WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of WWII veteran Jesse ‘Buddy’ Trice in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Trice was born in Augusta in 1917. Today, the 100-year-old still calls this community home and he continues to maintain a good sense of humor.
Before he joined the military, he was earning $3 a week working at a local cleaner’s, but he was driven to learn the industry and got to work early to teach himself how to use the sewing machine to make clothes. The skills he practiced in business prepared him well for his Army assignment.
Trice served in the 349th Support Battalion where his job was to take care of the uniforms for the officers and clean their clothes and linens. Working for the officers gave him access to better food. “I had pork chops Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The enlisted men didn’t have them until Sunday. They’d be pushing each other down in the line trying to get them. A lot of them didn’t get anything, but I had them for three days,” Trice laughed.
Assisting the officers gave him a unique perspective of the war and he recalled sharing information with his fellow troops that gave them hope.
“Every four or five months I’d go out to the company and tell them I heard the company commander say we’d be going to the states in another two months, but I’d be lying to them,” he laughed. “But it built the morale up.”
Trice was deployed for nearly four years. He served in North Africa; Naples, Italy; and Marseille, France. During his deployment, he stayed in contact with his family thanks to the help of a local teacher who would read his mom the letters he sent.
During his years of military service, Trice said he didn’t think of himself as black, but was reminded in St. Louis when he was turned away from a restaurant because of the color of his skin.
Trice used his experience before the war and what he learned in the Army to become a successful entrepreneur, becoming one of the first black business owners in the Augusta area when he opened a dry cleaning business.
“When I opened the cleaners, if you had to be in a hurry about your suit I would have it ready in a short time. If you were in a hurry see ole Buddy and he’ll fix it for you,” Trice said about his timely response to customers.
“It was an honor to interview Buddy Trice and hear the memories of his time in military service. Preserving his stories of his time in uniform and his successful efforts as a businessman is important to our nation’s history,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Trice’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.