Small Town Veteran

Baby boomer, nerdy kid, Viet Nam veteran, engineer, daddy, grandpa.
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An Alphabetical Guide to my SGT Jack Gell Collection

Updated 2004.12.02

An Alphabetical Guide
To My
SGT Jack Gell

A birthday thought from Jack Gell's sister

A Homecoming

A Letter From SGT Gell

A note from SGT Gell's widow on his birthday

Carol Crowley remembers her father, Jack Gell

Carol Crowley's Jack Gell Page

Carol Gell Crowley's Sept 12 Kerry Lied Speech

Gary Dunlow on SGT Jack Gell, Birthdays, and Cakes

I think Jack Gell would want to help you, Brianna

Is SGT Jack Gell's Family Looking For You?

Latest Addition β†’  John Rangel remembers Jack Gell  ← Latest Addition

Kerry smeared a hero: my dad

Reflection of a Homecoming

Remembering SGT Jack Gell

Tell My Wife I Love Her...

Posted by Bill Faith on December 2, 2004 at 05:11 AM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I think Jack Gell would want to help you, Brianna

Brianna, when SGT Jack Gell died for his country he left behind three small children. The youngest was 16 months old, only a little older than you. I think he'd want people who come to my site to read about him to also take time to read my Caring for Those Left Behind post. Actually, I'm sure he would.

Posted by Bill Faith on December 2, 2004 at 04:59 AM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

John Rangel remembers Jack Gell

John Rangel sends these memories of Jack Gell:

Jack Gell and I were stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. We knew each other then but did not get to really know each other until we shared the same cabin aboard the ship that was taking us to Viet Nam. At night we talked a lot about our families and how much they meant to us and how hard it had been to leave them and how much we missed them. He told me about his wife Becky, his little girl Bonnie, his son Jay and his baby girl Carol. He also told that they had stayed in Columbus, Ga. I told him about my wife Shirley, my son Steve (2yrs.old) and my son David who was 10 months old. Since Shirley and the boys were staying in Columbus too, we thought it would be a good idea for the two of them to meet. I wrote to Shirley and told her about Sgt. Gell's' wife and the children. I suggested that she look her up.

When we docked in San Diego, He went ashore and met with his mom. He was very happy to see her and spend some time with her. He was one of the few who actually got to meet with family members on that stop. I have often thought about how special it was for him to be able see his mom before we continued on our way to Viet Nam.

As we continued on our journey, we would talk about our mission and how we felt about what we were doing. We felt we were doing the right thing and we were both so glad that our families were safe in the United States. Neither of us knew anything about War, except that we had been training for it. We knew the situation was very serious and there was a possibility that we might not make it back home alive. When our ship finally docked in Viet Nam and we were ready to leave our cabin. We exchanged these words," If something happens and I don't make it back, will you look after my family." We told each other that we would do this. We both cried as we shook hands and embraced each other. And then we left to join the rest of the men on deck.

On November 14th, 1965, Gell was killed in the Ia Drang Valley Battle. I was wounded and then sent to Letterman Gen. Hospital in San Francisco. Three months later when I was released from the hospital and went back to Columbus, Ga. I met Becky and the children for the first time. We have a very special friendship. Shirley and Becky are best friends, our children are like brothers and sisters. They became a part of our family and we love them dearly.

I will close by saying, " Happy Birthday my friend and you will never be forgotten."

John Rangel Jr.


Thank you for sharing that with us John, and for your service to our nation.

(Please click here to see my entire "Sgt Gell" collection.)

Posted by Bill Faith on December 2, 2004 at 04:57 AM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Remembering SGT Jack Gell

Today is Jack Gell's 64th birthday, or it would have been. SGT Jack Gell, U.S. Army, gave his life for his country in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Viet Nam, and was buried with full military honors in the Fort Benning, GA, cemetery on Nov 29,1965. The next several posts below this one will be devoted to memories of Jack Gell. If you knew Jack, please click the "Comments" link below this post and share your memories. I'll check periodically and copy your comments into the main body of the post.

Rest in peace, SGT Gell. You are gone but not forgotten.

(Please click here to see my entire "Sgt Gell" collection.)

Posted by Bill Faith on November 30, 2004 at 05:34 AM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A note from SGT Gell's widow on his birthday

An excerpt from an email from Rebecca Gell Workentine, Jack Gell's widow:

I thank you for your sensitivity, & for doing this to honor Sgt. Jack Gell (Jay, as I knew him!), on this, what would have been his 64th birthday.

This poem comes from the 'Golden Book of Poems".
It so describes those of us whom God leaves behind!

For A Birthday

This would have been your birthday, had you stayed.
You would have been--how old?
I cannot think.
I only know that still the golden link
Encircles us.  Insatiate years have laid
Relentless hands upon me;  have betrayed
The youth that rivaled yours.  Now, on the brink
Of every birthday, impotent, I shrink
Before the years I cannot well evade.

But birthdays of the dead may come and go
Without recording;  for these, Time stands  still.
This is the benison the living know.
And somewhere--somewhere just beyond the chill,
You wait, where all the flowers, unfading, blow--
Forever twenty--on a little hill.

                            Ruth Crary

See, more of the bittersweet. The beautiful memories make it worthwhile. Jack lives on in our hearts, through his family  & those precious memories.

(Please click here to see my entire "Sgt Gell" collection.)

Posted by Bill Faith on November 30, 2004 at 05:32 AM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A birthday thought from Jack Gell's sister

From an email I received from Jack Gell's sister yesterday:

Dear Bill,


My sister had a dream about Jack last night and he looked great and told her all was well with him. She said the funny thing was he looked so young and we were so old looking. I had to laugh because we are old looking, and he will never be old looking in our eyes. Just like him to pop into our dreams and let us know all is well in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now to wish our brother a Happy Birthday!!!! And tell him thanks for his prayers and visit, We Love you very much We miss you, but since you are so alive in our hearts It's like you never left us. Happy Birthday Jackie Love you always

Frankie and Buttsie

(Please click here to see my entire "Sgt Gell" collection.)

Posted by Bill Faith on November 30, 2004 at 05:29 AM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Garry Dunlow on SGT Jack Gell, Birthdays, and Cakes

From Garry Dunlow, who knew Jack Gell as a Soldier:

Birthday and Cakes

Today would have been Jack's, (or as I addressed him SGT GELL's) Birthday.

One of the fondest memories I have of Sgt. Gell is sharing a cake. Not a birthday cake but as he told me himself, his very favorite, Pineapple upside down cake.

It was a day I will never forget, the day we departed Ft. Benning for little known place called Viet-nam. We had departed Ft Benning by buses headed for the ships at the Ports Charleston, S.C. I was a RTO assigned to Sgt. Gell's com. group. Having that good fortune I was seated next to Sgt. Gell on the bus. As we travel half an hour or so I couldn't help notice a white box neatly tied up with a string. Well I couldn't hold back any longer, so I just blurted out " Sgt. Gell what's in the box?" Response was "something special made by someone special". (I met that someone 30 some years later) He went on to tell me it was his favorite, pineapple upside-down cake made by his wife. He went on to say he was going to have it after he was settled in on the ship. Well as luck would have it, that's my favorite cake also, and he couldn't wait to get on the ship. He shared that cake with me and a few others until it was all ate.

So whenever I have pineapple upside-down cake I think of Sgt. JACK GELL. KIA NOV.14,1965 at the battle in Ia Drang.

I hope that today his Birthday, GOD shares a pineapple upside-down cake with SGT. GELL.

Garry Dunlow
A 1/7

I hope so, too, Gary. Thank you for your letter, and for your service to our country.

(Please click here to see my entire "Sgt Gell" collection.)

Posted by Bill Faith on November 30, 2004 at 05:27 AM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Carol Crowley remembers her father, Jack Gell

I received this letter from Carol Crowley yesterday, on the 39th anniversary of her father's funeral.

"I spoke to my Mom today. I called to see how she was, 39 years later after losing my Dad. November is a hard month for her every year. My father died on Nov 14, his body arrived home on Thanksgiving day, my sister Bonnie's birthday is Nov 22, my father's funeral was the 29th and his birthday the 30th.  She said it would not have been right to bury him on his 25th birthday. All I can do is call her and let her know I am thinking about her, and I love her.

My Mom is so wonderful to me. She has endured more than most people and she has been my strength through tough times in my life too.  I know from talking to her and my Aunts that my Dad loved her more than anything on this earth. His wife and children were the most precious thing to him. He took with him, pictures of his beloved and beautiful wife and kids, a lock of hair from Bonnie and Jay, and my 'binky' pacifier. My Mom said, he was not afraid of fighting for a country he loved, but he feared most not seeing us again. My Mom kept my father alive in us, and against the odds, he lives on. A few years back, she gave me the binky .... and when I face difficult times, I clutch it, because I know I have survived worse things in life. It is my 'memento' that helps me realize that life is so much bigger than obstacles.

We always had pictures of my father up. My stepfather, John, was supportive of that, being in the Army as well, he understood our loss, and appreciated the sacrifice. It is most likely that he was put in my Mom's life because she needed someone like him who was not intimidated, but understood. He has always been supportive of that. He is a true blessing to all of us. And my Father's dear friend, Johnny Rangel, made a pact that if either did not make it home, the other would look after the family. Johnny did that and is still a big part of our lives today.

In 1992, our family met Hal Moore and Joe Galloway, at the book signing of 'We were Soldiers Once.,..and Young". We learned things about our father's death that have become significant in his memory. (Such as his dying words, "Tell my wife I love her...") His comrades and friends, Tony Nadal, Bill Beck, John Clarke, Garry Dunlow, Ron Sleeis, Lt. Marm, Southern Hewitt, and many others welcomed  us into the First Calvary family. Tony Nadal was his company commander, and wept at meeting us, and in front of "The Wall', we stood there with him, and my Aunt Mary and Aunt Fran. I never thought that looking at my Dad's name on a wall could be so emotional. We all stood there, crying, hugging, and comforting each other. The men who served with my father, and saw him die, had now met his family. Some had been to our home when we were small. Some had never met us before. All had a common bond. For some, meeting us brought forth guilt that they came home, and he did not. For some, they had lost children of their own, so meeting us was difficult and incredible at the same time. For years that followed, we all formed friendships and  a unique bond.  Lt. Moore would look at me, and I would see this deep sadness. I understood that look. He loved his men so much. I know it was hard for him to lose even one. He wrote in my book, "You father was a true American Hero, loved by all. You WILL see him again one day." Hal and Joe Galloway are two very special people to me and my family...for their courage to tell this story of how bravely our men fought in Vietnam, and how valiantly so many died, has a permanent impact on so many. It has taken me years to digest and comprehend what I (we) lost. My family was deprived of knowing this wonderful man, and that is what still hurts so deeply today.

Jack ("Jay") Gell is gone, tragically taken from a family who still loves and misses him, but he is not forgotten, and will forever be alive in the hearts of his wife, children, sisters, and friends. And to my Mother, who means the world to me, I love you so much. Thank you for making me all I am today, and for sharing our Dad's memory and stories with us."

Carol also sent me a copy of this article, which ran in the Charlotte NC Observer as part of their  Memorial Day 1999 commemoration.


She never knew him, but each Memorial Day she digs into a jewelry box and pulls out a broach with his photo and pins it to her clothes.

In the photo, he is young and strapping, dressed in Army khaki.

Carol Gell Crowley never knew her father, Sgt. Jack Gell, because on Nov. 14, 1965 - before the Vietnam War tore his country apart - his unit was ambushed along a dry creek bed in the Ia Drang River Valley of South Vietnam. It was among the war's first major ground battles.

Gell had volunteered to carry the company's radio. In a burst of fire from the North Vietnamese, a bullet ricocheted off a tree and hit him in the chest. His dying gasp: ``Tell my wife I love her.''

Crowley was 16 months old. Her father was wearing her pink Binky pacifier around his neck. She grew up listening to stories about him, especially on Memorial Days. Her mother flew a flag, said a prayer for her father and other fallen soldiers, and made sure he lived on in his three children.

``When I was younger, his death affected my brother and sister more; they are older'' (brother Jay was 3 then, sister Bonnie, 6), said Crowley, 35, a mother of four. She, her siblings and mother, Rebecca Workentine, all live in Charlotte.

``It wasn't until I got older and had children of my own that I became aware of what I really missed out on. I never had a relationship with my father, but I grew up loving him and feeling as much pride for him as any daughter would for her father.''

Her parents met in Aiken, S.C., where Workentine grew up and was a waitress at a restaurant during her last year of high school.

Gell had grown up in Rochester, N.Y., and joined the Army at 17. He was stationed at a missile site near the Savannah River defense area when in June, 1958 he walked into the Oyster Bay Restaurant with Army buddies.

Gell saw her across the restaurant and requested her section. He pointed her out to his buddies and reported ``That's the girl I'm going to marry.''

They married four months later, and daughter Bonnie was born in November 1959. When she was 6 months old, Gell shipped out to South Korea with the 1st Cavalry Division for a yearlong stint.  Returning, he was reassigned to Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., where they had a son, Jay, and then Carol.

In August 1965, orders came for Vietnam. For days, they talked - she weepingly - about what she and the children should do if he didn't return.

``I'm a professional soldier, and I want to be buried at Fort Benning with a full military funeral,'' he told her.

The day he left, he took a lock of hair from Bonnie and Jay, along with Carol's pacifier - he thought it was time she gave it up. At the base, he told the commanding officers he'd forgotten something and returned to the family's trailer alone. On a mirror in their bedroom, he wrote in red crayon: ``I love you Beck - your Jay.''

He was the first Vietnam War casualty to be buried at Fort Benning.

The Defense Department telegrammed the family of his death; a Western Union courier delivered it. His company chaplain was outraged at the treatment, and persuaded a CBS reporter to do a story. He interviewed Rebecca Gell, who talked about how upset she was over how the Army notified her. On the ``CBS Evening News,'' anchorman Walter Cronkite ended the story, saying: ``One widow speaking for many.''

After that, officials set a policy that an officer and chaplain accompany death telegrams. Nine years later, she remarried, to John Workentine, himself an Army man. She joined Gold Star Wives of America, a group for people who lose spouses in war. Each of the children got a Gold Star pin, signifying a survivor of a fallen soldier. On occasions like this weekend, they all wear their Gold Stars.

In 1992, the family went to Washington and the Vietnam War Memorial - ``the wall'' - to celebrate a book about the Ia Drang battle. They met many of the men Gell fought with, and through their stories and others, Carol Crowley came to know her father.

She has only a vague memory of him: There's a Christmas party. She's tired and a man in black combat boots carries her to a car. She doesn't remember his face.

She keeps a photo of him on a table.

``He never got to know us and his grandchildren,'' she said. ``At one point, the school system didn't honor Memorial Day, and that offended me and I kept my kids out anyway. I know through our loss that Memorial Day is something that should not be taken lightly.''

(Please click here to see my entire "Sgt Gell" collection.)

Posted by Bill Faith on November 30, 2004 at 05:13 AM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Carol Crowley's Jack Gell Page

How have I gone this long without mentioning the web page Carol Crowley created to honor her father, Sgt Jack Gell? Go there. Now. 

Posted by Bill Faith on November 23, 2004 at 01:36 PM in Sgt_Gell | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Is SGT Jack Gell's Family Looking For You?

This webpage is is authorized, acknowledged, and made possible, by Jack Gell's wife, Rebecca, and daughter, Carol.

Jackgell1stcav_1 Jackgell1stcavface2
Jack Gell x4
Jack_gell_face_2 Gellguitar

Jack and Rebecca Gell, Jack with Jay, Bonnie, and Carol. One last family picture:
Jack_rebecca_wedding2_s40_1 Jgellandjay_t Jgellbonnie_t Jgellcarol_t_1 Gellfamily65_4

The Soldier in the pictures is Jack Gell. SGT Jack Gell, U.S. Army, gave his life for his country on 14 November 1965 in the battle for Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley in the Republic of Viet Nam. May you rest in peace, Sergeant Gell. You are gone but not forgotten. It is my honor and privilege to be allowed to help those you left behind continue to honor your memory. 

Please click here to view the Sergeant Jack Earl Gell memorial page on The Virtual Wall and here to learn more about the battle for LZ X-Ray. You may also be interested in some of my previous blog posts here.

For reasons that I'm sure mattered at the time but which I pray all those concerned now view as "ancient history", when SGT Gell left for Viet Nam he left a number of younger brothers and sisters in foster homes. I understand he promised his mother that when he returned he'd bring them all together. As a result of his death, some of his brothers and sisters lost contact with each other.

On 20 Sept 2004 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a guest column, "Kerry smeared a hero: my dad", written by Carol Gell Crowley, Jack Gell's youngest child. I saw a short excerpt from that column at Kerry Haters and created a longer post than theirs, which was published on my blog on 22 Sept. Some other bloggers with blogs more popular than mine linked to my post, with the result that my post was seen by Mark/Urthshu, whose half-brother, SGT Frank Gell III, is SGT Jack Gell's nephew. Mark showed the post to Frank, and as a result Frank was able to contact Carol Crowley, whom he had previously not known how to reach. I understand that a reunion of the Northern and Southern branches of the now-reunited Gell clan is tentatively planned for sometime next spring.

I am very gratified and humbled to know that my blog post, which was motivated entirely by my hatred of John Kerry, was instrumental in completing part of a mission that a Viet Cong bullet prevented SGT Jack Gell from completing. I am also saddened by the knowledge that that mission has still not been completed in its entirety.  SGT Jack Gell's sister, Elaine, is believed to have passed away in Oregon. SGT Frank Gell believes she had children, but he does not have a starting point for contacting them, which he would very much like to do. If you are one of SGT Jack Gell's missing relatives, please email SGT Frank Gell at

Attention Viet Nam era veterans: SGT Frank Gell III, U.S. Army, is very interested in learning more about SGT Jack Gell. If you served with SGT Jack Gell and have memories or information about him, please email SGT Frank Gell at


Update 2004.11.14.23:14 CST: So far The Mudville Gazette, Blackfive, and LGF are helping publicize the search for Sgt Gell's missing relatives and Instapundit has promised to post a link tomorrow, when more people are likely to see it. Thank you Greyhawk, Matt, Charles, Glenn, and anyone else who linked that I don't know about. If we don't get the job done it isn't because no one cared.  --  2004.11.15.04:20: I just realized Urthshu has also linked to this post. Thank you, Mark.  -- As of 2004.11.15.08:21 CST the top item on the page at was a link to this post.  I have also received an email from Michele Catalano promising me a link from If we don't get the job done it isn't because no one cared. Unless someone reading this has an in with someone influential in the left 48% of the blogosphere all I know to do now is wait and pray.

Update 2004.11.16.00:49 CST: So far around 2400 people have come to my site to read this post.  The number that really counts, though, is much larger than that. Based on SiteMeter stats from sites that linked to my post, I know that well over 360,00 people saw words like "SMALL TOWN VETERAN is trying to reunite the family of Sergeant Jack Gell," or "see if you can help reunite the family of Army Sergeant Jack Gell", accompanied by links to this post. I don't know yet whether any of them have shown or will show the post to any of Elaine Gell's children, but if we weren't successful it isn't because we didn't make a sincere effort. Thank you, Greyhawk, Matt, Charles, Glenn, Urthshu, Cadmus, and anyone else who helped that I'm missing.  Update 2004.11.16: I just realized I'm getting traffic from MSNBC's Slate  site. Thank you, Will.

Posted by Bill Faith on November 14, 2004 at 12:01 AM in Sgt_Gell, The American Warrior | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack