where character counts and integrity is the keystone


Sergeant Stewart

“I met him just once at a sacrament meeting held with the LDS servicemen of the 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry division, during the Korean War. He introduced himself simply as Sgt. Stewart from Idaho and proceeded to tell us how the Lord had blessed him during the previous month. I noted that he was short – about 5’5” tall and weighed around 160lbs., with strong arms and shoulders. He mentioned that his great ambition since childhood had been to become a good athlete.

“As he bore his testimony, Sgt. Stewart was moved to tell us of a giant man named Lt. Jackson. He was 6′ and” tall, weighed a hulking 245lbs., and had been an outstanding college athlete. The sergeant spoke of him glowing, somewhat biased terms as the bravest, sharpest, and greatest company commander in the entire U.S. Infantry one who would not ask his men to do anything he would not be willing to do himself. With noticeable pride he further depicted him as a man’s man, a tremendous officer, and a Christian gentleman, inspiring those who were fortunate enough to serve under his command.

“A few day prior to our church service, Sgt. Stewart had been assigned to a patrol. Leading and at the point point of the patrol was Lt. Jackson. Bringing up the rear, as the moved down the steep hill in a diamond formation was the sergeant. As they neared the base of the hill, they were ambushed by enemy snipers. The lieutenant, being out in front was riddled up one side by automatic small arms fire. As he fell he managed to drag himself to the shelter of a nearby rock and tree while the rest of the patrol scrambled up the hill to regroup.

“Since he was next in command, the responsibility of the patrol now fell upon the shoulders of Sgt. Stewart. He immediately formed his men into a ‘half-moon’ perimeter defense and then assigned his largest and seemingly strongest man the mission of going down the hill to rescue the lieutenant. The others would provide him with cover.

“The man was gone for approximately half an hour, only to return and report the he could not budge the wounded officer – he was too heavy. It was like trying to lift a dead horse. The men started grumbling about getting out of there before someone else got hit. Someone was overheard to say ‘Let’s forget about the lieutenant; after all he’s black!”

“At this point Sgt. Stewart turned to his men, and pulling himself up to his full 65-inch stature he spoke in a very matter of fact tones: “I don’t care if he’s black or green or any other color. We’re not leaving without him. He wouldn’t leave any of us in similar circumstances. Besides, he’s our commanding officer, and I love him like my own brother.’

“Turning to one of the corporals he said quietly, but with great authority, ‘You take charge and wait for us. I will bring him back.’ carefully, and as noiselessly as possible, he inched his way down among the sporadic sniper fire toward the lieutenant. When he finally reached him, Lt. Jackson was weak from the loss of blood, and he assured the sergeant that it was a hopeless cause – there would be no way to get him back to the aid station in time. It was then that Sgt. Stewart’s great faith in his Heavenly Father came to his assistance. He took off this helmet, knelt beside his fallen leader and said, “Pray with me Lieutenant.’

“The sergeant said that he couldn’t remember all he had said in his prayer, but he recalled reminding the Lord that never in his life had he ever smoked a cigarette. Not once had he ever tasted alcohol in any of its forms. ‘Dear Lord,’ he pleaded, ‘I need strength far beyond the capacity of my physical body. This great man, they son, who lies critically wounded here beside me, must receive medical attention soon. I need the power to carry him up this hill to an aid station where he can receive the treatment he needs to preserve his life. I know, Father, that thou hast promised the strength of ten to him whose heart and hands are clean and pure. I feel I can qualify. Please, Dear Lord, grant me this blessing.’

“Brethren,’ he continued, ‘as I prayed I could feel my muscles bulge with energy, and I know that at that moment, as I had never known before, that God truly hears and answers the prayers of His faithful children. I humbly thanked Him, said amen, put on my helmet, reached down and gently picked up my company commander, and cradled him over my shoulder. We then slowly started our ascent up the hill, Lt. Jackson crying softly as he whispered to me words of gratitude and encouragement.’

“I met Sgt. Stewart just once, for less than two hours it was our privilege to be in his company. I could feel the presence of greatness as I sat in that bunker listening to that choice young man. His spirit touched my spirit, and my faith was kindled because of his Christlike attitude and his soul-stirring testimony regarding the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all men.”

[Adapted from Ben F. Mortensen, “Sergeant Stewart” The Instructor, Mar. 1969, pp. 82-83.]