I pass through my garage everyday because I use the back door to enter my house. Every time I pass through my two-car garage, I think of my two very unforgettable U.S. Army roommates, Del Shouse and Roland Jary. We lived in a garage that was converted into an “apartment”, in Wahiawa, HI, near Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where we were stationed in 1961. The apartment had a small kitchen, one bath, three beds and one telephone. By good fortune, we selected each other as roommates. Little did I know that this friendship would span decades, across wide geographies, and extend to the next generation of the Shouse and Jary families.
Del and Roland are the best of America, in the military or the private sector: top- notch professionals, men of sterling character, devoted family men, and who raised wonderful children. I have been blessed by winning the lottery of life by having these two life-long friends.
We were U.S. Army First Lieutenants in the 25th Infantry “Tropical Lighting” Division, on our first assignment as platoon leaders, each responsible for about 36 men. Del was a cavalry scout officer, Roland was a combat engineer, and I was a weapons platoon leader. We were all airborne paratroopers and Distinguished Military Graduates of our respective R.O.T.C. programs. Del and Roland were also Rangers. We all loved our jobs and we loved our troops. In my experience, the U.S. military is the closest institution we have for a true meritocracy and the exemplary example of an equal opportunity organization.
Del, as the “first among equals”, assigned us household chores to clean up, Roland was the handyman (plumber, electrician), and I was responsible for managing the relationship with the owner and paying the shared bills. All our tasks were undertaken instinctively, voluntarily and verbally. What an admirable model for a business or non-profit partnership today!
This bliss was a short-lived 18 months. I received orders to report to Tokyo as the Comptroller & Chief of the U.S. Army Element of the U.S. Armed Forces Radio & TV Network, (“Far East Network” or “FEN”). FEN broadcasted news, sports and entertainment all over Japan and was also popular among the Japanese public. FEN was a tri-service organization: the Commanding Officer was an Air Force Lt. Colonel, the Executive Officer was a Navy Lt. Commander, and the Army representative was a Captain (I was a First Lieutenant at that time), but they wanted to fill the slot with an MBA because the Army provided the financial man. This was an assignment from heaven.
Shortly after I left Hawaii, Del received orders to receive advanced military training and Roland received orders to Vietnam. We saw each other again 17 years later, when I stayed at Del & Genell’s home in Virginia and Roland’s home in Fort Worth. By then, Roland resigned his commission and returned to civilian life and I met his young children.
Del continued his military career and served two tours in Vietnam. In Vietnam, Del led a team to rescue a rifle company (about 160 men), who suffered severe casualties and was trapped by the enemy. Del was awarded the Silver Star Medal, the third highest award for personal valor in combat. We knew that Del was destined for great military greatness. But he was also a great humanitarian.
Roland was a filial son. He cared for his mom, who had Alzheimer’s and he carried her to the bathroom several times a day and raised two wonderful young children as a single dad. A mutual friend from our church, who was Roland’s high school classmate, affirmed Roland’s strong devotion to his family.
Fast forward to August 2019. I received an invitation from Del’s wife, Genell, to attend the burial service of Colonel Del Shouse, at Arlington National Cemetery. Roland passed away four years earlier, so I asked Genell if Roland’s daughter, Janiece, and her daughter, Gracie and son, Matt, now adults, could attend to represent Roland. Janiece came from Los Angeles with her daughter and Matt, a former U.S. Army Signal officer, came from Austin to honor Del. Janiece and Matt remembered me from childhood. How awesome is that!
Del was buried with full military honors. Over 50 soldiers: color guard, riflemen to render the 21- gun salute, band, and horse-drawn hearse to honor one man. About another 50 family and friends came to honor Del. I met Del’s former commanding officer, Major General (Retired) Steve Nichols and a West Point graduate, who told me that Del, was the “best officer he has ever known”. I am gratified that Del retired after 30 years of service to live another 31 years in peace, before succumbing to the cancer he contracted in Vietnam through Agent Orange.
Del lives on through his son, Jody Shouse, the eldest son of Del and Genell. He is a U.S. Army Lt. Colonel and the military aide to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. As a combat veteran, he was selected to serve in the elite Old Guard, where he presided over 400 funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Jody said that his hardest job was to present the flag to his mom. Jody is now attending the National War College, is on the promotion list to full Colonel and will be the Commander of the Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) in Alaska. Jody’s career trajectory suggests that he is on track to be a general. Jody is an ultra marathoner and routinely runs 50-100 miles at a crack.
Character is Destiny: Del and Roland, you have demonstrated, by your actions and example, how we should live. I have been privileged to be your friend and battle buddy.
Bob Chen is an investment banker and the founder of Raffles Capital Group Inc, a cross-border corporate financial advisory firm. He was a Captain in the US Army, served as an infantry platoon leader and Comptroller & Chief of the US Army Element of the US Armed Forces Radio & TV Network. Bob is a member of the investment committee of JICUF Endowment Inc.