Thomas Matthew Rienzi
West Point, 1942
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by John Rountree on December 18, 2010:
I recall General Rienzi as a Bigger than Life general who always made you feel like you were the most important person around when he was talking to you. At a summer party at Snuffy's, I became his fill-in aide and he asked me to keep him supplied with drinks. I recall him telling me to order two drinks at a time and he wanted them in tall glasses (I think they were Gin and Tonics). When I delivered the first round to him, he held one in his hand and put the other in his shirt pocket so it would be ready when he needed it. Later that night, I had to get back to post before the General was ready to leave. He told his driver to take a couple of us back to the Academy in his staff car with his red General Flag flying as we returned to post. He was the main person who convinced me to go Signal.
Another time in Vietnam, Gen Rienzi came to I-Corp headquarters at Camp Horn, where I was stationed as the CO of the 270th Signal Company. I had been told by my nervous Battalion CO the Gen Rienzi had requested that I meet him at the Officers Club where he would be having lunch with the Commander of I Corp and the senior staff. Naturally I
was early waiting outside the O Club when Gen Rienzi's jeep pulled up. He leaped out as I saluted and came over and grabbed my hand and started shaking it as he drew me in for a pat on the back...treating me like a long lost friend. I was in awe how he made me feel so important. He kept gripping my hand as we talked and I tried to look up and see his face, but being so tall and held so close to him, the bill of my fatigue hat partially blocked his face. Seeing this, Gen Rienzi reached down and flip the bill of my hat straight up so I was standing there looking like Glimpy from the Bowery Boys. Within 30 sec. after he flipped my brim up, the Commander of I Corp along with a 1 star and two colonels came walking up. I saluted them with my bill bent up feeling like an idiot when General Rienzi proceeded to tell them that "Rountree here is one of the best Signal Officers in all of Vietnam and you are lucky to have him supporting I Corp. He's a good man!" Though Gen. Rienzi made me feel proud, the looks I got from the I Corp staff made me wonder if they truly believed a word he said about a guy who wore his hat like Glimpy. To me he was the most charismatic leader I ever served under, and I would have followed him anywhere. May he rest in Peace. Tree
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