DALTON, Ga. — When Charlotte Sandidge was finally old enough to date Charles Beavers, they went out riding in his car and sang along with tunes playing on the radio. Charlotte had never been outside Georgia.
“We always loved that song — it was our song — ‘I Got You, Babe’ by Sonny and Cher,” she recalled. “He was the first person I’d ever gone across the state line with, it was on 41 Highway up above Ringgold. When we passed the Tennessee sign he said, ‘I probably could be put in jail for this’ because I was young, and we laughed.”
Charlotte’s future husband, Lance Cpl. Charles Evans Beavers, 20, was killed in action in Vietnam on Oct. 16, 1967. He was the son of Billy O. and Valleree Beavers, and a 1965 graduate of Dalton High School. An amphibious assault vehicle crewman with the 3rd Marine Division, 1st Amtrac Battalion, H & S (Headquarters & Service) Company, Beavers died from hostile small arms fire in Quang Tri Province. He had enlisted in the Marine Corps, and his tour of duty in South Vietnam began on Dec. 16, 1966. He is buried in Whitfield Memorial Gardens.
Charles and Charlotte met when he was working at the old King’s Supermarket in Dalton.
“My mother shopped there, and sometimes if she didn’t feel like going she’d give me a list of groceries to buy,” Charlotte said. “He was in his senior year of high school, and eventually I gave him my phone number. I was 14 maybe, and so we didn’t begin dating. We just talked on the phone for about two years before we ever went out. He was very sweet and kind, and we just hit it off.”
Charles became “part of our family” even before they married in 1966, she said.
“My mom and dad kinda took him in,” Charlotte remembered. “They loved him like he was one of their own. We never went around any of his family, never had any family gatherings or anything like that, and I never knew any of them. Charles worked a lot and went to school, and then got a job at Canterbury (Carpet) Mills. He worked there until he went into the service.”
She called her young husband “a good person.”
“One time he got a group of boys together that played an all-night basketball game to raise money for underprivileged children in Dalton,” said Charlotte. “He loved kids, and also wrote poetry and could draw amazing sketches. There was this little Black lady that lived around the corner from where they lived on Cuyler Street, and she would help him in his drawings. I don’t really know if she had that talent from years past, but she would encourage him. He drew several things for me and wrote poems to me.”
A friend, Steve W. Payne, posted on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Wall of Faces website, “We were friends for only a short time, but I’ll never forget the marathon basketball game at Fort Hill School, 40 hours straight. We both had to go to the service of our country. I was lucky and got to come home, but I’ll never forget you and the good times we had.”
After Charles and Charlotte married in 1966, a daughter, Gena, came along — a month after his death.
Charlotte noted there were “four or five” Dalton High students who enlisted together.
“Charles didn’t want to go into the Army, he said, ‘If I’m allowed to serve I want to be in the Marines,’” she said. “One of his friends they called Butch, I think his real name was Ralph but I don’t remember his last name. There was a boy named Don Henderson, too.”
Remembering young Charles
Buddy Hughes was friends with Charles and his brother Donnie in the Boy Scouts.
“We were in Troop 62 with Jack Rowland as scoutmaster,” he said. “We used to hike, and we’d be so tired, and he’d say, ‘Oh, it’s just over the next hill, or over the next hill.’ I spent the night with Charles and Donnie before. It was a lot of fun, and we had a good time together.”
Don Thompson, a member of the Dalton High class of 1965, said as they got closer to graduation Charles and Michael Nations, the first Whitfield County man to be killed in Vietnam, were “gung-ho about signing up and going to Vietnam.”
“(They) were friends (and) they both volunteered,” he noted. “Charles went into the Marines and Michael went in the Army.”
Marvin Lewis remembers Charles as “a good kid.”
“He was two years younger than me,” he said. “We knew each other, but were not close. He was the last person you would expect to be a Marine. I don’t know when Charles changed. He was not obese, but overweight. He was not athletic. When you think of a Marine … I just could not imagine him being a Marine. I would love to have known Charles after he changed, because in my mind Charles made a remarkable transition from the 16-year-old I knew to a few years later when he died. It was literally life-changing, in my mind.
“I pictured Charles at 16, and the way he was when he died. It was two different people. I didn’t understand Charles’ inner person, we certainly never had those conversations. When I knew him, I never thought Charles had any close friends. That may not be true, but most of the time I saw Charles I saw him alone. I recall he had an older car that he’d fixed up, and it was absolutely spotless. It looked like it just rolled off the assembly line. So he obviously put a lot of effort into that; I don’t know what his other interests were. He was someone I wish I’d had the opportunity to know after high school, because he was obviously a different person than the Charles I pictured. He was quiet, reserved, and he would do anything for you, a really good kid.”
The 1965 Catamount yearbook lists Charles as being involved with Safety Patrol, Safety Council, Senior Chorus, football manager and B-Team.
How he died
Charles died of a “gunshot wound to (the) neck from hostile fire while on patrol,” according to the Coffelt Database of Vietnam Casualties.
An after-action narrative summary from the Command Chronologies of the 1st Amtrac Battalion is more detailed: “On 16 October 1967, Lance Corporal Charles E. Beavers was on patrol … in the vicinity of the hamlet of Vinh Hua near the Cua Viet River … the patrol had apprehended a Vietcong suspect and was preparing to move out with the prisoner when they were attacked by 25-30 Vietcong. The patrol returned fire.
“An artillery mission was called in on the enemy position and Swift boats provided off-shore support with flares and 81mm mortars until the Vietcong broke contact. During the fire fight, Beavers received a gunshot wound to the neck while engaged against hostile forces. He was med-evacked to ‘Delta’ Medical Battalion but did not survive.”
Charlotte was asked how she received the news.
“Melvin Laird and a person from the sheriff’s department came out to our house,” she began. “I was upset all that weekend (Charles was killed on a Monday) and really didn’t understand why — I was crying a lot. They came out on a Monday or Tuesday after he was killed and told us. I was surprised; he was supposed to be taken off the front lines because he had gotten wounded earlier that year with shrapnel.
“What do you feel when you’re 16 years old? I was upset and really couldn’t believe it for a while. It was devastating. There was a tremendous amount of people at his funeral, there wasn’t hardly even room to stand. We had his funeral at a church he had gone to over off Roan Street.”
Charlotte was asked about her thoughts on Memorial Day.
“I think about him often, and today and on his birthday, and the day he passed away,” she replied. “I don’t know what our lives would have been like had he come home. A lot has happened in my life since then, and I’ve forgotten a lot, but I always remember him.”
Charlotte said to the best of her memory she has not spoken to his brother Donnie since Charles was killed; efforts to locate him for this profile were unsuccessful.
Jim McAllister recalled Charles as a fellow classmate for eight years at North Dalton Elementary School.
“(I) remember him as being quiet, thoughtful and respectful,” he said in a Facebook post on the Varnell Community page.
Jim Cole was in the Dalton High class of 1965, and called Charles “a hero who gave his life for the freedoms and liberty that we now enjoy.”
“There appears to be little regard for what our warrior class has given each of us,” he said. “Without the men and women who wear the uniform and put themselves in harm’s way, we would all be slaves.”
Marvin Lewis recalled a story that circulated in the community after Charles’ death.
“I don’t know how accurate it is, but the story is that Charles and his unit were on patrol, and his unit was overrun,” he related. “Charles was ‘point man’ (out front) and it was my understanding that he laid down a field of fire — as much ammo as you can and as fast as you can — while the rest of his unit retreated, and he was overrun and killed. In my mind, he died a hero.”
Commendations of Lance Cpl. Charles Beavers include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal.
'Charles believed in the mission'
“I visited the Marietta National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2020, even though there were no announced plans (for a ceremony). There were approximately 100 people who voluntarily came to honor the fallen. There were veterans, both male and female, and families present to pledge allegiance to the American flag, and sing about liberty and freedom.
“I could not help thinking about my friend, Charles Beavers, who walked to Fort Hill School with me from the first to the eighth grade. We grew up on the poorer side of the tracks, but we hardly knew the difference. Charles did not talk much, but he was loyal. When we played chase on the playground, he would always be on my side. Even if we were massively outnumbered, he was there.
“Standing before the National Monument in Marietta, a nurse veteran spoke about her experiences in Vietnam. She was asked later about whether the younger soldiers had the right to vote; they did not. She also stated the average age of an American soldier in Vietnam was 18, and that 33,103 of the more than 58,220 killed were only 18.
“My school friend, Charles, is one of those whose name is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I visited that Wall, in Washington, D.C., and found his name. He joined the Marines after high school. In an ambush, Charles covered the retreat of his unit and was killed. I stood by the casket with his father. Charles was in his dress Marine uniform. His father told me that Charles believed in the mission. Knowing Charles and his behavior with me, I knew that to be the truth.
“My father, Jim Franklin Cole Sr., served four years in World War II and was wounded twice. He never talked about it much, but I knew that I would serve also. I grew up hearing 'Attention, boys!' and 'At ease, boys.' When I got back in the car after the small Memorial Day gathering, I heard The Beach Boys' hit '409,' which was the name of a 1960s-era car. While it is a longtime memory for me, it was one of the songs of Charles' life. Unless I tell others about him, how will they know about my friend who gave his life for his country?
“There will be fewer and fewer people visiting these cemeteries in the future. It is very important that young people be taught about these supreme sacrifices, and the people who made them. Each one is much more than a statistic!”
— Jim Cole, Marietta
Remembering Lance Cpl. Charles Beavers
“I went to boot camp with him. Nice guy.” — Anonymous
Vietnam Veteran Memorial Fund Wall of Faces
“I also was with 1st Amtrac Bn., H & S Co., 3rd MarDiv. I think I was in Taipei on R & R when you were killed. I believe I knew you over there, but not well … You are not forgotten. Semper Fi.” — G. Mike Correll
“Thank you for your service in war. When I saw this, I saw a brave, strong hero who risked everything for our country. You will always be remembered, and extra thanks for your parents. It must be hard for them.” — Georgia Katsanos
“I remember our short time together at Parris Island, with fond memories of our friendship.” — Don Diamond
“Dear Lcpl. Beavers, thank you for your service as an amphibious assault vehicle crewman. Semper Fi. It is the Epiphany, and we are thankful for you. It is a New Year, which makes it far too long for you to have been gone. Watch over the USA, it still needs your courage. God bless you, may the saints and angels be at your side. Rest in peace.” — Lucy Conte Micik
“In memory of my high school classmate and fallen Marine brother. We knew the place where our youth and dreams went – to war in Vietnam. But you did not come home. You are not forgotten … As a high school classmate and Marine Vietnam veteran, I pause to honor a friend and fellow Marine who knew the place where our youth and our dreams went to war, in Vietnam, and did not come home. The Marine Corps taught us discipline, endurance and the undying belief in eternal brotherhood – you are not forgotten. May you rest in peace. Semper Fideles! — Lawrence H. Wells, Dalton (USMC, 1964-68; Vietnam, '65-'66), Aug. 8, 2001
“Chuck, it has been almost 41 years since I last spoke with you. There is still an empty place in my heart that your friendship filled. I will never forget you.” — Evans Davis, friend and platoon member, Arizona, April 27, 2008
“Cousin and classmate, thank you for giving the ultimate sacrifice for your country. You are not forgotten.” — L.D. Faw, Dalton, Nov. 9, 2011