Claude Darius Alexander
West Point, 1969
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by John Brundage on November 26, 2007:
I always looked up to Claude.
Like most plebes, I was young, scared, and inexperienced. Claude had been in the Army — and wore jump wings on his chest. He was proud of his prior service but not boastful. He was tough but not angry. He was quiet, self-confident, witty, and smart but never arrogant, condescending, or self-important. He seemed fearless. I wanted to be like him — and to be in the Army with soldiers like him.
We knew Claude by his actions — not his words.
Recently, Lonnie Adams and I asked Claude why he joined the Army after high school. “To jump out of airplanes." We asked him what he did in the Army before West Point. “Artillery.” We asked him why. “Didn’t have a choice," he sniffed with a twinkle in his eye. We asked him why he chose infantry after graduation. “To be in the fight.”
Claude didn’t brag about his extraordinary work with wounded warriors at Walter Reed. True to his nature, he responded to the call to help soldiers in need — like he did in the teeth of an ambush in a jungle clearing in Vietnam more than three decades before. We never asked what he thought about “duty, honor, country" and "selfless service.”
… ‘nuf said.
To Claude, there was no such thing as an obstacle to be avoided — only challenges to be overcome. His determination and self-reliance were legendary. Like many classmates, Claude bought a Corvette. But Claude almost immediately began “upgrading” it … “to make it faster.” Within a few weeks of leaving for Vietnam, in the driveway of our rented house in Fayetteville, from materials never seen or imagined on a sports car, Claude fabricated and installed a super-sized muffler and a giant pair of outrigger exhaust pipes. The engine growled like any angry pit bull — you could hear him a mile away. Through sweat, blood, blisters, all-nighters, trials, errors, disappointments, stubbornness, ingenuity, and a blow torch, Claude overcame every obstacle except one: ground clearance. The car scraped bottom when it entered and left the driveway … never came close to clearing a speed bump. Claude’s ‘vette wasn’t “street legal”— but it roared and was FAST. (The improved “performance” was objectively documented — by the North Carolina highway patrol).
At his core, Claude was curious, smart, adventurous, brave, loyal, generous, and totally dedicated to his family, friends, fellow soldiers, classmates, and West Point. We who were his friends and classmates were particularly blessed. From the beginning, he blazed a trail and showed us the way. He made us feel good about ourselves and made us laugh — a few times, he made us cry. Always, he made us proud.
Claude, we miss you and will never forget you. Well done. Be thou at peace.
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