Sweetwater Mourns Passing of Former Chief of Police James Kelley

Lead Writer

Thursday morning news spread quickly through the community of Sweetwater of the passing of former Police Chief James (Jim) Kelley. Outpouring of love and support of his family was posted on social media by many present and former community members reminiscent of the “outstanding, kind, and selfless servant of God” that he was.
In April of 2018 the Remember Our Heroes Facebook Page shared a story written by son James (Tanner) Kelley. It read “Jim Kelley, a West Texas native, enlisted in the Navy October 1968 at the age of 17. Right in the middle of the Vietnam War. His father had served in the Navy in WWII, being sent home early in a body cast after breaking his back. Jim’s father was serving as the Veterans Service Officer when Jim joined. His family could not afford to pay for him to go to college and he really didn’t want to.
Jim left for Basic training, located in San Diego, CA, in February 1969. But had to return home two weeks later when his father passed away. He then returned to boot camp after leave but had to start back at the beginning. Then he spent some time at the Naval Hospital in Annapolis, MD honing his skills as a Hospital Corpsman. He then received his orders to RVN, Republic of Vietnam, and was attached to the Marine Air Group-16. He was to be a Search and Rescue Corpsman at the Marble Mountain Air Facility. Thousands of barrels containing Agent Orange were stored at Marble Mountain.
One day in March Jim took he place of a Corpsman that had gotten shot in the side while on a flight. They flew in to a very hot zone to pick up a KIA Marine. But the helicopter was hit, they lost control and spun to the ground, landing hard. Jim bailed out the right side and landed in the rice paddy. He ended up carrying two South Vietnamese soldiers a mile and a half to the next Landing Zone. They reported back to base that he had been killed.
Upon returning back to the states, Jim became a police officer in Sweetwater, TX. He served as the Chief of Police there for 27 years. He married and raised two sons. As one of those sons, I couldn’t have asked for a better man to be raised by. He carries himself with confident humility, and is always ready to run towards the fight no matter the consequences.
*See more in print or online edition.