By Jim Freeman
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – That’s Corky Huddleston. He just waved at me. I quickly waved back. Yep, that was a big deal to an 11-year old for a senior to notice a skinny white haired kid. Corky just graduated from LHS (1968-correction Class of 1967), and I was getting ready for 7th grade at La Follette Junior High, a stone’s throw from our houses that sat across the street from one another on West Central Avenue.
The Vietnam War was raging, and Uncle Sam was drafting youngsters left and right. I don’t remember when Corky was called up, but I do remember seeing him all dressed up is his uniform a few times. And he was still waving to me. It was 1970, almost spring, when I heard Corky was heading off to war. It was only a handful of weeks later when word came that Corky was killed in South Vietnam. Up to that day, May 12, spring of 1970 in 8th grade was a great time for me.
I don’t recall the date, but I remember heading to Liberty Park with my physical education classmates from junior high to play ball when the crowd was gathering for Corky’s funeral. One of the fellows asked what was happening. I really wished I didn’t know, but I did. And I told him that that was my neighbor Corky’s funeral about to start at First Baptist Church.
It was the summer of 2000. We were visiting up east, and the trip included a stop where I was born, Washington, D.C. Memories of Corky came rushing back when we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Emotions piqued when I finally found Corky’s name on the wall. It’s up pretty high, and the caretaker keeps a ladder close by. I was able to take the slip of paper and pencil to shade the engraving of Corky’s name. It was at that moment I wanted to write a story about Corky, but I didn’t.
The little white frame house where Corky lived is gone now, taken down when First Baptist Church bought it to make way for a new addition. My old house still sits across the street from where Corky’s was. Every now and then, especially on this Memorial Day some 53-years later (2023), I still think of Corky. That’s Sergeant Robert Joseph “Corky” Huddleston, my hero across the street. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 05/29/2023-6AM-REPUBLISHED FROM MAY 2011)