Jay T. Kimbrough was born in Dallas, Texas in 1947 and he grew up there, attending public schools in South Oak Cliff. Cloyde Pinson, Jr. was one of his friends throughout his Junior High and High School years and he was close to the Pinson family. Jay was in South Oak Cliff High School’s Class of 1966, but; he had accumulated enough credits to graduate by mid-term, so he left high school early and enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1966.

He was inducted into the service on February 23, 1966 and went through Boot Camp at San Diego, California. He was still only eighteen years old when he arrived in Vietnam in August 1966 and was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines. He was an M-60 machine gunner nine months into his tour when he was severely wounded and medically evacuated back to the United States. It happened this way.

On May 10, 1967, during Operation “Union 1,” elements of the 5th Marines, (including Company D, 1st Battalion, in which Cloyde Pinson, Jr. was serving), were heavily engaged with a large force of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops in the Que Son Valley about 40 kilometers west of Tam Ky in Quang Tin Province. Jay’s platoon was a quick reaction force, flown in to reinforce; but they arrived in a “hot” Landing Zone. The helicopter Jay was on was shot down about 500 meters short, and Jay was wounded and losing a lot of blood. Luckily, a Corpsman happened to be on that aircraft and he stopped the bleeding, at least he stopped it well enough that Jay didn’t bleed to death. The survivors remained under intense small arms and automatic weapons fire, and were unable to move.

Only the Platoon Sergeant, Jimmie L. West, with less than half of the platoon had been inserted safely into the landing zone, and he would later receive the Silver Star for what he did next. First, he organized what few men he had and led them to the successful relief of the survivors of the other half of the platoon. Those men had landed under heavy fire and were pinned down less than 75 meters from an entrenched enemy force. Later, and only because the sound of weapons firing continued to come from that direction, the sergeant became aware of where Jay’s helicopter had gone down. Sgt West picked up a machine gun and moved out through heavy enemy fire until he reached Jay and the Corpsman and then covered them on the way back, delivering suppressive fire as the Corpsman brought Jay into the relative safety of the LZ perimeter. Approximately three to four hours had elapsed since he had been wounded. Had it not been for Jimmie West, Jay would not have gotten out alive. In fact, against all odds, Jimmie West had saved many men’s lives that day.

Jay Kimbrough was flown out to the hospital ship, USS Sanctuary, for treatment. Meanwhile, Operation “Union 1” continued and on May 12th, Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines engaged a huge NVA force and initially suffered high casualties. Among them, Cloyde Pinson, Jr. was killed in action.

Jay was medically evacuated back home to Texas, to the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station Hospital, and he was a patient there for his remaining eight months in service. The Pinson family buried their son Cloyde Jr. in a Dallas area cemetery and they came to visit Jay in the hospital in Corpus Christi. Jay also remembers being in the hospital in September when Hurricane Bulah hit the Texas coast doing great damage. Jay Kimbrough was discharged from the Marine Corps on February 23, 1968 and returned home to Dallas.

He first started back to school, attending night classes in a local Junior College. Later, while benefiting from the G.I. Bill, he graduated with a BBA from Southern Methodist University. He next earned a degree in law from South Texas College of Law and then served in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps from 1978 to 1982.

Since leaving the military service he has continued to add to an impressive career record. Listed here are most, but by no means all of the positions that he has held, in succession beginning in 1982.

Attorney in Bee County.

Assistant District Attorney for the 156th District of Texas.

Bee County Judge.

Executive Director, Texas Commission on Private Security.

Executive Director, Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Executive Director of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division, Office of the Governor of Texas.

Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor of Texas.

Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice, Office of the Attorney General of Texas.

Director, Office of Homeland Security, Office of the Governor of Texas.

Deputy General Counsel, The Texas A&M University System.

Conservator, Texas Youth Commission.

Deputy Chancellor and General Counsel, The Texas A&M University System, and finally,

Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor of Texas, which position he currently holds at this writing.

Motivated primarily because there was no National Cemetery anywhere near North Texas when the body of his son had been brought home for burial from Vietnam, Cloyde Pinson, Sr. took upon himself a project to have one created there and together with Congressman Martin Frost they were successful. DFW National Cemetery opened in 2000. On April 12, 2006 the remains of Cloyde Pinson, Jr. were reinterred there. Jay is a member of the “Patriot Guard Riders” and when that day came the governor gave him approval, in fact ordered Jay to go, so he rode with the group in motorcycle escort taking Cloyde Jr. to his final resting place in the DFW National Cemetery. Two days later, Cloyde Pinson, Sr., founder of the Texas National Cemetery Foundation, had a knee replacement operation, and to the great shock of all who knew what he had just been through, he died just hours after the surgery. Father and son are buried together in the cemetery that the father had brought into being.

Sadly, 2006 didn’t get any better for Jay Kimbrough. The platoon sergeant that saved his life, Jimmie West, was seriously wounded in later combat and had also been hospitalized at Corpus Christi before Jay was discharged. Years passed and Jimmie had become the Chief of Police in Madisonville, Texas. Jay took his first position with the Texas A&M University System in 2006 and moved to College Station, partly because it was close by and it would be easy for the two of them to visit. But, it didn’t work out that way, in June 2006 Jimmie died after being bitten by a copperhead snake.

Jay Kimbrough insists that the most important part of his Vietnam story is in honoring the sacrifice of his friend Cloyde Pinson, Jr., the Pinson family, and the heroic actions of Jimmie West, the platoon sergeant that saved his life on his last day in Company A. He has been a member of Chapter 1919 since transferring here from the chapter in Corpus Christi in 1997 and this month PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Patriot Jay Kimbrough.