Top Secret Memories

Top Secret Memories

Grayson Habermaas

James Ivan Gray, many knew him as one of the smartest men they’ve ever met or one of the nicest, but there was much more to this man than many know. James (also known as Jim) was born August 28, 1943. He graduated from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts in Zoology and a Master of Science in Plant and Soil Science. Soon after his time in university, he went to the US Army. 

Jim was with the forces in Korea from 1964 to 1966. He was then stationed in the Republic of Vietnam from December 1966 to December 1967. His highest rank was a Staff Sergeant as he worked as a Command Surgeon. In his short time in the army he was greatly recognized for his actions and achievements. He was recommended for soldier of the month many times. In one of Jim’s Letter of Appreciation he was recognized for his leadership and superior performance in his missions and was praised as, “Your manner of performance has reflected great credit upon yourself and the United States Army.” On July 10, 1968, Jim was extracted from the army. After he was extracted, James stayed in California for a couple years before he came back to Eldorado, Illinois where he grew up.

 Soon after he met my grandma, Shirley at a bowling alley. In 1977 they got married and had my mother. Through their friends, Jim received a job at GE Aerospace. Through his Master degree he started this job as a groundskeeper. I asked Shirley, “How did he move up the ranks in this job?” Shirley said, “He had to keep the ground perfect at this place, if there was even a speck of snow on the ground it had to be removed. He moved up the ranks by doing jobs such as driving around and delivering for the company.” By gaining clearance through all of these jobs and hard work, he then started to work in a vault on top secret missions at GE. “What did he do in these vaults?” Shirley has said, “I never knew any of the information or what he did but he has told me that they had satellites in space that could bring up the clearest picture of a dollar bill on the ground in Russia.” Jim worked in this building from 1981 to 1990, Shirley only working there a couple of months. Even after leaving Virginia, the job was still not completely done. Jim and Shirley moved back to Wayne City in their house in Aden. “How did they keep contact with Jim after leaving Virginia?” Shirley said, “We got visited twice after we got back from the people at GE. They drove the 18 hour drive to talk with Jim about some top secret things that were going on.”

Jim was recognized greatly in the military for his hard work and leadership. In a letter from the Commanding General he noticed James by saying, “I desire to express my appreciation for your superior performance of duty” also in this letter he said, “Your ability as a participating driver was attested to by the operation of a total of 28,500 accident free miles during this operation.” James received many compliments and appreciation during his time in the army and after. Many have recognized him for how smart he was in everything he did. Whether it was the Bible, the army, or just keeping someone alive, Jim was dedicated to it. Shirley has said, “He never made anybody feel mistreated and always treated people with love and kindness.” Throughout all of the illnesses he had to deal with, he always had a smile on his face and made you feel loved. He never showed he was hurting and was a very independent man. Jim was always known as a great figure who was good at anything he did, many people knew him as a smart man who just lived a normal life. His life was far from normal and that’s what made him unique. To most he was known as Jim or James, but to me he was known as Tata.