By Bob Sofaly
James E. Walls was born in Crumpton, Maryland, in 1930. At 17, he joined the U.S. Merchant Marines and served on an oil tanker visiting exotic ports in South America, the Suez Canal and all the way to the Persian Gulf.
But for Walls it wasn’t enough. He expected more out of life and was looking for something different. So, in 1954 he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and was later assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga, deploying to the Mediterranean Sea.
In 1966, he was a platoon sergeant in South Vietnam with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines and fought on the legendary Hill 55. Casualties were so high in the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, it was pulled out of Vietnam, and Walls returned to Parris Island where he served his second tour as a drill instructor.
In 1982, Walls served as Depot Sgt. Major at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Walls retired in 1983. He and his wife of 54 years, Lillian, settled down in the quiet Shell Point neighborhood where he is still referred to as the Sgt. Major.