Sunday, June 20, 2010


Yesterday I attended the funeral of a family friend. Jack Wiggins, who was 92 when he died, had been a family friend for as long as I could remember. He was also an invisible warrior (black men and women who served during World War II). When I started working on my book, I drove 50 miles from my home in Raleigh North Carolina to his home in Nash County. When I got to the house I knocked several times, but no one answered. I later learned Mr. Jack, as we knew him, no longer lived in the aging, clapboard house he had lived in when I was a child. He had moved into a mobile home behind the house. That was two years ago. I planned to go back to interview Mr. Jack but never found the time – now I have lost my chance to interview him. Another warrior has taken his story to the grave.

After the funeral, I talked to Mr. Jack's son and his younger brother, but neither could give me much information about this warrior's service. His son, Toby did remember his father mentioning that the father had been a truck driver in the Army. Toby also believed his father served in Europe. I went to and found Mr. Jack's enlistment information. In 1942, Mr. Jack received his draft notice; he enlisted in the Army on April 30, 1942. As a truck driver he was probably assigned to a quartermaster unit. He may have been a part of the Red Ball Express: one of World War II's most massive logisitics operations, namely a fleet of over 6,000 trucks and trailers that delivered over 412,000 tons of ammunition, food, and fuel (and then some!) to the Allied armies in the ETO between August 25 and November 16, 1944, Or he may have been a truck driver in Italy where my uncle drove trucks.

I do not know how Mr. Jack felt about serving his country. I imagine he faced the same racism other warriors faced. I have no way of knowing how Mr. Jack handled serving in a segregated army. He grew up in North Carolina and probably had personal knowledge of bigotry. Still he fulfilled his commitment to his country, came home to his wife and child and went to work on my family's farm. My parents and the Wiggins quickly became close friends.

I remember Mr. Jack as a very handsome, gentle, and understanding man. His wife, Betty Blanche, who died in 1975, had been one my mother's closest friends. In my mother's later life Mama and Mr. Jack, the widow and widower spoke by telephone twice a day. My siblings and I were indebted to him for his friendship with our mother in her later years.

Now this warrior is at peace. I never got the chance to thank him for his service or his friendship with my mother. As an Army soldier folded the flag from Mr. Jack's coffin, and a bugler blew taps I stood at attention and rendered a salute. Then I silently mouthed, 'Thank you Mr. Jack for paving the way for me to serve my country.'

The men and women of the greatest generation have passed the baton to my generation and they a taking their well deserved rest.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


  1. This is a lovely and touching tribute to him:) Learning more and more that we need to honor the people in our lives.

  2. Beautifully written Sharon. I am certain Jack Wiggins would have felt honoured by your post.


  3. Sharon, What a lovely tribute to your friend you've written here.

    My father was a JAG during WWII. I remember as a child being shocked to learn that the army had been segregated at that time.

    He also told me a story that continues to haunt me, of a black soldier who was court martialed for going about a hundred yards off base to a bar, while white soldiers who did the same thing got off with a reprimand.

  4. Thank you Margaret. Is your father still living? I'd like to interview him if possible.