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Retired U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Broadus James Jamerson III knows what it means to serve his country, having done so for more than 20 years in various capacities, including as a military police officer and company commander.

His valor and dedication were undoubtedly inherited from his late father, U.S. Army Sgt. Broadus James Jamerson Jr., who is set to be posthumously inducted into the U.S. Army Chemical Corps Hall of Fame on June 22 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Jamerson’s father was a member of a detachment from the 701st Chemical Maintenance Company (Aviation), which was attached to the U.S.S. John Harvey out of Oran, Algeria, in 1943 from Nov. 18 to Dec. 2.

He was one of seven soldiers who were on a secret mission to protect and maintain 125 tons of aerial mustard bombs when they came under an intense German aircraft attack in Bari Harbor, Italy, on Dec. 2, 1943.

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Other ships in the harbor were directly hit by bombs, with the ensuring fires spreading to the U.S.S. John Harvey. Recognizing the potential mass casualties because of the deadly mustard gas, the detachment fought the fires for nearly two hours to try and keep the dangerous cargo from exploding.

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Jamerson’s father and his detachment did not abandon the ship. They were ultimately unsuccessful in preventing the explosion that took all of the soldiers’ lives.

“The detachment’s valorous actions in the face of almost certain death continued well beyond the point where a ship would normally be abandoned, yet the detachment’s men held their posts,” said Dr. John E. Thiel, who retired from U.S. Army as a staff sergeant in 1971.

Today, Thiel has remained vigilant in becoming a steadfast contributor to the legacy and history of the Chemical Corps by ensuring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.

“Though unsuccessful in preventing the explosion that claimed their own lives, the detachment’s gallant actions and devotion to duty without regard for their own lives were in keeping with the highest traditions of military heroism and reflect great credit upon themselves, their unit and the United States Army Chemical Corps,” Thiel said.

For their bravery, the detachment’s members will all be inducted into the U.S. Army Chemical Corps Hall of Fame.

Jamerson and his family, including his wife, Brenda, will attend the induction ceremony. He is also scheduled to speak at the induction ceremony.

“I’m 77 years old, and it’s been a continuation of wonderful remembrances of my father. I wish that my mother could be here and be a part of the celebration of him being inducted along with others into the Chemical Hall of Fame,” he said.

“It’s really overwhelming, and to have the opportunity to learn additional information about the situation that he was in and what he and others were trying to do as a part of their duty, it’s just really a heartwarming thing,” Jamerson said.

Mrs. Jamerson said, “I just felt so much pride myself. It seemed to just bring it all together for him. He was so quiet about it. Can you imagine what his father and that group must have been going through? What were they thinking?”

‘It was a call to duty’

Jamerson is a graduate of then-South Carolina State College, where he majored in physical education and biology. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was initially stationed in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

“I was commissioned as a military police officer. Then I went in 1968 to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where the military police school was located at that time,” said Jamerson, who eventually became a company commander.

“After completing the officer’s basic course at Fort Gordon, the training brigade for the military police was there, which was the 4th AIT (Advanced Individual Training) Brigade. So I was assigned to the 4th AIT Brigade as an executive officer, Company C. I stayed there from ’68 to ’71. I became company commander and commanded two different companies, D Company and E Company,” Jamerson said.

Overseeing the supply office and training were among his range of duties as an executive officer.

He was eventually assigned to Korea in 1971.

“I was at Ascom City. I was the company commander there for the military police detachment. I was there for six months. Then I went up to 4th Infantry Division there in Korea, where I was deputy provost marshal. From there I came to Fort Jackson. When I was the provost marshal there at Fort Jackson, I was over the traffic division in the provost marshal’s office there. That was my main responsibility for my tenure there,” Jamerson said.

He left the military while stationed at Fort Jackson.

After his military service, Jamerson joined the staff of the Office of the South Carolina Attorney General-Child Support Division in 1976, working for three years as an investigator. In 1979, he joined the staff of the South Carolina State Employees Association as the director of membership and services. In March 2000, he was promoted to the position of executive director of the association, where he served until 2010.

He later joined the U.S. Army Reserve.

“I was with the 120th ARCOM (Army Reserve Command), which was the headquarters for several reserve units here in South Carolina and North Carolina. With the 120th ARCOM, I was the headquarters commandant, which is the administrative portion for the headquarters. I took care of the supplies and the personnel portion, training and those kinds of things,” Jamerson said.

Then came his trips to Saudi Arabia and Grenada.

“That’s when I went over to 360th Civil Affairs Brigade, which is a subordinate unit to the 120th ARCOM. With the Civil Affairs Brigade, our main task was once the infantry and those units went in and fought the battle, we would go back in and assist in reconstituting the government and the basic livelihood of the persons in those areas,” Jamerson said.

“My first assignment out of the United States was to Grenada on a revitalization mission, getting schools starting back again and doing those kinds of things. In 1990, that’s when Desert Storm/Desert Shield began,” he said.

The Gulf War was a war waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait. It was code-named Operation Desert Shield for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm in its combat phase.

“We were called up and in January of ’91, we went over to Saudi Arabia. It was a unique experience with the cultures and the way folks live. I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner. We just live different styles. We were housed at a place called Khobar Towers. While being there, of course, the Iraqis shot Scud missiles daily,” Jamerson said.

He is no stranger to having to get into Mission Oriented Protective Posture, or MOPP, gear and put on face masks amid the threat of dangerous chemicals.

“We would have to get into our MOPP gear for the duration of the threat. That occurred every day around meal time,” Jamerson said.

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When the ground war started, he stood ready to perform whatever duties he was assigned to.

“We left Khobar Towers and went out into the desert. We stayed out there for two weeks while the ground war was going on. Well, some of us were detached out. We had to go out into the desert not so much to fight, but to scout out different things to be brought back. When the ground war concluded, then we came back,” he said, noting that that put him in a precarious position.

“Actually, there at the complex, at Khobar Towers, a Scud landed and killed several persons from a reserve unit, as I recall, from somewhere in Pennsylvania. It was real stuff that went on,” Jamerson said.

Jamerson said he was “absolutely” glad when he returned back to the U.S. in May of 1991.

“He was so small when he came back. When they left from Fort Jackson, the family goes up to the buses to see them leave. They went to Fort Bragg to stay for a couple of weeks to get them ready. When they got on that bus to leave, all of them were out of shape,” Mrs. Jamerson said.

“When he came back, he was so small I really didn’t know him. I bet in that period of time he looked like he had lost 50 pounds. So I don’t know all that went on there, but whatever it was took a toll on him,” she said.

Jamerson said the experience did wear on his mental state some.

“I don’t want to speak like I was in hand-to-hand combat. I was not, but when you’re dealing with a hostile situation, of course, you always want to be concerned and cautious. I don’t want to serve with anybody who has no fear in them. If you’re never scared, then you’re not going to be cautious. You throw caution to the wind. So we all have concerns,” he said.

“Even though we did gas mask training every year ever since I went into the military, I wondered how long I could keep the mask on. During training, you may keep it on for a minute, no longer than five minutes. I found out when the Scuds were flying that I could keep it on as long as needed, be it five minutes, five hours or 24 hours,” he said.

Jamerson continued, “Surely it was stressful. The living conditions were, of course, different in the sense that we slept in bays. You didn’t have your individual rooms. You slept in bays with everybody. In the desert, we slept in tents.”

Despite it all, Jamerson, who retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army Reserve in 1996 with more than 28 years of combined service, said he felt it was his duty to serve.

“Actually, I did not have to serve in combat. I am a bonafide sole surviving son. My father was an only child, and I’m an only child. But, I mean, it was a call to duty. It’s something you felt you had to do,” Jamerson said.

He continued, “It was just a sincere feeling that it was a part of what you had to do. My mother (Lillie Mae), God bless her, had mixed feelings. My father was killed three months and a couple of days before I was born. I was born March 4, 1944, and he was killed Dec. 2, 1943.

“So she had a lot of stress and memories and things on her. When it was time for me to go, even though she didn’t want me to go, she understood why I felt the need to go. It was something you had to do. If you’re going to live in the country and be a beneficiary of all the good things, then when it comes time to protect it, you just do it.”

‘You learn to be a team player’

Jamerson said the military taught him discipline.

“The military was a continuation of my upbringing as far as being disciplined and orderly and striving to do the right thing. The military was a beautiful experience. Like for most young men, it gave you an opportunity to be exposed to different cultures, to see places and go to places you probably never would have gone to,” said Jamerson, who also enjoyed the camaraderie.

“That’s always important, being a team player. You learn very quickly to be a team player. When the deal goes down, it’s not ‘I.’ It’s ‘we’ and what we’re going to get done. And a lot of those friendships, those acquaintances are long lasting.

“I received a call from one of my friends who I met in Fort Gordon. He’s in Virginia, and we call and chat periodically. Of course, there’s several around here in South Carolina and in other areas of the country,” he said.

He and his wife are the parents of two daughters, Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes (Fred) and Pamela Jamerson Dawson (Dyrek) of Orangeburg, and the grandparents of two grandsons: Dy’kari and Darian Dawkins.

He said he was grateful for life and to have had the support of his family, including his wife’s family, throughout his life.

“I’ve always had that strong support system even as a child from both sides, my mother’s side and my father’s side. Of course, my father’s side was somewhat limited to my grandfather and his mother. On my mother’s side, there were 14 or 15 of those children, and I spent a lot of time in the house with my grandparents there,” Jamerson said.

He recalled the sometimes precarious job duties of being a military police officer.

“There’s always danger being in the military police force at Fort Jackson, or even in Korea. You have to be what they call the duty officer, which is the officer in charge for the police activities that go on in the area that you’re in,” Jamerson said.

“There were many instances there, especially when wives would call about husbands and disturbances they’re having. I learned early that once you got there, don’t try to take him. It was always kind of scary,” he said.

Jamerson continued, “When you’re going up to somebody’s house, you know a disturbance is going on. You can’t see anything inside, but you have to go knock on that door. Once you get on the inside, you never know what’s going on. So in those kinds of instances — that’s both here in the United States and overseas assignments — you got involved in tense situations, but it is part of the duty,” he said.

“Everything with him is a part of the duty. That’s the way he takes life,” Mrs. Jamerson said.

Jamerson’s military awards include several U.S. Army meritorious service medals and commendation medals. He is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian award, and also received the Lifetime Achievement from Orangeburg’s VFW Post 8166 in 2019 for his dedicated service to the post, where he serves as quartermaster and which was named after his late father.

Jamerson is heavily involved at Orangeburg’s Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, where he is a deacon. He is also involved in a number of activities, including Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity-Delta Chi Member Boule; Edisto Lodge No. 39 of the Free and Accepted Masons (past chaplain); Epsilon Omega Chapter-Omega Psi Phi Fraternity; Orangeburg Branch of the NAACP (vice president); and the Orangeburg County Voter Registration and Election Commission (commissioner).

Jamerson said he relied on his faith to take him through tense situations in military life and beyond.

“That’s the linchpin. Faith is the key. It’s about understanding that when you believe in what the Bible teaches you, it’s not longevity that’s always going to be what’s provided to you. You understand that if you strive to do right and to live right, the most important longevity is life thereafter with our lord and savior Jesus Christ,” he said.

Jamerson has kept his father’s Purple Heart and the Western Union notice that was sent to his paternal grandfather notifying him that Jamerson’s father, who had initially been reported as missing in action, was deceased.

He said he takes pride in his father’s service and that the best is yet to come.

“You would always hope that the best is yet to come, but when you look at the world around you today, you shake your head. I’ll just say this. I’m seeing things now that I never thought I would ever see happen in America, but the Bible teaches you that God takes us through cycles,” Jamerson said.

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“There is a tomorrow and as long as there is a tomorrow with your hand in the Lord’s nail-scarred hands, things will be well.”

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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