ROCKINGHAM — So far as we know, Furman Maxey Truett committed only one dishonorable act. In his mind, though, the end must have justified the means.
Truett, a native of Richmond County, lied about his age in 1947 in order to become a U.S. Marine. It was only family legend until recently, when 1940 U.S. Census data showed that Truett was 9 years old, not the 11 he would have needed to later enlist, at the age of 17, in 1947.
On Monday, Robert B. Goodwin Jr. was surprised with Truett’s military service medals, complete personnel records, and an American flag at the Rockingham office of U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson. The presentation was made with Goodwin surrounded by family and friends.
Goodwin is Truett’s only surviving family member. His nephew, Goodwin was separated in age by only a couple of years from Truett which drastically changed and strengthened their relationship.
“Furman was like my brother,” said Goodwin, a retired pastor, as he teared up. “He really was one of the sweetest boys.”
Truett, Goodwin noted, “never had a parade.”
That’s because Truett’s life came to a premature end. Truett served with the 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He suffered a fatal wound in an attack north of Seoul on Sept. 27, 1950. Truett was buried three days later in the 10th Corps Cemetery near Inchon: grave 406, in row 10, plot three.
He was reportedly the first Richmond County casualty in the Korean War.
“The last time I saw him was in Wilmington,” Goodwin said. “I said, ‘Furman, come back.’ He said, ‘I’ll be back.’”
In his three years of service, Truett was awarded a Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation ribbon bar, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korea Service Medal with one bronze campaign star, the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, the United Nations Service Medal and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
Truett’s military record and ribbons were lost over the years. Goodwin said Monday, which happened to be Veterans Day, that he had reached out over the years to several lawmakers and Department of Veterans Affairs representatives to find his uncle’s records and ribbons, all to no avail.
“I tried for years,” Goodwin said. “Oh my goodness. They’re beautiful.”
Chris Maples, manager of Hudson’s Rockingham office, attends the same church as Goodwin and learned of the story. Over the summer, Maples did what he could to recover Truett’s records. It wasn’t easy, Maples said. One had to know Truett’s Social Security or service number. Truett didn’t have a Social Security number and his service number — 545496 — was available only on his military records.
“It took some digging, but we got it,” Maples said.
Hudson spoke of the sacrifices made by members of America’s armed forces and how easy it is to forget what they’re doing right now.
“We forget there are people in harm’s way,” Hudson said.
Hudson turned to Goodwin and noted that Truett was finally home.
“What a legacy he left behind,” Hudson said.