94.3 The Dude’s highlighted soldier of the week: Command Sergeant Major Retired Jim Wertman

94.3 The Dude’s Soldier Salute host Don Sornson conducts a weekly interview with a local member of the Armed Forces. The current soldier of the week is Command Sergeant Major Retired Jim Wertman. This is a preview of Sornson's interview with Wertman.

Army Veteran Jim Wertman. Photo provided.

This week on the Soldier Salute we get to know US Army Veteran and local businessman Jim Wertman. Jim joined the US Army from Connecticut in 1963, attended basic training at Ft. Dix New Jersey, AIT (advanced individual training), at Ft. Steward Georgia as a 716, and became the Military Occupational Specialty for an administrative specialist. However, that didn’t last long. “About a year after that I realized the people that were making all the rank were in the infantry,” said Wertman.

He went on to do two tours of duty in Vietnam, once with the 25th Infantry Division and a second time with the fourth Infantry Division. Jim left Vietnam and made his way to Ft. Jackson, as a Drill Sergeant in 1969 where he met his wife. That wasn’t the last time he served in the great state of South Carolina.

“I had a very prestigious assignment of teaching at the Citadel Military College in 1978 to 1980 and then helped open the University of South Carolina ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) in 1980 to 1982.”

Wertman eventually became the Command Sergeant Major of 47th Infantry and was part of Task Force 47th IN for Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Jim went on to wrap up his military career as the Commander of the Sergeants Major Academy, in charge of the Command Sergeant Major Resident Course, Non-Resident Course, Command Sergeant Major Course and the Command Sergeant Major Spouse Course. “Probably one of the best jobs I had in the military, and that I was able to groom Sergeants Major for the Army of the future.” said Wertman.

Command Sergeant Major Wertman retired in December of 1993 and returned to South Carolina where he got into the motorcycle industry in 1994. To this day, he is still involved in the industry, now being the owner of Carolina Honda. He is an avid supporter of veterans and their causes. In 2000 through Carolina Honda, Jim started the Veteran’s Christmas Charity Ride that benefits the Dorn VA Medical Center.

“Our first ride consisted of 100 bikes where we took Christmas to the veterans at the Dorn VA Medical Center.” Wertman said. “This year the ride will be on December ninth which will be the 18th anniversary of the ride.”

The ride that began with 100 motorcycles has grown to an average of 3,500 to 4,000 a year. In 2017 the ride passed the $1 million mark in gifts and money. “We are extremely proud of the ride and what it represents” he said. “It is the bike community of which about 75 percent of bike riders today are military veterans, but it’s also the South Carolina Community.”

The event now includes asking school children to write a card to a veteran. All cards are handed out to every veteran during the week of Christmas at the Dorn VA center. “If you’ve ever been in the military and want to see a grown veteran cry, this is probably the event that would make them do that.”

CSM(R) Jim Wertman goes on to discuss coming home from Vietnam, more on what it meant to him to be a Drill Sergeant during that time in America’s history and what next year’s Year of the Vietnam Veteran means to him and his fellow Vietnam Veterans.

Be Sure to tune in to the Soldier Salute this week to catch the complete interview!

Categories: Columbia, Military, Richland County