James Ralph PacePrivate First Class
H&S CO, 1ST BN, 4TH MARINES, 3RD MARDIV
United States Marine Corps
14 May 1947 - 21 March 1966
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The database page for James Ralph Pace
I was Ralph's sixth grade teacher at Oakhaven School in Memphis in 1958-59. It was my first year to teach, so all the children in that class have a special place in my heart ... but certainly, none more than Ralph. He was a precious child, so sweet and accommodating ... and oh, so smart! Ralph was one of several who would frequently finish his regular class work before others did. For him and two or three others, I set aside a special table, loaded with extra books ... some, my college texts ... and other challenging things. We even conducted some frog dissections with the help of my college biology book and dissecting kit!
Ralph enjoyed learning about everything. He loved poetry and learning poetry. He frequently took poems to memorize. We would discuss them ... I wanted the children to be impacted by the beauty and meaning of the poetry, and not view poems as just words to learn to recite mindlessly. Ralph particularly liked Kipling's "If". The poem takes one through a list of events that if experienced successfully will lead to the conclusion, "You'll be a man, my son!". Ralph liked all the parts of the poem, and I got the feeling then, that he had set his mind on finding out what all those "if's" were about.
Time passed, and one terrible day in 1966, I saw on the television news that Marine Private First Class James Ralph Pace had become Shelby County's twenty-third casualty of the Vietnam War. And oh, I cried. It just couldn't be true, but it was. I went to Whitehaven and visited Ralph's family. His mother told me that the poems had great meaning for him, and that some were found in his belongings that were sent home. Even now in 2004, I cannot speak of him without emotion.
Recently I came upon a box of mementos from my early teaching years, and there was a school picture of a smiling Ralph. Beside that sixth grade picture was a clipping and picture of the same smiling Ralph in his Marine uniform. It was the picture that had been printed in the paper to announce to the world that on one sad day on the other side of the world, a fine eighteen year old had left childhood behind. I know he had passed all the tests, and that he had become a man, as Kipling's poem promised. I only wish he could have someday become an OLD man.
I have found Ralph's name each of the three times I have visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington. I can't quite reach it, but I can see it. It means so much to have a memorial. And, it means I have to cry again.
From his sixth grade teacher,
Ralph, me and my friends still remember you warmly. You died with honor. We were stunned when we learned about your death. We are proud of you and your family. We will always remember you and hold you in highest esteem. Thank you, Ralph.
From a high school classmate,
A Note from The Virtual WallDuring Operation TEXAS, elements of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 4th Marines engaged in a bitter fight at Phoung Dinh, about 14 kilometers southwest of Binh Son, Quang Ngai Province, on 21-22 March 1966. Twelve Marines and one sailor were killed in the action:
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 29 Jun 2004
Last updated 08/10/2009