Johnnie Sewell is gone, not forgotten
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
A great tribute to a brave young man.
I must admit that a tear welled in my eye as I read the article in the Enquirer by guest columnist Gary Lawrence the week of May 27, which I might add was one of the best articles I have read anywhere recently. Gary, a high school friend and teammate of mine, told of another teammate and friend, Johnnie Sewell, who gave his life for this country in a far-off war called Vietnam.
His words were a great tribute to not only Johnnie, but also to all the young boys who paid the ultimate price. To Gary, who I and many of the people of Hartselle and his classmates have not seen in a long time, "what a great article," and "thank you" Enquirer staff for publishing it.
Johnnie was not only a brave and dedicated soldier, but he was also a tough as nails athlete. Not very big, even for that day, but he was tougher than anybody he came up against.
He and I were the defensive ends on the 1965 Morgan County High Tiger football team and I found out pretty quick that every team we came up against liked to run at me because they knew they weren't going to gain much ground if they ran to Johnnie's side.
One day in practice, Coach Cain lined Johnnie and I up against each other in a one-on-one blocking drill. Thinking back, I think Coach did this just for his own amusement 'cause I think he had a pretty good idea what was going to happen. On the first play, Johnnie hit me so hard it knocked my helmet down on my face, breaking my nose and blood went everywhere. I still remember the sly smile Coach Cain had on his face. Personally, I didn't see anything to smile about.
Usually it was Johnnie with the bloody nose, but this time he saw to it that it was me! Yea, everyone that played football on those Tiger teams of those years remembers Johnnie and his bloody nose. He literally had blood all down the front of his jersey everyday. Once I saw his nose begin bleeding during warm-ups.
Johnnie was called to serve his country soon after graduation in 1967 and he went about it the same way that he did everything, to the best. He went on to Jump School at Fort Benning and became a member of the 101 st Airborne Division.
He was killed in a firefight with North Vietnam regulars in July of 1968.
I, like Gary, visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. and, although I knew many more names on that wall, Johnnie was the first I looked-up. I still have an etching of his name.
I read where a famous general during World War II made the statement, "Where do we get such men?" after viewing the carnage of a major battle.
I believe that statement is true for the young men and boys of my and Gary's generation that went off to that terrible war and suffered so greatly, all because their country asked them to.
For those too young to remember, our country was in great turmoil during that time and I remember a World War II veteran saying something to the effect that, "the younger generation would not sacrifice like his generation did."
I think he was wrong then and I think that belief is certainly proved wrong today. Look at the great sacrifice this younger generation is making for this country today.
The "greatest generation" may have come along during World War II, but this new generation of Americans are pretty darn "great" themselves.
Yes, Gary you wrote a wonderful tribute to all that have so bravely served this country from all generations, but I, like you, remember and miss Johnnie the most.