Claude Darius Alexander
West Point, 1969
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Philip Holden on November 6, 2007:
Claude was my friend; a true and lifelong friend who will be missed dearly, and remembered fondly.
I didn't get to spend much time with him at school, until the last half of Firstie year when he joined me as a file closer. We spent many hours on the roof of East Barracks soaking up sun, playing chess and watching TV, waiting 'til we could escape to the real world.
Claude was hard core, the poster picture of what West Point represents. He never wavered, volunteering for Infantry, Ranger, and Vietnam. After he lost his leg, he kept going, perhaps even stronger. I remember a scene at the 20th reunion when we walked from the Plain to the Chapel. While many took the long way on paved roads, Claude went up the hill, making me push hard to keep up. His daughter got it right, when she said he could do with one leg what most couldn't do with two, not just physically, but motivationally as well.
Over the years we kept in touch through vacations and assignments in DC, often enjoying the hospitality of Denise and Claude at their house in McLean. We often enjoyed the interaction of Claude, Lonnie Adams, Skip Bacevich, Bill Yonoshanus, Bill Aileo, Don Crosby, Dan Balough, Joe Sebes, and John Brundage at get family togethers at each other's houses in the DC area. My wife remarked that not only did the C-1 Grads get along, but the wives and children did as well. We were really an extended family.
On one visit to Claude and Denise's house, I was particularly astonished when I saw the "new" basement that he had dug out beneath their house from what had once been a crawl space. By hand, Claude dug out and removed all of the dirt and rock. His efforts created a space over 6' tall, that spanned the entire length, and half the width of the house. A daunting task for a large crew of manual laborers, but Claude had done it himself. Then Denise came in with the "rest of the story". In the process of cutting through the cinderblock wall to make a doorway, Claude used a power saw, and created the largest mess imaginable with the powdered black dust going everywhere in the house upstairs. Denise is a saint. She didn't kill him, but she sure did tell the tale a few times with a smile. A little while later, Claude asked me to help him pour the concrete floor, which we subsequently did in 90 degree heat, which with the curing concrete, raised the temperature of the 'basement' well into the 100s. The mistake I've gotten into in working with Claude is that you are tempted to keep up with his pace, and not wanting to be the first to call for a break. The new space gave Claude a place for his workshop and a wine cellar. He kept it stocked with a variety of fine wines that I was able to savor over the years. Claude never liked being in debt, so when I was building our house in Florida a few years later, he came down to help, and worked just as hard - about killing me to keep up.
There was a soft side, as well. At the wedding of Lonnie Adams's daughter, Claude, Bill Yonoshanus and I watched Lonnie walk Mary Francis down the aisle. Lonnie had been recovering from a stroke, and we didn't know if he could make it. When he did, I looked over at Claude, and he was crying with the rest of us.
Much has been said of his work recently at Walter Reed, but I would hasten to point out that this was typical Claude. He has always been helping others, in a quiet way, not seeking recognition or reward.
Claude was a great man, and words cannot convey his selfless heart or the good that he has done for so many. I will really miss my friend.