In Memorium: Tribute to 82nd Airborne Paratrooper Sergeant James Blue
82nd airborne patchI will never forget the morning in May of 94 as I was walking through the General Lee museum and had a chance encounter with First Sergeant James Blue. James had always been one of my heroes. And, over the years, we had talked airborne talk many times. I was fascinated and often overwhelmed with James as in my view, he was the epitome of the American paratrooper. That morning as we talked about our shared experience, James said to me, "You know I'm an 82d man"-and as all of us know-James was loyal to the 82d Airborne Division. But, he went on to say, "You know what we need is a book about this great man here and he walked over and pointed at the Rendezvous with Destiny speech of General Lee". And, then James put his hand on my shoulder and said, "You're just the person to write it." And, he ended it with the word, "airborne!"

Before I made a final decision on writing the book, I called and talked to James. He sent me a wonderful packet of material that inspired me to push on. Later on, I made a trip to Dunn and we spent a day together going to some of the historical sites and visiting the 82d Airborne Division. I listened to him. It was like living history. I asked James how he decided to become a paratrooper. He said it was while watching one of the early airborne demonstrations arranged by General Lee. James was standing on the side of the field watching and suddenly, he said, "I knew in my heart that my destiny was to be a paratrooper."

For me, 1st Sergeant James Blue is a national treasure, a Dunn Treasure. The poet Flavia said, "some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others come and touch us and we are never ever the same again." 1st Sergeant Blue touched my life.

Mrs. Blue and all the family, may God bless you richly. The spirit of this great man will forever be a part of all of us. So long and Airborne, First Sergeant.

Jerry Autry Chaplain (Colonel), U. S. Army Retired
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