Rommie ‘Edmund’ Greene entered the world on April 4, 1949, assisted by a midwife in the home that was once a chicken house, to parents Stuard Lester and Nona Cloe Lewis Greene. His father worked in a sawmill all his life (49 years) and his mother was a homemaker. He had three brothers (Jimmy Stuard, Clifton Ray, Ronnie Lester) and one sister (Colleen Faye). Edmund was the only one in his family to serve in the military.
Edmund attended Ferguson Elementary School and held a variety of jobs while growing up.
“I worked any kind of job a kid could get. I worked at Whippoorwill Farm taking care of the animals and doing fieldwork. I mowed the local churchyard and cemetery. I also had a Grit paper route in 1967-68. The papers sold for 15 cents and for each paper I sold, I earned a nickel. Once I finished school, I got a job working for Holly Farms on the packing line.”
Edmund’s call to duty was a draft notice and in March of 1969, he reported for duty in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thinking he would be serving in the Army, instead, they called him to the front of the room and inducted him into the United States Marines. He was the only one they called that day. A couple of days later he was bussed to Paris Island, South Carolina for basic training and soldiering skills.
“I liked the hand-to-hand combat training and the creative way our drill instructors described mealtime. One night we were told we were having duck for supper. I said I was a country boy and I liked duck. Well, once we got our food and started to eat, we were told to get out. Our drill instructor called that ‘duck in-and-duck out’. That was having duck! I was called a ‘skinny body’ so they gave me extra food, but no extra time to eat. After a few missed meals, we all started eating as soon as the food hit the tray. The worst part was, I was young and slim and didn’t really mind any of it. It was an adventure into the unknown. One particular instructor, Sergeant White (a black guy) trained us to the best of his ability so we would survive and come back home.”
After basic training, Edmund’s first assignment was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He stayed here for thirty days of 0331 Machine Gun training. Finally, he went home for a few weeks before flying to Camp Pendleton, California.
“My mother liked the idea of me serving in the military, because it helped to support my two younger siblings. Both of my older brothers had already married and left home. My mother, sister Colleen, and younger brother, Ronnie saw me off at the airport. Ronnie (8 years old) didn’t want me to leave. He thought he would never see me again and tried to get on the next airplane to go after me. He thought all the airplanes went to the same place where I was going to be.”
At Camp Pendleton, Edmund continued with advanced machine gun and weapons training. He received specialized training on blowing up mortars. He qualified with equipment: M14 rifles, M60 machine guns, and hand grenades. Later in Vietnam, he learned to use Claymore mines. While on a plane to Okinawa, Japan Edmund earned a promotion from an E1-Private to Private First Class. From there he was stationed with the 3rd Marines 2nd Battalion in North Vietnam for three months. Then he was reassigned to the 1st Marine 2nd Battalion Golf (Ghost) Company near DaNang, South Vietnam for the rest of his time in the country. In Vietnam’s theater, he promoted to E3- Lance Corporal. Edmund’s awards included a National Defense Service Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Battle Star, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Vietnam Gallantry Cross (from South Vietnam) with Meritorious Unit Citation with one Oak Leaf Device.
“All the training was hard. Once in Vietnam it was especially hard to get used to sleeping in the monsoon rains. I was very hot and wet most of the time and there were snakes and leeches. We were shot at both night and day. It was Hell . . . it was War! The aircraft dropped Napalm too close to us several times. Too many friends were shot next to me. My assistant gunner saved my life by telling me to duck, and the bullet went over my head. Whenever we were ‘off-duty’ we cleaned our gear and got ready for the next reconnaissance mission. Reconnaissance missions were usually twenty-thirty days long and we had to cut a path through the jungle. On numerous recon missions, we were attacked. Once the Viet Cong were on the other side of this ridge and they shot M79 (Blooper Guns) at us. We were down in the valley, and we couldn’t see them, so it was a surprise attack. The mortars they were shooting exploded all around us. Several of us got wounded. I was hit with shrapnel in the upper left arm and another soldier near me got hit in the leg. We called for the corpsman, and he bandaged us up. We got out of there quick and headed back to base camp. I changed the bandages and dug out another piece of shrapnel. We would come back from these missions with our uniforms shredded and rotted away. Our boots were rotted too after trekking through the mire.
I was really wanting to go home and see my family again. I was ready to get out. I prayed a lot! God kept us going and got me back home. The best part of my service was getting back home alive!”
Edmund was eighteen when he went into the service and twenty-one when he got out. He reflected on those end-of-service times and standing down from warrior to civilian.
“My family was very happy to have me home and my church was very happy to see me too. Although, some man and woman in a car, in Wilkesboro, saw me in uniform and ‘booed at me’. This made me mad at them. My combat experiences gave me more respect for everything and I wanted our country to respect soldiers more. I was ready to get my life in order, get a good job and start a family. Serving in the military gave me more appreciation for my family and friends. I was able to use the GI Bill for classes at Wilkes Community College and took classes for electrical training. I got my job back at Holly Farms and bought a car. Six months later, I got married to Marlene Stikes. We were married for forty-five years and had three daughters: Jennifer Rebecca, Jessica Vivian, and Amanda Jolene,”
Today Edmund is a member of the Williams/Canter United States Marine Detachment 1187 and VFW Post 1142. He also helps with the American Legion Post 31 when needed.
“I will always be grateful and blessed that I came back home, and I appreciate anyone who recognizes what the military does to keep us free. One life lesson that I got from serving was to keep your mind on the mission and complete what you start. My service time affected my feelings about war and the military in general . . . War is a reality that no one should have to experience. Too many people died on both sides . . . it was a waste.”