Rita Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rita Howell

Red Hudson with the book, America’s Youngest Warriors, Volume II

Hudson joined Army before he started shaving

Red Hudson, who serves as commander of the Batesville VFW post, stopped by the office last week to bring us an announcement about Monday’s Memorial Day program on the Square. Emily Williams and I were quizzing Red about his Army experiences and he returned later with a thick book, “America’s Youngest Warriors, Volume II.”

It’s a compilation of stories from a unique “fraternity,” men — and a few women — who joined the armed forces during World War II and later, when they were actually too young to do so.

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Red had joined the Army at age 15 during the Korean War. He completed two tours of duty in Korea before he returned home to Batesville in 1958.

Turn to page 621 in the book and you find Red’s chapter. He tells about thumbing a ride to Clarksdale in 1955. He went to the Army recruiter’s office after conferring with several of his older buddies who had planned to join. Red convinced the recruiter that he had just turned 18. He spoke in the most gruff voice he could manage, filled out the paperwork and the recruiter never asked for any proof of his age.

Red explained that his motivation for running off to the Army at age 15 was that he needed new shoes. Times were tough and his parents couldn’t afford to buy him footwear. He left home with one change of clothes and some worn-out Keds, without telling his folks what he was doing. Eventually he wrote to them to explain, but they did not attempt to get him out of the Army, he said.

The retired upholsterer, civic activist and cancer survivor remembers being sent on a bus from Clarksdale to the induction center in Jackson, then put on a twin engine propeller plane to Fort Jackson, S.C.  As the plane lifted off, Red remembers thinking, “What have I got myself into?”

At basic training at Camp Gordon, Ga., he was reprimanded for not shaving prior to the weekly inspection.

“All I had was a little peach fuzz, so I answered that I had never shaved in my life,” Red writes in the book. “I was informed that I had to shave every day whether I needed to or not.”

Apparently, he made the best of his opportunities during his brief military career.

“I was a good soldier and made staff sergeant before I got out.”

He came home, went to upholstery class at Northwest using the G.I. Bill, and began a 45-year career.

He and his wife Artie celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary today. They are parents of seven.