On Panel 42E, Row 13 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, there’s a name of importance to retired Air Force Master Sgt. Charles E. Bass, 86, of Woodway. It’s his brother, Budrow Bass Jr., who was killed in action shortly after he arrived in Vietnam.

Charles Bass and “Little Bud,” as he was known, were born into a Louisiana family with seven other siblings; Charles was the oldest, and Little Bud was the sixth child. They were born years apart.

Bass grew up in Jonesville, and went to work when he graduated high school. He couldn’t see any reason to go to college, so he didn’t

“I come from a farm where wages were a dollar a day, and all the sudden, I was being paid some big wages to primarily supervise meat packaging and display,” Bass said. “I couldn’t believe you could make money that easy.” He skipped going to LSU, because he didn’t think he could make more money by going to college.

When he joined the Air Force in October 1950 to avoid being drafted into the Army, Little Bud was a young boy and Bass wasn’t as close with him and the younger children as he was with his older siblings. Bass joined the Air Force assuming it would involve flying.

“I thought then that everyone in the Air Force flew and came back home after resting a while. I didn’t realize only 20 percent of the people flew and the rest served on the ground,” he said.

Air Force on the ground

Bass’ military career began at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and it took him all over the United States and abroad. His specialty was electronics and it wasn’t too long before he was teaching new cadets.

In 1951, he went to England with the 59th Air Wing to Burtonwood, a former World War II air depot. He taught radar, electronics and fire control systems in the B-29 and B-50 aircraft and attended school on base through Warrington and the University of Maryland.

Back in the U.S., he was assigned to James Connally AFB in Waco, where he met his future wife, Retha Joe Furlow, a nurse with the 3565th Medical group. They married in 1954.

Bass continued his military career. He served at many bases throughout the U.S., including Lowry in Denver; Columbus, Ohio with the SAC unit at Lockbourne AFB; Bergstrom AFB; Glasgow AFB in Montana; and Castle AFB in California. He retired after 20 years and 28 days as a master sergeant in November 1970.

Little Bud was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967 while Charles was at Castle. He saw his brother for the last time when Little Bud took a 30-day leave and came home. Just finished with Tiger training in preparation for Vietnam, Little Bud told his brother he had the choice to go elsewhere but turned it down. Bass urged him to reconsider, but Little Bud refused to leave his “brothers” who were going to Vietnam.

Less than two months later, he was dead. On March 1, 1968, Budrow Bass Jr., 20, was killed by an improvised explosive device planted in the ground, leaving behind an expecting wife.

It was near Chu Chi in Vietnam and the Army unit was marching in single file, when at the front of the line someone fired a gun or some similar device. It was a decoy to get soldiers, as the enemy knew, to hit the ground instinctively. There were many “$2 personnel mines” planted and Little Bud landed on one. He died instantly.

No news is usually bad news

Bass got a call from his father at Castle, who told him Little Bud was “missing.” Bass told his father to “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” He knew from experience that many families are first informed their loved one is “missing” to give them time to process the information. A couple of days later, they usually inform the family that he is deceased and his body recovered.

Bass escorted his brother’s body home from Oakland Army Base. “It was one of the most difficult jobs in my life,” he said. Arriving home in the middle of the night, there were about 500 people there to honor Little Bud. “I never saw anything like it in my life,” he said.

Today, Bass is retired and still married to Retha. They have four children, four granddaughters and three great-grandsons. He volunteers in the community, and he and Retha have spent years sponsoring Baylor girls to provide support while they are away from home.

He thinks about his brother, especially on Little Bud’s birthday and on the day he died. He gets emotional when he talks about it. But, he feels God has a plan in mind.

Regarding his own service, Bass said, “It was a job I volunteered to do. I feel honored to have served. I felt like a part in it by preparing the men to carry out the mission.”

“Voices of Valor,” featuring stories about Central Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday in the Waco Trib. To suggest a story about a Central Texas veteran, email voicesofvalor@wacotrib.com. Voices of Valor is proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing.

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