18 Jan 2006
Roy is my youngest brother. His family misses him very much, but know he is now safe in the arms of our Lord. Our memories of Roy are very precious to us. I thank you for serving and protecting our country, Roy. Roy was one of the most friendly people I have ever known. He was loved by many. My husband, Billy, was the last of our family to see Roy. They saw each other in Viet Nam. I love you, Roy.
Roy's friend John Petty, stationed with him in Vietnam, visited with the family in May, 2004. He related his memories of Roy to us. This was such a touching and memorial experience that we shall always treasure. Family "Thanks" go to John Petty for contacting and visiting with us.
This is the newspaper interview with John Petty on his visit with Roy's family. Written By Lauren LeFleur, it was published in the local Jacksonville, Texas, Daily Progress on Memorial Day, May 31, 2004.
Contact with anyone who knew Roy would be appreciated.
With love from his sister,
Eletha Nolley McIntyre
One of Jacksonville's own was killed in action 35 years ago in a land that he would have probably never seen had he not been drafted.
Two years ago, the remaining members of his family got a surprise the likes of which movies are made - one of the soldiers who served with their brother sent them an e-mail.
Lee Roy Nolley, born Nov. 21, 1948, died in Viet Nam on April 5, 1969 when a "hostile mine detonated," according to the telegraph his parents received April 9 that year.
Nolley's family had received a few letters from him while he was serving, and after his death they discovered the letters he had left behind in Jacksonville detailing how he wanted his funeral and how to spend his life insurance money in case he didn't come home alive.
However, the family had never even seen a picture of him in Viet Nam.
Many years passed, and one of Nolley's cousins placed a memorial to him on www.vvmf.org in 2000. His sister, Eletha McIntyre, soon added her memorial to the same site.
Two years later, McIntyre received an e-mail from someone half a country away who could finally help the family piece together the last days of their fallen soldier-son.
"I almost deleted it because I didn't know who he was," McIntyre said of the e-mail she received.
"When I ran across it to delete it, it highlighted my brother's name, so I opened it, and he went on to tell me he had served with Roy."
The letter she received was from John Petty who currently lives in Oregon, but who once, long ago, shared a life with her brother.
"We might have been in different platoons at the very beginning when I first got there," said Petty, who arrived in Viet Nam in January 1969. "By the time I met Nolley, he was seasoned, experienced, knowledgeable, level headed and brave, and he was a big boy."
Petty described Nolley as a man having "uncommon valor."
He told the family Nolley was a gunner - he carried a machine gun in the field and acted as the first line of defense when fighting occurred.
"It took a person of unusual and rare skill and talent" to do what Nolley had done while serving, he said.
Petty spent time with Nolley's family, telling them that the soldiers moved during the day and fought at night.
"Most of the times I remember with Lee Roy were the times in between the nights," he said.
"(In) the day times, we'd be kind of strung out walking somewhere," he told the family gathered around McIntyre's dining table. "We might be out in the field for three to 10 days.
"We'd be re-supplied by helicopter with water, ammunition and, maybe if we're lucky, a letter from home."
Petty told the family details about what fighting was like for their brother as well as how the soldiers handled times in between battles.
"You don't converse and set up a big dialog because you're giving away your position unnecessarily (when moving during the day)," Petty told the family. "But when you get to where you're going, you have these little side discussions and these little friendships.
"There were these quiet times that we had together. The times that we had together in the evening, that was when we made our friendships (and) told each other what it was like at home, what girlfriend they were getting a letter from or, big joke, 'Your mom still loves you.'"
"It's an in-between time; it's not safe. These times at night is when we got to know each other, we got to learn about our families back home - the bonds were growing."
Petty said that even though his time with Nolley was short because he "left us" just a few months after Petty met him, the soldiers became fast friends.
"He was smart, he was brave, (and) he's about the best friend I ever had or will. I don't think I'm going to meet very many people in this life that are going to measure up to him," Petty said.
Petty told the family several stories about their brother during his tour of duty - especially one night when Nolley had pulled Petty aside for a conversation.
"I'm never quite really sure what he meant by this, but one night he said, 'John, if we get a hand grenade, don't do anything. I'll take care of it,' and I have no idea what he meant.
"It could be he would find it and throw it back, he would put his pack on it or it might have meant he would put himself on it. I thought, 'This is a person I can totally rely on.'"
"He just didn't have any particularly redeeming bad habits that I could think of," Petty told Nolley's family.
"But we did talk a lot about our families and our life at home, and it was clear to me that he had a core of faith that kept his backbone hard as steel."
Petty also told the family about one of his fondest memories of Nolley - a humorous story about him building a hammock frame and a small tent out of a pancho so he could relax.
"He's sitting there with his butt hanging about 6 inches off the ground in this hammock and I'm waiting for the sun to go down so I can be cool, and Lee Roy had figured out how to find shade and relax in Viet Nam."
The most heart-wrenching story for everyone was the story of Nolley's last day, though.
Petty told the family they had survived an ambush with no casualties, so "losing Nolley was a terrible shock."
"Nolley was about, I'd just guess, 50 feet away. I was kind of turned to the side, and I heard a really large explosion.
"It was not a hand grenade, it was not an RPG - it was something big."
Petty said the explosion could have been from an unexploded artillery round or a mine the enemy snuck in after the fighting.
"I heard this huge explosion, and people were calling his name. I was very upset (and) a kind of a red film came over my eyes. I felt anger the kind that I had never felt ever before. And that was the last time I saw him."
That wasn't the end of the story of Nolley's last day, though.
"There's an important part of this story I don't want to leave out, and that is that the night before Nolley's last night with us, he had also spent some time with another soldier.
"I forget his name - a new guy, a young guy - and later that following day he told us not to worry.
"He said that Nolley had told him that night that he had been visited by the Lord and told not to worry, things would be okay."
Even though Petty lost his best friend 35 years ago on the field of battle, he still remembers him and cares for him deeply.
"I'm just really proud that he picked me to be his friend," he said. "I feel so honored."
While visiting Nolley's surviving family - his sister, McIntyre; his brothers, Fred and Tommy; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws - Petty and his wife, Wanda, visited Nolley's grave.
"We're down here to honor Lee Roy," Petty said.
"I'm going to get to go visit the grave of my friend - it's been 35 years. They were kind enough to send me digital pictures on the Internet."
"But I want to go there and be there - just be there (and) spend a little bit of time with my best buddy. He's the person that stuck his neck out for me, who protected me, who supported me, who loved me. He was a good man. Lee Roy was an exemplary human being, and if he'd completed his tour on November 9 and been shipped home, he would still be my best friend. We're here to honor a fallen warrior. He died with honor, serving his country. This is the highest category of sacrifice."
Memorial Day, May 31, 2004
By Lauren LeFleur, Progress Writer
Reproduced under 17 USC �107