TERRY LEE MASSEY
March 6, 1949 – September 5, 2016
Terry was born in Walhalla, South Carolina to father Thomas Watson Massey (1922-1998) and mother Lorain Ann Randall Massey (1919-2003). In 1956, Terry’s family moved from Walhalla, the birthplace of his father, to Sparta, WI, the birthplace of his mother. By that time the family now included two brothers Richard J. “Dick” Massey (1946-2019) and Terry’s twin Jerry Thomas Massey (1949-1975) as well as two sisters Nancy J. Massey Green (1955) and Joyce Massey McCarthy (1945). One additional brother, in 1951, was born premature and died after only 3 days while the family still lived in SC.
Terry proudly witnessed his older brother Richard enlist and serve in Vietnam as a member of the US Air Force. In 1966, upon graduation from Sparta High School Terry worked as a hospital aide until he received his draft notice from Uncle Sam. After basic training at Ft. Campbell, KY his husky 215 lb body was slimmed down drastically by “caring” Drill Sergeants. His next hurdle was to complete Infantry training at F. Polk, LA. where he trained for jungle warfare. After the rigors of Basic Training and Infantry School, it was decided for Terry that the big, bad Central Highlands of Vietnam was to be his new home for an entire year. Terry chose not to simply endure his year, he decided to create havoc for and challenge our nation’s enemy. The warrior in him chose to volunteer for the LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol). In the initial stages of the United States presence in Vietnam, the clear lack of real-time intelligence nearly allowed the NVA to overrun our forces in the Ia Drang, a battle related in the book and movie “We Were Soldiers Once….and Young”. Shortly after that hard-won battle, the 1st Cav was replaced by the 4th Infantry Division with the mission to “Tame the Ia Drang”. One of the most critical first decisions was to determine how best to know the enemy. The solution was to insert 4-man teams of Rangers, then called LRRPs, to surreptitiously live in the jungle among the enemy. They would be inserted into the jungle for extended missions and patrol an area of suspected enemy concentration to uncover weaknesses and eliminate when possible. A platoon of LRRPs with each of the 3 Brigades and E/58th LRRP was to comprise a critically important component of the 4th Infantry Division’s ability to wage effective war – they were the “Eyes and Ears of the Division”. Later, in 1969, an Army-wide re-designation of all LRRPs transitioned them into Company K (Ranger), 75th Infantry Regiment (Airborne). Terry’s decision to volunteer was courageous and dangerous, but no young soldier who proudly wore the “Tiger Stripe Fatigues” ever regretted that decision.
Terry’s first Ranger Team assignment, in November of 1969 was to Romeo-12, joining TL Chuck Harubin, ATL Weber and fellow new addition, Ron Clark, running missions out of Pleiku and An Khe. As a team, they conducted several notable missions together and celebrated even more notable standowns when in basecamp. Between Rangers Doug Childers, Bob White and Dave Bristol, no one was safe from their “party antics” while on standown – even Santa Claus! Many years later, Chuck was to recall how fortunate it turned out to have been assigned Ron and Terry to his team as new men. There is no way to anticipate in advance the character of men when they face danger. Their courage, inate jungle smarts, and commitment to the team made an immediate positive impact on R-12. Both Clark and Massey performed as warriors far more effective and experienced than their short time in-country would lead anyone to have anticipated. In May of 1970 Terry sustained damage to his hearing and was given a light duty “profile” resulting in permanent re-assignment to the 4th Admin Motor Pool as a dispatcher. In October 1970 he DEROS and separated from the service to return home to Madison, WI.
Terry joined K 75th despite the extreme risk it entailed, perhaps because of it. Many people have asked why would one do that. There are as many reasons for the choice as there are men. All share the trait of courage and willingness to give their all for their brother Rangers and their country. Some Rangers are never placed in mortal danger, while others seem to attract it. The circumstances of their death cannot diminish the courage and heroism shown by these Rangers the moment they chose to become Rangers. Some Rangers are destined to die surrounded by expended brass and the bodies of their enemy, others will die many years after their service, unharmed, in a warm bed surrounded by their loved ones. All will be remembered as having been among the best this nation can send to war. All are heros. They never needed to show their courage with results, their decision to risk everything for the promise of nothing made that un-necessary. Each Ranger carries with them a bit of the honor earned, with great sacrifice, by each other Ranger. Fifty years have passed while we hardly noticed. Our lives have now been mostly lived, yet we’ve continued to carry their memories and maintained their fellowship in our hearts for all this time without once forgetting their sacrifice. Terry, as well as all our courageous brothers, continue to inspire us today as certain as they did when they were causing havoc to our enemy in the violent and always dangerous Central Highlands. Terry was the recipient of great respect and high regard from brother Rangers who give that to very few, and none who have not earned it.
Shortly after being honorably discharged, he met the “teammate” he was to share the rest of his life with. Terry and Jamie Sue Hildebrand Massey were married in Sheboygan, WI in June of 1972. They would remain together until Terry’s passing 44 years later. They lovingly raised three children, son Alexander Charles Massey (1990), along with his two beautiful daughters Courtney Ann Massey O’Loughlin (1975) and Jenna Lee Massey Wuthrich (1980). Terry’s children provided him with, perhaps, the greatest joy of his life, his grandchildren, Claire, Paige, Trevor, Gwendolyn and Jonathan. His priceless legacy to his children, grandchildren and future generations is the knowledge that in them resides the DNA of a man who faced great danger with unflinching courage for his nation and his family. They can, likewise, conquer any adversity in their own lives.
Terry spent many years working in the logistics industry, both on the dispatching and delivery side. He spent the last 14 years of his career working for FedEx, which became a family company for him; employing at various times his son, daughter, and future son-in-law. He enjoyed gardening with Jamie and traveling with his family. Door County, WI, Myrtle Beach, SC, and Anna Maria Island, FL, were some of his favorite spots. He loved cheering on the WI Badgers basketball and football teams. He was also proud member of the Middleton, WI VFW Post No. 8216. In the years that passed, Terry had the opportunity to reflect on the time he spent in the Army. He realized how special his military service was and in 2003 agreed to sit for an oral interview with the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center. In the transcribed interview it became clear how proud Terry was to serve his country those many years ago. We can only hope he also realized how very proud his family, his country and brother Rangers were of him.
In the end, long term illness succeeded in doing what the vast numbers of NVA and VC were unable to do many years ago in the very violent jungles of the Central Highlands. Terry, once more, braved the unknown and without complaint closed his eyes with Jamie and family at his side.
The transcript and audio recordings of Terry’s 1 hour interview with the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center are available by clicking on the following links:Massey-Interview-Transcript