___________________________________________________________________________________ I received this note this morning from the only general I’m on a First Name basis with – I call him General or Boss and he calls me Mike. Anyway, I’ve written about Larry Lust before, but I think this note from him was pretty apropos of what we’re facing as the soldiers come home from this debacle…
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Should you ever wondered what valor looks like, go to the website below and watch the video of MGS Roy Benavidez's remarkable story.
Larry J. Lust Major General, USA, Retired_______________________________________________________________________________________________________ If you’re not familiar with Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, read the following citation… The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863 has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor to: MASTER SERGEANT ROY P. BENAVIDEZ UNITED STATES ARMY for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty West of Loc Ninh on 2 May 1968:
Citation: Master Sergeant, then Staff Sergeant, United States Army. Who distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely glorious actions on 2 May 1968 while assigned to Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance and requested emergency extraction. 3 helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire. Sergeant Benavidez was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters returned to off-load wounded crew members and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team. Prior to reaching the team's position he was wounded in his right leg, face and head. Despite these painful injuries he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader. When he reached the leader's body, Sergeant Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Sergeant Benavidez mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gun ships to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt. He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed with additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed 2 enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sergeant Benavidez' gallant choice to voluntarily join his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least 8 men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.
Famously, when the Medics got to Benavidez at Loc Ninh, they took one look at the hunk of hamburger that remained of the guy, and started to put him in a body bag. Conscious but unable to move or speak, he let them know he was still alive by spitting blood at them. Interesting to think of Benavidez this week. A lieutenant I served with from South Texas when I was in exile from the active duty to the reserves back in the days of "Capstone" knew the guy when he'd been in JROTC. Quiet man, friendly, and serious PTSD. Well, duh...but, quiet, friendly and interested in talking to young people about their future. Like fajitas, Pearl Beer and Norteno music. Loved his country, family and home town.
There is something incredible about these men, and I suspect sooner than we might think, women. They didn't get up that morning to be heroes. They didn't wrap themselves in the flag and run around proclaiming themselves to be something great. They found themselves in a situation, they did their duty because that was what they figured they were supposed to do, and then are universally pretty humble about the whole thing.
This is an excellent time to watch the old Audie Murphy "To Hell and Back." (My first day as First Sergeant of the 9th Chemical Company, 9ID (Motorized) I spent on that airfield parade strip at the end of the film followed by a division run...Hooah...first one led by MG Taylor after MG Shallikashivilli gave up command. ) And, I was miserable all over the terrain shown in that film at Lewis). Guy wanted to take care of his family, protect his buddies, do his job, maybe get an education and serve his country. While his performance in The Red Badge of Courage was classic, TH&B presented the GI as GI. His life was tragic in a lot of ways, but Murphy remained humble about his service and loved nothing more than to be with soldiers. Not bragging or dominating, although those stars tend to do it when you’re around on of these guys, but just to BS and listen. Murphy was awarded the Medal as the result of an incident where he stopped a German Tank with Infantry attack, firing the M2 from the deck of a burning Tank Destroyer after calling in Artillery fire directly on his position. When the FSE asked him how close the enemy was to him, he said, “Hold on a second and I’ll let you talk to them…” It’s worth revisiting Murphy’s citation as well.
CITATION: On January 26th, 1945 2ND Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2ND Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2ND Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2ND Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2ND Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2ND Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.
I was out at Fort Irwin earlier this week. NTC is at its usual delightful summer weather, 110+ and dry as a bone, with a light 20 knot wind. Because of the Sequester, they'd cancelled a number of rotations at the National Training Center and cut back on civilian services, so when I got to the gate, MPs were manning it. Not a lot of traffic, so I struck up a conversation with the soldiers. Turns out that after all that time in the desert in Iraq and Afghanistan, the installation decided to not provide any way to cool the water for these guys. They see the commander of the relief about every four hours, and have him bring out ice that they buy themselves. For some reason, this got me mad...kids asked me not to mention their names and assured me that "Hey, First Sergeant, we can take care of ourselves..." Told them that I knew that we'd always had to do that because nobody else would but that didn't make it right.
Since my congressman is that troll who heads the house defense committee, Buck McKeon, I'll send him a note. Not that it will do anything, since the Specialists and PFCs of the garrison MPs don't contribute to his campaign, but in between sending me emails about how he's fighting for jobs by passing anti-abortion legislation and has our soldiers backs by supporting more money for contractors, I'll appeal to his conscience. That should be interesting.
As for me, I’ll drop a note to the garrison CSM which is more likely to accomplish something. And, make a point of checking to see if they need any ice or anything when I drive through the gate for a visit to drop off when I head back to Barstow. If we all did stuff like that, all of those of us who wake up every day and wish we could put on the uniforms again and go mess around with soldiers, I wonder what the impact would be?
When I got to wear a uniform every day, I was intimately invested in the lives and futures of the 200 or so soldiers in my company. My soldiers. Well, now they are all my soldiers. They are now all your soldiers. We need to take care of them, their families, their dreams, and aspirations. But, at the very least, we should be able to make certain that they have cool water to drink occupying a freaking guard post in the Mojave Desert in June.
I admit I’m assuming the best case – the McCaines and Grahames will fail and we won’t end up neck deep in a Shiite-Sunni war of mutual annihilation in the Middle East. Of course, we’re not masters of our fate on that…events have a way of steamrolling us. We'll get our soldiers home finally, and they'll be pretty quickly forgotten. And we'll have soldiers doing their duty, taking care of their brothers and sisters by pooling money to buy ice and space heaters and who knows what else, and the nation will forget. I've quoted Kipling more than once at the blogs I write for...probably time to do so again...
Speaking of the Sequester, I was walking from the grocery store this afternoon in the blazing Barstow sun in 113 degree temperatures. Guy in his 30s approached me with a bottle of Windex and asked me to let him wash my windshield for spare change. He told me he had just been laid off without any notice at Fort Irwin’s Nonappropriated Fund Program at the Shock Zone of something. The haircut still gives me away, but I have no idea what that might. If you find yourself at Irwin, be assured they have a shock zone. The guy had no understanding of why he was laid off, just that he needed to make some money to keep his family fed. I gave him some cash, and wished him luck. Wasn’t a lot of cash, but he was grateful and asked if I’d let him wash my car windows. Shit. I told him to skip it, and wished him luck again; he asked God to bless me.
Now, if you’ve been looking at my stuff, you know that doesn’t have much impact on me. I’m the guy who says sincerely that if there is a god, she and I have some issues to work out. But it got me thinking; I have no reason to be alive, semi-prosperous, pretty healthy and comfortable. I’ve done enough stupid stuff that I should be dead. In jail perhaps; in an insane asylum. Yet, here I am. I don’t believe in god, but life has been pretty good to me. Now, if life would get me out of Barstow that would be helpful. Regardless, however, the reason this guy is now begging for scraps right now is the Sequester. I really don’t feel badly that the executives at the defense contractors won’t get the same bonuses they would get if they got bigger new contracts. In fact, I think most of them probably should be in jail along with the bankers, bond traders, rating agencies and hedge fund managers. From whom much is given, much is owed and much is expected. Haven’t quite lived up to that in American business for a while. But, damn it, the Sequester is hurting people who aren’t concerned about how they’ll get by if Mercedes stops making Maybachs or if they can pay for another dancing horse. It’s hurting those soldiers trying to drink hot water to stay hydrated in 110 heat at Fort Irwin. It’s hurting this guy, Pedro F. Rodriguez, who is just trying not to be a bum in Barstow. It’s hurting our present, it’s hurting our future, and it’s betraying our past. It’s our time. There’s nobody else here; just us. If it’s going to be right, it’s our time to make it right. I have little trust in the good intentions of most of the elected officials in this country. But, they do care about their jobs. Their money. Their pensions. Their perks. We can take that away from them. We need to serve them notice that until every American who wants a job can have one based on their skills, abilities and dreams; that until every American has adequate housing, food and medical care; that until every child in this country goes to bed full, healthy, with clothes and supplies for schools; when everyone has some reasonable level of safety, security and hope, that the elected classes and the 1% for and by whom they largely seem to be employed are at risk of a radically less lucrative future. Otherwise, we join the betrayal -- of present, past, future and any concept of the United States as the last best hope for mankind.