Reuben Louis Garnett, Jr., was killed on March 4, 1966, in My Phu, Vietnam; he was serving in the First Brigade, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. During that fateful day, he left cover to rescue his wounded comrade, Lt. Harry Godwin. He had already, according to his comrade, Rene Reyes, already “saved my life,” and others. For which, we are endeavoring to upgrade his Bronze Star.
The news of his death was delivered by the Steelton, PA, Taxi Company, Saturday, March 5, 1966. No uniformed person came to break the news. The Taxi Driver asked our baby sister, Tracie, to ask parents to come to the door!
My Mother was initially rejected by the American Gold Star Mothers’ Harrisburg Chapter, because the membership did not want her because of her being a Negro. This set into motion complicated grief issues for me and a 49-year odyssey to have Mom respected at the highest level of the AGSM. A hometown friend, Susan George (a white woman) stepped in and was instrumental in accomplishing this goal.
A city councilwoman from Steelton, spearheaded a Memorial commemoration for the four military personnel of our hometown, lost in Vietnam. The Italian Club of Steelton donated a beautiful monument in Veterans Park with the four carved in Granite. Susan George and her friends purchased a “paver” and had it installed in the Park, as well.
In September of 2004, Reuben’s comrades from the First Brigade gave Mom, Mrs. Bertha Ellen Garnett, and me an all-expense paid trip to the Brigade Reunion in Mesa, Arizona. Reuben’s comrades were absolutely loving.
Rene Reyes’ son Anthony (Tony) had been honoring Reuben for years, in gratitude of Reuben saving his Dad’s life. We found this out because my daughter saw it on Facebook. Subsequently, we were able to connect. Rene came to Steelton and met us and was with us this very date, one year ago. We have been connected as loving family ever since.
Mom is 90. Dad died and was buried beside Reuben exactly two (2) years after Reuben.
Every day, I get tears in my eyes. I miss my brother. We have three sisters — Lise, Janine, and Tracie. Reuben dearly loved us all. He was our hero long before Vietnam.
Read more: Veterans remembered at parade in Steelton