Sherwood Reynolds fought for his country, and paid the ultimate price.
And on a hot and humid Saturday in early May, Calvert County took steps to help thank the soldier by renaming Sixes Road in Prince Frederick in his honor.
Reynolds, who grew up a few feet from Sixes Road, became the first Calvert resident to lose his life in the Vietnam War when he was killed in action on Feb. 26, 1968.
This is for “not just the Reynolds family, but for all those who have sacrificed and given up their lives — and I say given, not lost — their lives in the pursuit of freedom for other countries, and specifically for our country,” Secretary of the Maryland Department of Veteran’s Affairs George Owings said next to a large black and white photo of Reynolds in his military dress. “So while we are honoring Sherwood Reynolds today, it stands as a reminder to all those who have given up their lives that they are not forgotten to their family and friends.”
Owings called up Reynolds’ siblings — twin brother Linwood, brothers Allen and Clifton, and sister Charlotte Reynolds Clarke — before unveiling a miniature version of the commemorative plaque.
“It does bring up a lot of memories, but I think it’s a long time coming for him to be recognized like this,” said Clarke, who said her perfume bottles started rattling a few days prior. “I wouldn’t sit up on the bed and look [because the bottles] were having a field day. And I said, ‘His spirit came home,’ and I believe that.”
“It’s a great community event and it’s for a great cause recognizing a soldier with extended family in Calvert County, just like I have,” Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans (R) said. “It’s an important recognition and probably something overdue, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Reynolds was by all accounts a regular child growing up on John Harris Road off Sixes Road, which was where several relatives lived as well after a grandfather donated several parcels of land to his children.
Reynolds loved horseshoes, basketball and baseball and toiling in the family’s tobacco fields with Linwood, with whom he was very close.
“We would raise a garden together and work in the tobacco fields, and when we would get paid we would give our money to my mom,” said Linwood, who was born six minutes after Sherwood, “and then she would give us what she thought we should have.”
The brothers attended Brooks High School together and were so close, they even dressed alike.
And those who knew them had difficulty recalling even a little mischief they might have gotten into.
“They didn’t do anything wrong,” Clifton said. “My favorite thing was to look around to see if they did something wrong because I couldn’t believe nobody could do nothing wrong.”
“They both had wonderful personalities,” said Clarke, their sister, who was two years older, “and they didn’t mind helping you out.”
Malcolm Funn, a former attorney who is also a member of the Maryland commission on African American history and culture, was a classmate of Clarke and said Sherwood was “sort of quiet but he was also active. He had a personality that he was always there and you knew he was around. I’ll always remember his quietness and his caring heart.”
Shortly after graduating high school, the two brothers enlisted into the Army. Clifton enlisted shortly after and a fourth brother, Frank, was later drafted.
“My father talked about how the military was really good discipline,” Allen Reynolds said. “He didn’t encourage us to go into the military, but he also didn’t discourage us, either.”
“I followed them into the military because I wanted to be like them,” Clifton said. “They were like my swagger stick.”
Sherwood and Linwood Reynolds started their four-year tour in the military on Oct. 5, 1967, at the age of 18.
“He said he would would dedicate himself in Vietnam to do what he thought was right at the time,” Clifton said of Sherwood. “He didn’t question things, but he would take care of his soldiers. I couldn’t believe the professionalism that he had. He set the example of what a true soldier should be. He always looked out for his squad; they were always first. I wanted to be like him.”
Less than five months later, on Feb. 26, 1968. Sgt. Reynolds of the 9th Infantry Division and his squad were pinned down by heavy fire in Phong Ding Province in South Vietnam. And as he tried to protect his squad, he was killed by small-arms fire while trying to take out a sniper.
A telegram sent to his parents, Brooke and Mary, stated Sherwood Reynolds died from “gunshot wounds received on combat operation when unit engaged hostile force in firefight.”
“I was about 15 years old, and I remember that day with that Western Union [telegram] and everything,” Allen Reynolds said. “It was horrific, it was horrible for my parents. My parents just said, ‘Your brother was killed in Vietnam. They told me the truth. Yeah, it was tough. I was in denial for a long time.”
Clarke found out while teaching at Allen Creek Elementary School on Broomes Island Road from family friend the Rev. William Plummer, and Clifton said he almost flunked out of Morgan State University, because “it affected me that bad.”
Sherwood Reynolds’ name is etched on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington on Panel 41 East, Line 43. He is buried at Brooks United Methodist Church in St. Leonard.
Plans to deploy Linwood were halted after Sherwood’s death.
At the road dedication, Sherwood Reynolds’ nephew, Christian, a senior at Calvert High School, started the ceremony by playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his violin.
“It’s a huge honor playing at this dedication ceremony, and I feel like he’s smiling down at all of us right now wherever he is in heaven, or some other kind of afterlife,” said Christian Reynolds, who later played two songs with the Calvert High Chamber Orchestra. “I never got to meet him, but I’m so proud of the service he did for our country. This is my way of thanking him for his service to our country. I think he’d be very proud to be here.”
Owings spoke next to a large black-and-white photo of Sherwood in full military dress.
“A soldier dies twice, once in the physical and once when the last time his name is ever spoken,” Owings said, “and this [dedication] will stand in testimony to Sherwood Reynolds, and he will live on forever whenever somebody rides the road.”
Several county dignitaries as well as the American Gold Star Mothers attended the May 4 event at American Legion Post 220 on Sixes Road. The American Legion — which has three other posts in Calvert, Post 274 in Lusby, Post 85 in Huntingtown and Post 206 in Chesapeake Beach — is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year
Four other soldiers — Robert Lee King, William J. Sewell, James Allen Parker and Stewart Charles Emerson — were also killed in Vietnam, and Owings said there are plans to rededicate roads to them as well.
“We passed a bill in 2015 that said we would begin naming roads [after those lost in combat] once the qualifying factors have been met, to do this very thing so it’s not a matter of getting support,” Owings said. “I can’t imagine anybody in local government or state government opposing this kind of action. There will be [more dedications] as soon as I can get with their families. It’s going to happen.”
All five soldiers’ names are etched into a granite monument on the grounds of the Calvert County courthouse.
“It’s big for the county to recognize that we have Vietnam veterans because it was a terrible war, and we knew that going in,” American Legion Post 220 President Jay Bolles said. “Those kids went over there, and sometimes against their own will, and when they came back they weren’t treated very well by this country. So of all the veterans groups, they kind of got the raw end of the deal so it’s important to pay special attention to them. Today is a very good start to get those guys the recognition they deserve.”