DOUGLAS EALEY - SGT
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- February 28, 1942
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- October 19, 1968
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Douglas Ealey was born on February 28, 1942. His home of record is Glassboro, NJ. He served in the US Marine Corps and attained the rank of Sergeant (SGT).
Ealey was killed in action on October 19, 1968.
February 28, 1942-October 19, 1968
SGT, Marine, Glassboro, NJ
The government termed the loss due to an "undetermined friendly explosion." That shadowy phrase, aside from the obvious contradiction between "friendly" and "explosion", did little for family members of Douglas Ealey to enhance their understanding of how he died on October 19, 1968, in Quang Nam Province of South Vietnam.
Negrodrie "Nick" Ayers, Douglas' stepfather and a World War II veteran of the European and Pacific theaters, recalled what officials were able to add at the time. "They (Douglas' unit) were out on a patrol," he said. "They had penetrated through the enemy lines, and Doug was taking his squad back to the main unit to report." Nick's eyes glazed as he looked down at the floor, as if praying for a better outcome. He finally said, "Douglas tripped an unmarked American mine."
Doug Ealey was a career Marine who loved the Corps and enlisted after graduating from Glassboro High in 1960. He married and had two children. Having also served in the Philippines, he was on his second consecutive tour of Vietnam when he was killed.
Doug played every sport he could, was a Boy Scout, and was very artistic. He liked the industrial arts, also, and had aspirations to be a carpenter someday. Not bad for someone who, as a child, had tuberculosis and was told he was going to be an invalid for the rest of his life.
"He started kindergarten in the hospital," says his mother, Rebecca Ayres of Monroe Township. "But by second grade, we couldn't keep him down. He seemed all right from then on."
Douglas was fourteen in 1956 when his family moved from Brooklyn, NY, to rural Monroe Township, NJ. Doug was the third of five children. He had been an active Scout and wanted to transfer to the local troop but integration came slowly in the fifties, and he became a victim.
"He couldn't join here," said Nick. "They told him he had to go to Camden or Philly where they had all black troops."
"He tried to form a local group," his mother adds. "But everybody was just too far spread out."
The phrases under his photograph in the 1960 edition of the Maroon and Gold, Glassboro High's yearbook, reflect the essence of a talented and respected young man.
Loves to sing and build model houses...a talkative chap but nice...likes to keep the girls happy...a future carpenter.
Jerome Ealey, now in Camden, NJ, was the youngest male in the family. He worshiped his brother and admired his dedication.
"That was a unique thing about him," Jerome says. "Whatever it was he was doing, he was into it all the way. He even picked fruits and berries for a while. He became the top picker. He also had some artistic talent, and he really could draw."
Douglas loved football and wanted to play for Glassboro High. "I wouldn't let him play," says his mother. "I was afraid he'd get hurt. But he joined anyway. I had to put a stop to it. But he got into gymnastics and liked it. He was real good. Everybody liked him. He would do anything for anyone. He was a great housekeeper, too...very neat."
Nikki Sydnor, of Monroe, remembers her older brother with a fond affection. Two years younger, she regarded Douglas as a role model.
"His smile would light up a room," she says. "He was very orderly. If you opened one of his drawers, he knew it. We used to keep our small possessions in cigar boxes. He would wire his in a way that was impossible to open without his knowledge. When he got new shoes that he only wore to church, he would come home and clean them, including the soles, every time."
"He was like a rock," Nikki continues. "He was always focused. He always knew what he was going to do. The Marines were a perfect fit for him. He came home on leave one time, and he and I talked well into the night. I finally fell asleep, and when I woke up, there he was, shining his brass buttons and his shoes."
Rebecca and Nick did not allow their children out after dark. "So we always had a house full of kids," she fondly recalls. "It was okay with me. I didn't have to worry about where my kids were. But once ten o'clock happened, everybody had to go home. It was different here in the farmland than in Brooklyn. The neighborhoods were much closer there."
Jerome, the younger brother, also entered the service in 1968 and became a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was about to receive his orders for Vietnam when Douglas was killed.
"The war was really jumping at the time," he says. "I really thought Douglas went back to Vietnam for a second tour to keep me from having to go. That feeling stayed with me a long time."
After Douglas was buried, Nick wanted to be sure Jerome did not have to serve in Vietnam. He called the Pentagon and spoke with every official who would listen.
"I called them and I wrote to them," Nick said. "I told them that my brother went into the service, that I went into the service and fought in World War II, and now I've lost a son in Vietnam. I asked, 'How much more does our family have to give to stay in this country?' My words must have done some good."
"I got sent to Fort Bragg," says Jerome. "I love my country and felt that I should have gone, but when my father did that, it took the decision out of my hands. He felt that Douglas had given enough."
Rebecca Ayres had just lost one son and was understandably relieved when she no longer had to worry about Jerome going to Vietnam. But she did not have to be the solid fortress she always has been.
Jerome recalls, "Mom was the strongest of all of us. We all were crushed when Doug died. But she was right there for us when we tried to be there for her."
Nikki agrees, then adds, "Mom was and is the matriarch of our family. Everyone comes to her."
"At the time, I was separated from my husband," Nikki continues. "I felt it should have been me because Doug was so full of life and I wasn't. He had a family to look after, and I was alone."
Before his death in 1996, Nick Ayres said he wanted Douglas to be remembered for his appreciation of nature and love of people. But he added, "His whole heart was in the Marine Corps."
Jerome says, "Doug would want people to recall how much he loved this country."
Doug's sister, Nikki, simply adds, "Anyone who came into contact with him would remember the fine person he was."
Douglas Ealey was a son, a brother, a husband, and a father. He risked his life daily to protect his family more than twelve thousand miles away. He gave that life freely and without question because, above all, he was a patriot...and a Marine.
Excerpt from They Were Ours: Gloucester County's Loss in Vietnam
by John Campbell
Used with permission of author
Information provided by John Campbell and NJVVMF.
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