My Grandfather, Kenneth Reed, was born in 1924 to a coal-mining family in Norton Virginia. Grandpa set his sights on the military at an early age probably as an attempt to escape the poverty of the coal-mining community he had grown up in. As a young teenager he first joined the CCC, then later falsified his age in order to join the US Navy. While serving in the Navy during WW II the destroyer escort he was with came under attack and his vessel sank after being struck by a torpedo. My Grandfather and his best friend, Malachi Rich, from Georgia attempted to survive by clinging to floating debris through the night. During their conversations both of them agreed that if they survived they would name their first-born sons after one another.
Sometime in the night they drifted apart and were unable to find each other again. My Grandfather was rescued that night by a Russian warship, suited with a dry Russian uniform, and amazingly was returned to safety and eventually came back to the states. After the war he met my Grandmother in 1946, married her in ’47, had my Dad in ’48, and my aunt in ’49. After finishing his time of service in the US Navy, he joined the US Army. Still not ready to end his military career, after finishing his service in the US Army, he joined the Air Force where he served until his retirement.
I am not certain of the date, but sometime in the 1950’s, 10 years or so after his ship sank, he took his family on trip to Virginia and on the way stopped in the town of Val Dosa, Georgia where his friend Malachi Rich had been from. He located a phone book, found a listing, and drove to the address. When my Grandpa knocked on the door, it was opened by a boy who identified himself as Kenneth Rich. I’m certain that was an amazing moment for my Grandfather as he looked on the boy who bore his name. My Dad’s name is Malachi Reed. I used to think my grandparents named dad after a Biblical prophet, but in reality he was named after a sailor from Georgia. Neither my grandfather nor his best friend from WWII had any idea the other had survived. That night both had been rescued by different ships from different countries. So tonight, by the providence of God, somewhere in Georgia is a man my Father’s age with whom I share a name. I am so thankful for men like my Grandfather, and Malachi Rich who endured hardships, struggles, and the endangerment of their own lives in the defense of freedom. I am also thankful for men like my Dad (drafted into the Army during the Vietnam crisis), my brother Kevin Reed (US Army disabled vet, Desert Storm, 2 bronze stars), and now our son Christopher Andrew (US Marine Corp). On behalf of our family we would like to say thank you for your service to each of you who have invested part of your lives in the defense of freedom and service to our country.
Sincerely thankful and proud,
Kenneth Todd Reed.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jesus, circa 32AD, John 15)