trained and deployed over 40 units to Vietnam. In 1966, Jerry volunteered for service in Vietnam where he joined the 1st Brigade (Separate), 101st Airborne, then commanded by Brigadier General Pearson. Jerry served as General Pearson’s Brigade Adjutant until he turned command of the Brigade over to Brigadier General Salve H. Matheson. After the change of command, Jerry cut his own orders for assignment as S-3 of the 1st Battalion, 327th Airborne Infantry. During his tour in Vietnam, Jerry was decorated twice for valor. Returning to the United States in 1967, Jerry was assigned to the training staff at Continental Army Command Headquarters at Fort Munroe, Virginia. After only a year at Fort Munroe, the Denmans moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where Jerry attended the Command and General Staff College.
Upon graduation in the summer of 1969, the Denman family moved to Arlington, Virginia for Jerry’s first Pentagon tour where from 1969 to the summer of 1972, he served in the Army Training Directorate. In June 1972, the Denman family made a month-long journey from Arlington to Fort Richardson, Alaska pulling a 22-foot travel trailer behind their 1967 Oldsmobile.
Memories made on that trip are still talked about at family gatherings: KOA campgrounds are always next to railroad tracks, trailer closet rods won’t hold a family’s clothes, don’t take shortcuts in Canada, don’t stick your head out of the car window in a dust storm, the glamorous campsites listed in Mile-Post Magazine haven’t been built yet, the state bird of Alaska is the mosquito, don’t stop at a campground in a gorge when rain is forecast- even to see the glacier.
While waiting for the battalion he was to command, Jerry was temporarily assigned to duty as the XO of the Alaska 173rd Snow Hawk Brigade command by Colonel Rufus Lazzell. When the 4th Battalion of the 23rd Infantry became available, he assumed command of the Tomahawk Battalion. The two years the Denmans spent in Alaska at Fort Richardson were among the most memorable of their Army life. Little did he realize that Alaska, and specifically Anchor Point would come to play a major role in his life… but more about that at its proper time.
Following a successful battalion command, Jerry received orders to attend the Army War College in 1974. In June of that summer, the Denmans traveled back down the ALCAN Highway en-route to the Lower-48 and Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. In one of those Army-life moments, the North American van hauling their household goods from Alaska caught fire on the Alaska Highway. When their smoky things were delivered to their quarters at Carlisle Barracks, the salvageable items were placed in the basement of their quarters. That night the rains came, and the storm drains backed up into the basement. Having survived fire, and flood, the Denman FAMILY waited anxiously for pestilence. Thankfully, it never came. The two oldest Denman daughters, Dianne and Andra, graduated from high school in Carlisle and left the nest to begin their college education at Abilene Christian College in Abilene, Texas.
Jerry returned to the Pentagon after War College where he Jerry served in the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. The Denman family moved back into their house on Irving Street in Arlington right across the street from the Arlington church of Christ where Jerry served as an elder. Jerry reported to Fort Campbell as Deputy Post Commander in the late spring of 1979 while Anita and Lou Ann remained in Arlington until Lou Ann graduated from Washington & Lee High School. After graduation and the Arlington house was sold, Jerry and Anita were back at Fort Campbell for the third time. Lou Ann emptied the nest that fall when she followed her sisters to Abilene Christian University.
Jerry retired at Fort Campbell in the spring of 1983. His honor guard consisted of platoons from the 187th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Jerry’s first unit of assignment in the 101st Airborne Division; and the 327th Parachute Infantry, the unit he had served with in combat in Vietnam. It might be said that Jerry and Anita’s Army life together was marked by a journey across Fort Campbell. They began as newlyweds in one-bedroom apartment in Wherry Housing on the north side of the post; when jerry was promoted from company to field grade they were in three bed-room Capehart quarters in the middle of the post; and they finished their Army life together in Cole Park on the south end of the post.
Jerry took an early retirement to accept a position on the staff of the Quince Road church of Christ in Memphis. He and Anita returned to Memphis where they had begun their life together and moved into a house that they had bought while they were at the War College that was three blocks away from the church building. It was while he was serving on the Quince Road staff that he was invited to join the staff of World Christian Broadcasting. Jerry resigned as a minister at Quince Road but continued to serve the congregation as an elder until in the summer of 1988, he and Anita moved to Abilene, Texas, the location of the administrative offices of World Christian Broadcasting.
In Abilene, Jerry served as the Director of Development for World Christian Broadcasting and as an elder at the South 11th & Willis church of Christ where he and Anita worshiped. In 1993, When World Christian Broadcasting consolidated its administrative offices and studios in Franklin, Tennessee, Jerry and Anita moved to their vacation home in the mountains of Western North Carolina just north of Asheville where he continued serving on the World Christian Broadcasting staff. In 1996, after his second by-pass surgery, Jerry resigned from the staff of World Christian Broadcasting, and in 1997, he and Anita moved to Decaturville, Tennessee in Decatur County which runs along the west bank of the Tennessee River south of Interstate 40 and where both of Anita’s parents had been born. And so another Southern legend is proven true:
“A Southern Belle may join the Army Blue
And travel round the world with you,
But when in time you cease to roam,
She will surely take you home.”
Jerry and Anita lived in Decaturville longer than they lived anywhere else. There they were active members of the Beacon church of Christ where two of Anita’s cousins served as elders. In 2003, Jerry was invited to join the board of World Christian Broadcasting. World Christian Broadcasting has owned and operated Station KNLS, an international short-wave radio station in Anchor Point, Alaska since July 1983 when it began broadcasting in English, Russian, and Mondrian Chinese. Jerry has made a number of very enjoyable trips to the Kenai Peninsula to visit the station and to reduce the population of Silver Salmon in the Anchor River and Halibut in the Cook Inlet.
World Christian Broadcasting is constructing a second short-wave station on the island of Madagascar off the eastern coast of Africa. That station is scheduled to begin broadcasting in the spring of 2012. Adding Arabic and Spanish to its broadcasts, World Christian Broadcasting will be able to reach over 90% of the world’s population from its two stations. It also operates websites in English (www.worldchristian.org), Chinese, Russian, Arabic, and Spanish.
In the spring of 2010, Jerry and Anita bought a house in Sardis, Mississippi, the place where Jerry went to high school and from which he entered West Point 59-years earlier. While in Sardis (“NOT Sawdust, SUH!”) Jerry and Anita are members of the church of Christ in Como, just north of Sardis, and Jerry served as chaplain of the Sardis American Legion Post.
In his life, Jerry made the circle from Memphis, Tennessee where he was born to Sardis, Mississippi from where in 1951 he entered West Point, through an Army career as an Infantry officer from Fort Campbell around the world and back to Fort Campbell; and then, upon retirement, back to Memphis and eventually back to Sardis. And from Sardis, Mississippi, he “turned again home.”
In Rose Hill Cemetery in Sardis is a black granite tombstone, and on that tombstone are carved the names of Jerry Linwood Denman and Anita Haney Denman; and on that tombstone are carved the words,
“HERE A SOLDIER AND HIS WIFE AWAIT THE TRUMPET CALL”