412th celebrates retiring Huddleston, Taylor|[07/13/08]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Vicksburg-based 412th Engineer Command bid farewell to “two great American soldiers” Saturday.

That morning, the 412th saw outgoing Command Sgt. Major David James Huddleston pass his post to Sgt. Maj. Guy Taylor Jr. In the afternoon, a second ceremony at the 412th’s headquarters on Porters Chapel Road was held for retiring Master Sgt. James E. Reynolds, a decorated soldier who will complete 32 years of service in the U.S Army, his last nine in Vicksburg, when he leaves the profession at the end of this month.

“We’ve had two bittersweet ceremonies here today, haven’t we?” Maj. Gen. Paul Hamm, commander of the 412th, said to the crowd of soldiers and others who attended the afternoon ceremony. “We’re going to have quite a void with these two gone. These are two great American soldiers.”

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“If you want to see the model for a command sergeant, start with him,” Hamm said of Huddleston, who joined the Army as a reservist in 1971 and spent three years in his 412th post.

The incoming Taylor also had kind parting words for the outgoing Huddleston.

“These will be large shoes to fill,” said Taylor, who has 31 years of military experience. “But I give you my solemn vow to give everything I can to care for these soldiers, just as you did, Sgt. Huddleston.”

During his 37-year career, Huddleston gathered military awards including a Bronze Star, a Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, an Army Commendation Medal, an Army Achievement Medal, an Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal and a National Defense Medal. The Arkansas native also served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as command sergeant major of the 489th Engineer Battalion, which spent one year in Kuwait and Iraq.

“It’s been a pleasure,” Huddleston said. “I’m proud that I spent my career dedicated to protecting this country and caring for soldiers.”

In his civilian capacity, Huddleston is a sales representative for Certified Labs of Irving, Texas.

At Reynolds’ ceremony, friends and fellow soldiers showered him with praise and gifts, most of which were aimed at his love of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Reynolds spent nine years with the 412th. During his military career, which started in October 1966, he served in every major American military conflict, including Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“It’s very rare to find a Vietnam veteran still in service,” Hamm said. “We are truly in debt to your service. What you’ve done is extremely commendable.”

Reynolds’ decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters and 10 air medals.

While addressing the crowd Saturday, Reynolds thanked his wife, Linda, and the U.S. Army.

“All of this has been an outstanding experience, a real pleasure,” he said.

Reynolds and his wife plan to return to his native state of New York.