John Grady Wilkes

Staff Sergeant
Army of the United States
29 May 1946 - 21 February 1970
Nashville, Tennessee
Panel 13W Line 042


Bronze Star (2 awards), Purple Heart, Army Commendation, Army Good Conduct (2 awards), National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for John Grady Wilkes

19 Jul 2002

John Grady Wilkes was born in 1946 in Nashville, TN, the son of Walter Alonzo and Grace Wilkes. He was the third of five children. Grady was known by different names to different people -- Johnny, Beau, and Grady. Grady attended Hume-Fogg High School; and in 1963 joined the Army where he found his calling and he loved it. When he was 20 years old, he married Brenda J. Martin by whom he had twin sons, Wesley John and Leslie Grady Wilkes. Later, Grady had a third son, Garner Eugene Mangrum, who was adopted by his stepfather.

He received basic training at Ft Polk, LA, and went on to additional stateside assignments before serving his first tour in Vietnam. He felt very strongly about the Army's involvement in Vietnam and a soldier's responsibility to do the job he was assigned to do. He had served two tours of duty in Vietnam before being killed during his third tour. Grady's name is one of those listed on the Nashville monument dedicated to the servicemen who died in Vietnam, "Davidson Countians Who Made the Supreme Sacrifice - Vietnam" located near Memorial Bridge in downtown Nashville.

During the fierce protests against the war in Vietnam in the '60's, Grady wrote a letter home to the local newspaper:

Draft Dodging Crybabies Make Viet GI Sick

To The Editor of the Banner:

I am a soldier in Viet Nam. I am in a little place called An Khe. I am in the 70th Engineer Battalion and we build just about all the roads and do construction in the area. I operate a road grader 12 hours a day and sleep the other 12. Once in a while, I get lucky and get to read the Stars and Stripes and what I see on the pages about college crybabies just about makes me sick.

There's not much a guy can do about it while he is halfway around the world, but when I come home I'm going to try to do something about it. I just hope the boys back in Nashville aren't doing any of this silly protesting because I have lived in Nashville just about all my life and it sure would make me feel bad to pick up the paper and read where Nashville boys are in on this draft-dodging game.

They don't know the first thing about Viet Nam and I would be willing to say they don't even know what is going on over here.

I am proud to fight for my country and I will be proud to give total sacrifice if it ever comes to that. I just want you to know that at least Nashville is doing its part over here in this hell-hole. So please feel proud of Nashville.

On 21 Feb 1970 he made the "total sacrifice" along with over 58,000 others. He died while serving with Company A, 65th Engineering Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam. While on a mine clearing mission, Grady drove his vehicle into an old French mine field where he sustained fragmentation wounds to the head and abdomen. There were two other versions of his death, so we'll never know what actually happened. Grady's posthumous medals were presented to Momma - the Bronze Star with OLC and V device, Purple Heart, and Army Commendation Medal as well as others.

Grady was a good-looking young man. He stood 5'11", 200 lbs of lean hard muscle; olive complexion with black hair and hazel eyes. He had an outgoing personality and was always laughing. He died doing what he believed in; his life and his death were a tribute to America.

For 23 years and nine months we shared his life. For his family, his light will always shine brightly. He was my big brother and to me he will forever be 23 years young.

Glenda Wilkes Atwood

25 Mar 2003

I have not had the opportunity to say this before now, or a medium to say it, but I loved my father very much. The older I get the more I understand the sacrifice and reasons he made it for this country. Yes, I lost my father, but the world gained another person that has paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. I respect that and admire him for doing what needed to be done. I wish I could have spent some time with him, and he with me, but that was not what needed to be done.

Daddy I love you and will see you again some day, I am not so selfish that I regret the time we did not have together, I know the time we will spend together will far outweigh our physical lives.

Love always
Your Son
Leslie Grady Wilkes

15 May 2005

My name is Amanda Jeanette Clouse. I am John Grady Wilkes's niece. I never got to meet him and have only seen him in pictures. He was a brave and inspirational man who fought for our country. One day we will get the chance to see him. Every day that passes is just another day closer to seeing him in heaven. One day we will all reunite as one. We will be one big happy family!

Love always and forever,
Amanda Clouse!

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 08/10/2009