As Memorial Day approaches it is only fitting that we pay tribute to an old soldier, who never surrendered to life’s cares. Only death could take him down.
Eulas H. Sargent, Sr., wore a uniform most of his life – 30 years as a soldier and another 33 years as a deputy with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department. When illness formed him to retire from the sheriff’s department at the age of 88, he was the oldest active law enforcement officer in the state of Tennessee. As long as he was able to get up and go, “Sarge” as he was affectionately known to his co-workers and friends was on the job, serving as a bailiff in Carter County General Sessions Court. For a number of years he also supervised the inmate work crew at the Carter County Jail.
The old soldier retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of sergeant. He served during three wars – World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War.
One of seven children of John and Eva Sargent, Sargent enlisted in the Army the first time when he was 18 or 19 years old. He came home in 1940 and went to work at the local rayon plant. He re-enlisted soon after World World II broke out. In an interview on his 87th birthday, Sargent said he was shipped out to Ireland, went to Scotland, from there to England to the White Cliffs of Dover, and from there landed in Normandy. He served the entire time with the Third Army, which was commanded by General John J. Pershing.
Having been a neighbor of Sargent and his family for a number of year, I remember his military demeanor and his conversation, which was often gruff, yet he was a very witty and kind person. It was when he talked about war and its tragedies that he allowed his deepest and most emotional thoughts to surface.
“War, if you’ve been in it, it never leaves you. The things you see and experience are always with you, The hardest part of war is losing your buddies; seeing them killed. Some of them you served six, seven, or eight years with, then saw them killed. It was like losing a brother,” the old solder shared.
Medals? He had several of them, but Sarge said the best medal was getting to come home; to see his family grow up.
For most of his Army career, Sargent served as a mess sergeant in charge of the kitchen. He always prided himself on making a mean pot of coffee, and said he enjoyed flipping hotcakes.
When Sargent first enlisted in the Army he did so because there wasn’t much work around for young men at that time. The plants were laying off workers. He recalled in the interview that two other fellows – Roscoe Edens and Clint Williams enlisted with him. During Sargent’s first stint in the Army he said he was “dog-robber” for Gen. George Patton. “That’s Army slang for servant. I shined his boots and saddled his horse. I got to know him pretty good. I liked him. He was a no-nonsense person and a good leader. That was in 1939. I was just a private then,” Sargent shared in the interview.
Sargent moved his family back to Elizabethton in 1965, but returned to Korea to serve for a year. He retired from the military in 1968 and went to work for the Carter County Sheriff’s Department in 1971. He worked for five sheriffs – Harry Buckles, George Papantoniou, Bill Crumley, Paul Peters, and John Henson. He also worked for Mike Sellers, who served as interim sheriff between the resignation of Paul Peters and election ofJohn Henson.
Sargent likened being a deputy to much like the Army. “You got rules to go by. You meet a lot of people, make a lot of friends and have many experiences, both good and bad. There’s a lot of bad people in jail, but there’s also some good people in there. Some are young, and have made some mistakes. Hopefully, they learn from their mistakes and with a little help make it,” the former deputy shared.
Sargent’s Army career took him to several locations stateside – Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina – as well as several bases overseas. He served in Germany, Italy, England, Korea and Vietnam.
Sargent was a 32nd degree Mason and was active for several years in the Jericho Shrine Oriental Band, which he enjoyed. One of his favorite fun things to do was dance. “I cut a good rug,” he would say with an almost bashful smile.
I remember Sarge as being a good neighbor and a compassionate person, who was devoted to his family. He had a likeness to the legendary Barney Fife, especially when in his deputy’s uniform.
He and his wife, Jessie, who is also deceased, were the parents of six children.
The old soldier died on April 11, 2005, at the age of 88. He is buried among many of his comrades at the VA Cemetery at Mountain Home. His grave like many other old soldiers will be marked with a small American flag this weekend, a tribute to their service to this country.