RED, WHITE, AND BLUE AND BLUE GRASS MUSIC TOO
By Elmond (Bud) Brantley
I was born in Middlesex, N. C. on November 29, 1923, the son of Henrietta Mullen Brantley and Elmond Linwood Brantley. My father died when I was only seven years old leaving my mother to take care of us five children. Times were difficult. In those days when money and food were scarce, opportunities were limited to just making a living, and it was a hard one at best. I never dreamed that one day I would see the world , have a little bit of adventure, fall in love with girl who would become my wife, and make music---Blue Grass Music , that is.
My life adventure began when I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps which was organized in 1933. It was a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal which was designed to help this country, and the people, recover from the Great Depression. It was a semi-military organization in that the men wore uniforms and slept in a barracks. The young men made $30.00 a month. They were allowed to keep $15.00 and the other $15.00 had to be sent home to family. The Corps worked on conservation projects such as planting trees, fighting forest fires, and building dams. This program was phased out in 1942. About three months after being in the CCC a recruiting office came and talked to our group. My father and other relatives had served their country so I decided to follow in their footsteps. I joined the Marine Corps in September 1941 and was soon off to the South Pacific. The first stop was Pago Pago, American Samoa, with the Barrage Balloon Outfit. For reasons unknown to me at the time this outfit was destined to spend time on various islands, including Guadalcanal, which was secured at that time, and New Zealand . These were preparations for eventually landing on Bougainville. It was here in November 1943 that a Japanese shell came whizzing through the jungle and hit me in the neck making me eligible for the Purple Heart.
My first visit to Onslow County and Camp Lejeune came in the late summer of 1945. My outfit was getting ready for the Japanese Invasion when news of the “Atom-Bomb Drop” came and this ended the War a short time later. Since the action was over I decided to leave the Corps and seek a new life.
I had always been a little musically inclined so when there was time, I began strumming on a military issued Banjo-Mandolin and this provided a little diversion from battle. This little diversion later became an addiction to Bluegrass Music. After a couple years of the “new life” I rejoined the Corps in 1947 and kept strumming on my mandolin. I had a great tour of duty at the Charleston South Carolina Navy Yard. In 1948 I was selected as part of a Marine Guard Detachment for Cairo, Egypt. I enjoyed Embassy Duty, visiting the pyramids, playing golf and furthering his addiction to Bluegrass Music.
In 1952 I was back at Camp Lejeune. I bought a car and, when off duty, ventured out in the country to meet people. I became very close friends with a couple families and soon met my future wife, Dorothy Rhodes, the daughter of Eppie Dixon Rhodes and Ivey “A” Rhodes
The Rest Of The Story
By Dorothy Rhodes Brantley
Bud had no way of knowing that in September 1941, as he was beginning his Military Career, my family, and many of our friends and neighbors, had a different kind of connection with the military in that we were being forced to leave our homes on New River in Onslow County to make room for a new Marine Base, Camp Lejeune. This was the land on which he would later do military training.
Many farmers in Onslow County planted their crops as early as possible with hopes that they could be harvested before the government acquired their land. My folks sold their tobacco crop before they were evacuated. My family and our neighbors were to move out by September, but we got an extension to stay until my sister was born on September, 24, and then we moved two weeks later. We were the last ones in our area to leave.
We had about fifteen or twenty large hogs which we raised for butchering, but they got Cholera and all but one died. This meant that we would have no fresh meat supply, only cured meat left over from last winter’s supply. We were left with no home and no place to move. A cousin, in the Southwest area of Onslow County, was kind enough to share one room of his house , which was already over occupied, for us to sleep in until we could make other arrangements. My father had purchased a farm, but we had to wait for the occupants to move. After three months or so that one room, although greatly appreciated, just became too small. The family in the newly purchased farm had not found a place to go, but they offered us a room to live in until they could move. Fortunately, it was a larger room and my family was where they could start preparing for spring planting. My Dad never learned to farm the newly acquired land successfully. If it rained, the ground was too wet and when the sail got too dry the earth was in large heavy clumps. It was so different from the farm land he had been accustomed to. He had inherited our old farm and he had spent his childhood there. It was his home. It was his life and before the Marine Base he never thought of leaving the place except in death.
We were married on March 14, 1953 and in June Bud had another tour of duty in Japan. Most of the military at that time did the traveling to over seas duty stations and the family remained at home. I moved back home and continued my clerical work at the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital while Bud was away.
Later Bud was transferred to Parris Island, South Carolina, this time the family accompanied him. He had great duty there, almost completely unattached to the military. He was in charge of maintenance at the USO in Beaufort. He was fortunate enough to find a place to live in Beaufort, near the water and in a civilian neighborhood almost identical to one the family had left in Onslow County.
In 1960 Bud was sent to Okinawa, his last tour of duty overseas. Our family once again came home to stay until his return. This tour was different in many respects but mostly because he had to leave his two little girls at home. He returned home in August 1961 and met for the first time his youngest daughter then seven months old. We were blessed again. We purchased a little farm that joined the back of the Ivey Rhodes farm, perfect location in every respect. In 1964 Elmond A. (Bud) Brantley, after 20 years of service retired from the Military. Three months later he donned another uniform and started employment with the US Postal Service. He remained there for twenty six and one half years, retiring in 1990. During preparation to get and install a marker in memory of Dorothy’s 3rd great grandfather, Col. Henry Rhodes, the Beirut Memorial Chapter 642 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart became involved. Bud’s combat wound and the fact he never received his Purple Heart was the topic of one conversation. In a short time he was told that a ceremony was being planned at Camp Lejeune to award him his Purple Heart. So on February 20, 1999, 56 years after his injury, his family gathered around to see Maj. Gen. Ray Smith award him the Purple Heart. Bud was one of the fortunate ones that completely recovered from the trauma of War. The memories had been filed away and very seldom mentioned until about three years ago when he was scheduled for surgery in Craven County. In preparation for the surgery, he had removed all metal from his person for an x-ray and the machine blacked out. Immediately he remembered again the shrapnel embedded in his body
We are the parents of three daughters, Melissa, Iris and Ivy. We are the grandparents of William Brantley Smith, Willa Woodson, Ian Woodson and Andrew F. Reid.
Even though Bud and I are now considered in the winter of our lives we remain busy. Bud still enjoys playing Bluegrass at the local Nursing Homes once a week. I am still involved with family and genealogy. Just to be sure no one gets bored we have been playing grandparents to a live-in, then eleven months old, great nephew, Hunter, for the past twelve months. And life goes on…... more stories latter........ 9-1-2013: Bud has been a member of a Blue Grass music group for several years and I think he would be interested in the following story. I told it to our genealogy group sometime in 2014.