Valor Friday

| December 7, 2018

A Short Time with Charley
By Poetrooper

Staff Sergeant Morris was my roommate for a brief time when we were both assigned to the 82d Airborne Division upon returning from Vietnam. Charley was waiting for quarters to come available so he could move his wife and son down from Virginia, while I was a bachelor and along with Charley, one of two E-6’s living in the barracks, a privilege fraught with unwanted responsibilities such as helping the Charge of Quarters in breaking up late night fights in the platoon bays far too frequently.

Charley and I weren’t buddies, likely because he was a decade older, married, and a far more experienced infantry NCO than me, the brigade CBR NCO, a mere technical staff wienie to a hard-charging grunt like him, so he maintained his distance. We were only together a few weeks until his quarters cleared. We all knew he had been selected for the MoH but Charley absolutely would not talk about it, freezing out any person, even superiors, who asked about his experiences, with a steely stare and a mumbled excuse about having something else to do. However, at night he frequently re-fought his battles in his sleep, groaning, yelling, punching and kicking his blankets, shouting orders to his squad, all without ever waking. I soon learned not to wake him because it seemed to upset him that I was witnessing his nightmares. He may have seen it as weakness; remember, PTSD had yet to be recognized at that time although many of us who fought in Vietnam certainly felt its effects.

charley“Yes kids, this is what a real hero looks like!”

Charley went on to become a Command Sergeant Major and I’ll bet he was a tough but good one. He died too young as the good ones often do. He didn’t start out to be a career soldier as I learned from a recently discovered hometown website, the Galax Scrapbook, but rather was drafted in 1952 and after training at Fort Leonard Wood was sent to Korea where he apparently earned a Purple Heart. Discharged in 1954, Charley returned to Virginia and worked in the hometown glass plant for seven years before returning to the Army in 1961, only to exit again after his three year enlistment ended. That second civilian hiatus lasted but three months after which Charley made the Army his career, retiring in 1981.

Searching for information on CSM Morris to include with Ed’s Valor Friday piece, I was surprised to learn Charley also was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The Galax website has a picture of LBJ pinning it on him in Vietnam in 1966. I was also unaware of his many wounds or how many troopers’ lives he saved until I found some first person accounts on an old 173rd Airborne unit website, pages 7-10. It is a much more revealing portrayal of this man’s heroism than the dry formal language of the military citation. Read it and tell me this wasn’t one bad-ass paratrooper. Hell, if I’d known that when he was my roomie, I would likely have been spit-shining his jump boots and polishing his brass. I truly had no idea.

At the Galax Scrapbook website there’s also a picture of LBJ awarding SSGT Morris his Medal of Honor. But of all the pictures of Charley at his Galax homecoming parade following the award, the LIFE magazine photo above is my favorite with that caption, “Yes kids, this is what a real hero looks like!” How very true.

Rest in a well-earned peace, Sergeant Major. It is a high honor to have known you, however briefly.

CSM Morris Find a Grave site:
CSM Morris Wikipedia page:

Staff Sergeant Morris’ Medal of Honor citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Seeing indications of the enemy’s presence in the area, S/Sgt. Morris deployed his squad and continued forward alone to make a reconnaissance. He unknowingly crawled within 20 meters of an enemy machinegun, whereupon the gunner fired, wounding him in the chest. S/Sgt. Morris instantly returned the fire and killed the gunner. Continuing to crawl within a few feet of the gun, he hurled a grenade and killed the remainder of the enemy crew. Although in pain and bleeding profusely, S/Sgt. Morris continued his reconnaissance. Returning to the platoon area, he reported the results of his reconnaissance to the platoon leader. As he spoke, the platoon came under heavy fire. Refusing medical attention for himself, he deployed his men in better firing positions confronting the entrenched enemy to his front. Then for 8 hours the platoon engaged the numerically superior enemy force. Withdrawal was impossible without abandoning many wounded and dead. Finding the platoon medic dead, S/Sgt. Morris administered first aid to himself and was returning to treat the wounded members of his squad with the medic’s first aid kit when he was again wounded. Knocked down and stunned, he regained consciousness and continued to treat the wounded, reposition his men, and inspire and encourage their efforts. Wounded again when an enemy grenade shattered his left hand, nonetheless he personally took up the fight and armed and threw several grenades which killed a number of enemy soldiers. Seeing that an enemy machinegun had maneuvered behind his platoon and was delivering the fire upon his men, S/Sgt. Morris and another man crawled toward the gun to knock it out. His comrade was killed and S/Sgt. Morris sustained another wound, but, firing his rifle with 1 hand, he silenced the enemy machinegun. Returning to the platoon, he courageously exposed himself to the devastating enemy fire to drag the wounded to a protected area, and with utter disregard for his personal safety and the pain he suffered, he continued to lead and direct the efforts of his men until relief arrived. Upon termination of the battle, important documents were found among the enemy dead revealing a planned ambush of a Republic of Vietnam battalion. Use of this information prevented the ambush and saved many lives. S/Sgt. Morris’ gallantry was instrumental in the successful defeat of the enemy, saved many lives, and was in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

Category: The Warrior Code, We Remember

Comments (15)

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  1. Wilted Willy says:

    Those huge clanking brass balls must have kept him awake at night! Rest in Peace warrior, you have served your time in hell! Thomas Burke, this is what a real hero is like, not you, you lying bag of shit!

  2. AnotherPat says:

    Thank You for sharing your story, Poetrooper.

    Rest In Peace, CSM Morris.


  3. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    It’s a humbling read of an amazing trooper. All of it, from your account, to the local coverage of the parade and gifts from the proud townspeople, to the official citation. Thanks.

  4. Combat Historian says:

    A humble man and a true hero…

  5. 5th/77th FA says:

    Slow Hand Salute. RIP True Warrior CSM Charles B. Morris.

    Thanks for the post Ol’ Poe. A Soldier’s Soldier.

    “…a steely stare and mumbled excuse..” That stare would probably melt steel or harden steel, depending on the state that the steel was in when he stared at it.

  6. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Rest In peace Sergeant Major, humbled that I shared a uniform with men such as this.

  7. Jay says:

    Thanks for sharing Poe!

  8. Mason says:

    “The only brag that I ever make is, I was a soldier.” – CSM Charles Bedford Morris.

    Like most true heroes, he was overly humble.

  9. William F Milewski says:

    “Top Morris” as we knew him was the Bn Ops NCO while I was with 2/19th Inf at Ft Stewart in 1977, and a true mentor of mine. On my first field exercise working in the 3 shop the S-3 had me go wake him up and as a young troop I went over and shook him by the shoulder, next thing I knew I was on the ground his fingers choking the life out of me, lesson learned that night, after that waking him was arms length shaking his foot. He had a hell of a sense of humor though, he would grab me up and head over to the ranger chow hall on main post to eat lunch, finding a table with a bunch of young rangers sitting down and out of nowhere mumble “F@#$ing Cherries” and then just kept on eating, just waiting for one of them to say anything to him, then a senior NCO would swing by the table and let them know who he was before they would say anything back.
    That man is why I stayed in the army/ army reserve for 26 years and the year I worked for him taught me what leadership really is.

    • AW1Ed says:

      Thanks, WFM. Your comment, along with Poe’s words, helps to put a human touch to what can be a dry subject. Bet those youngsters got quite a jolt when they learned who they were dining with.

    • Mason says:

      Great stories. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Liright47 says:

    I had goosebumps reading this incredible composition.

    We worked with the 82nd back in ’68 during Tet awesome guys just like the 1st and 25th ID.

    God Bless America and Staff Sergeant Morris.

  11. HMC Ret says:

    “Like most true heroes, he was overly humble.” Ditto. I’ve know some genuine heroes, and not one, not one ever mentioned their accomplishments. When I go to the VA and see some of the ‘heroes’ decked out in their vest, replete with every known medal since WW1, with the obligatory dog as well as the POW/MIA patch, I almost always assume they are a poser. Saw one get trapped one day, sitting near another patient who had the appearance of having been there and done that. That patient began innocently enough, engaging in conversation and then began to ask questions that only a real door kicker could answer. It was a beautiful sight. Finally, the poser got up and moved to another area. Laughter followed him down the passageway.