“Arms once taken up should never be laid down but upon one of three conditions:
A safe peace, a complete victory or an honorable death.”
I am still at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Right now I am involved in a training activity which I will be able to discuss in a few days.
Some of those with whom I am working will be in one of the war zones very soon. I was reminded of our flight to Iraq in 2004. The following is a short excerpt from Chapter 2 of my book-in-progress:
“It was awfully cold for a Florida boy when we landed at Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt, Germany, at 0234 hours on January 25, 2004. The anticipated three to five hour wait for aircraft re-fueling and a crew change was more like eight hours.
As we entered the Gate 3 area, I noticed a glass partition that separated us from the passengers at Gate 2. Dozens of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were waiting there for their own flight. They had just left Iraq and, like strangers in the night, we were passing them as we traveled in the opposite direction. Looking through the glass, I saw a new generation of combat veterans. These were young men with Combat Infantryman Badges, combat patches on their right shoulders and the far away look of men who had seen too much. I easily recognized the “thousand yard stare”.
The faces were different, but I was reminded of my arrival in Vietnam over three decades earlier. As we filed off the plane to enter that war, a group of hardened veterans with dark tans and medals on their chests walked out of the terminal to take our plane home. Listening to some of them taunt us with “You’re all going to die” made us wonder how many of us would ever return to our loved ones.
There were troops from several units in the waiting area, but the 101st soldiers were the most abundant. I spoke to a young private who said his unit was in a firefight in Mosul only a few days earlier. When the fight began, he was afraid he might not make it home after all. The young man had served in the war since March of 2003 and he was exhausted. Tired or not, he was still proud enough to tell me he re-enlisted to go to Ranger school. The soldier looked like a kid to me, but at my age almost everyone does.”
It is true that each generation passes on, but the one behind it always picks up the sword. I was proud to shake the hand of that young warrior because I had walked his path. It takes a warrior to understand a man who will always have a layer of steel just under the surface of his skin. He will love, hate, work, live and die, but part of him will remain private. That piece of his soul can only be shared with another warrior.
A man once asked me why some war veterans can’t just get over their experiences and get on with their lives. I looked at this shallow individual and said, “If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn’t understand…”
SFC Chuck Grist