James “Jim” McMahon was my friend. There’s no argument or pretense in this. I forced my friendship on him the same way I did with many of the operators in the Delta Force: by memorizing their first names from a roster then greeting them in the spine — the long (LONG) hallway that traversed the length of the Unit’s main cantonment building.
Staff Duty consists of a pair of men who stay up all night near the commander’s office monitoring phones and handling a host of other routine functions. There was a large binder in the Staff Duty office filled with the photos of every person assigned to the Unit. There was an identical photo binder at the front gate maintained by the 24/7 guard teams.
For lack of scintillating activities to keep my mind off of sleep, I paged through that tome for a hateful amount of hours memorizing every first name of all of the people in our family. I admit I started with my brother operators because I just happen to be that sort of asshole, but I finally got around to everyone. I would then test myself on the names over and over through the night.
I noted the preponderance of what I call: “Old-School American Name Standard.” That is, names like James, John, Mike… etc. Out of curiosity I counted the redundant names to reveal that, in fact, James/Jim was the most popular tallying up to 19, followed by John, then Mike — no Ryders, Striders, Chases, Colts, Jadens… OMG, Jaden!
“Oh, we named him Jaden after his great grandfather Jaden who commanded a company of infantry in the Somme and Verdun during WWI.”
“Captain Jaden… stand your men to with fixed bayonets, and prepare to assault the German trenches, man!”
The fun came in the morning while heading to breakfast:
“Morning Jim… howdy John… what’s up, Mike… G’day, Ms. Denise — looking sharp; how’s the kids? Have a good day!”
Those who didn’t find that creepy felt compelled to learn my name. Jim McMahon was one of those who reciprocated and we never, from that point on, passed each other without shaking hands, waving a greeting, or just pausing for a chat. Jim was a phenomenal soldier and a large personality among the brothers of C-Squadron.
Jim fought a good fight in the Battle of the Black Sea in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. He was not there when I got there, as he was severely wounded and already evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany with scores of other men form Task Force Ranger that were wounded in action. I never understood the full range of his injuries until we spoke about it years later. I know from his brothers that he continued to fight on in the battle and never stopped despite his wounds.
We two retired from the Unit and the Army at about the same time. We both sought out careers in the Information Technology field. As dumb luck had it, we both ended up going to the same training institute in downtown Fayetteville — what a thrill it was to see him there, another brother to huddle with and vent about how horrible everyone and everything was outside the honor and dignity of the military.
I never was in the same Squadron with Jim, so I never got to learn whether he was a super- or sub-human as a squadron player. I only ever knew him as a fair-weather brother for company and conversation.
It’d been so many years since his name or face had even crossed my mind. Now these memories rush back to me as if poured through a fire hose. So many pleasant grinning faces. So many handshakes and waves.
Sergeant First Class James McMahon passed away on November 5. He was 64.
Que le bon Dieu lui garde et protège pour toujours.
By Almighty God and with honor,