Thomas Michael Hayes
West Point, 1969
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Ron Male on February 6, 2012:
Don reminded me that I should write this. I've got a good excuse, honest.
We didn't know each other at school nor during our entrance into the Army at the Benning School for Boys. Our first meeting was the beginning of March 1970; you had just been moved from C Company over to HHC as the new Recon Platoon leader. It was the 6 AM morning formation on your first day with HHC; an announcement was made for the Battalion CO that all leaves were canceled until further notice - you were standing next to me and swore out loud when formation broke. I asked what was wrong, and you said you had to tell the CO that you needed to go on leave; I learned the details later. And who should immediately walk past us - the Battallion CO. You stopped him by saying, "Sir, I have to go on leave this week." That stopped the LTC pretty fast, and as he was barking at you, all I could think was, "This guy either has a lot of sand, or else he is pretty stupid...." At that point, the only thing I knew about you was your name. You had to report to the LTC's desk at 8 AM; the next day you had left for the states, and I didn't see you again for two weeks - you were waiting for me to return for supper from the field at the Baumholder mess hall with a big smile on your face. Every day after that was pretty much an adventure for us until we left for RVN. We worked like dogs the whole time and laughed out loud through most of it.
I got to know you well in a short time period because we were always under pressure. You had sand - lots of sand - you had no problem standing in the face of adversity. You were also an imp - you would dream up some kind of prank that kept all the LTs in hysterics. Bill said it best - we always knew you were dreaming up a new scheme; we were always off-balance wondering whom you would pounce on next. You had a Dr. Jekyll - Mr. Hyde personality that could change in an instant, switching between LT Serious to Mr. Prankster - you knew when it was time to work and time to play. From you I learned that there is no situation too important that cannot be interrupted by some laughter; that was a gift you gave me. The most common question I have been asked by others is why you had this dual persoanlity trait. My explanation has been that you had one year as a VMI Rat, immediately followed by a second year as a WP Plebe, so you obained a different view of the world than most of us possessed. You were very sane and rational; you simply had a different mental slant, and it made sense to me.
There are many tales of your humor that I can't tell here, but I'll give a few examples. We were in Mainz with short haircuts, and all the good-looking girls were across the Rhine River in Wiesbaden; you convinced your roomies Johnsmeyer and Knoll that you needed wigs so you could go to the dance clubs to cruise chicks and not get rejected. Later the three of you showed up at work in fatigues, with baseball caps sitting on top of the wigs. There was the day the Bridgade CO tried to motivate the officers through embarrassment; he publicly stated no one could drive their vehicles past HQ without a vehicle breaking down. You stepped forward and said you accepted the challenge, on the condition that a monetary transaction be involved in the result. A debate followed over the amount of the bet and a date was set. You had your platoon lined up in its vehicles outside the kaserne when the CO was driven in to work on the designated morning; your platoon proceeded to drive passed the CO standing outside HQ. No sooner had he walked back into HQ with his staff following when one of your vehicles broke down; you quickly had the vehicle towed to the motor pool out of sight, and then you went into HQ and collected your bet money. There was the day we jumped into Italy and later got into a fight with the Italian officers after alcohol was introduced into the gesture of NATO cooperation. And you managed to date the daughter of the Brigade CO over an extended time without her father ever finding out. I would ask you how you managed that, and you always replied that an officer is a gentleman and does not discuss matters involving ladies. And there was the day The Three Amigos threw a party at their house, when the German police arrived because rockets were being fired from that GPS location. And there was the day you barfed on me when we were on a ski trip in the Alps. It got so we would break into laughter when we first saw each other at the beginning of the day before we even started talking. It was always that way throughout the years; the only time I ever spoke to you when you didn't laugh was the day you told me you had two weeks to live. You taught those around you that life was for living.
Laughter was only part of why I liked you - you had character, what I referenced earlier as your sand. You truly lived your life following the section of the Cadet Prayer about "doing the harder right rather than the easier wrong." You knew when it was time to be responsible and face hard decisions; you knew what fear was and stood up to that. You didn't try to impress anyone; you simply did what you believed needed to be done. To quote the Command Sergeant Major in a conversation with me: "Sir, LT Hayes knows what it means to take the gloves off."
There are many examples of your serious commitment to work; I'll let the guys read your memorial article for that. Our LT group all believed you should have reached the rank of general. For your memorial article I interviewed your Corps commander when you had your brigade command; he had nothing but praise and respect for you. He said it was a tragedy that his assistant commander had to die in a helicopter crash and a tragedy that you were the unit commander when someone had to assume responsibility for the accident.
Because of space limitations for the memorial article, I had to leave out the story about the police chasing you in a speeding car and your refusal to pull over because you were late getting to the hospital for the arrival of your son Patrick - and then you proceeded to crash your car and convince the police to drive you the rest of the way to the hospital. And the story of your ordering 125 hamburgers, flying through a snow storm to the burger joint, and delivering them to your brother Jim's company stranded in the field. I would get letters from guys I knew in the Army who had met you and wanted to tell me their story of what happened when they worked with you. There are so many stories that reveal your humanity and character.
And then there is the little matter of the nickname you gave me at breakfast one morning. That thing stuck like glue - our company commander was using it by noon time and still does today. And the wives at the O'Club that evening were using the nickname and have ever since. It's a dumb name, but it is like a family nickname, and you became part of my family.
I miss you, Tommie.
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