David H. Hackworth
21 April 98
GENERATION X ALSO MEANS DUTY, HONOR AND COUNTRY
There's a lot wrong with our military, but there's sure nothing wrong with the folks who thrust the bayonets, maintain and fly the aircraft, sail the ships and bring up the rear cooking the beans, moving the bullets and sorting the mail.
They, the ones defending you and me as we sip Starbucks coffee and enjoy our wildly booming economy, are the best I've ever seen.
The warriors -- squatting in foxholes facing killers in South Korea, Kuwait and Bosnia; drilling holes in the sky over Iraq and Saudi; crammed aboard amphibious ships from the Halls of Montazuma to the Shores of Tripoli; and slipping down jungle trails in Columbia and Cambodia -- are America's finest
They are a lot smarter and better selected and trained than I was two score and 12 years ago. Their sergeants and chiefs and captains and commanders are a lot sharper too, better trained and more professional than even the fine men who taught me the soldiering trade.
If you have any question about just how good these frequently maligned Generation Xers are, take a quick look at their track records in such hot spots as Panama, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia.
The Spartans from ancient Greece and the 1940 German Army -- two of the finest military forces ever to swing a sword or parry a bayonet -- would take their steel hats off to these well-executed operations and along the way salute our present-day warriors as their fighting equals.
Last week, I spent a day with six former U.S. Army Rangers -- Clay Othic, Dave Floyd, Mike Kurth, Todd Blackburn, Mike Goodule, and Ken Thomas. All had fought in one of the most valiant fights in our country's history.
They were with the Ranger Task Force in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1993. Task Force Ranger -- Fort Benning's 3/75th Ranger, Fort Bragg's Delta Force and Fort Campbell's 160th Aviation Regiment -- was outnumbered 10 to 1 against a well-armed, well-led, worthy opponent.
Though surrounded and pinned down for a very long day and an even longer night, they gave no quarter and made their fanatic, gutsy foe pay a stiff price.
Even though they were low on ammo, water, food, and medical supplies and most were bleeding, none ever thought of waving the white flag. They knew they'd make it because they belonged to the sacred brotherhood of men of arms who never let one another down.
They hung in there like their granddads did on the beaches of Saipan and the foxholes of the Hurtgen Forest, the hill tops of Chipyongni and icy passes of the Chosin Reservoir; and as their dads did at Hue, Dak To and the Mekong Delta.
These six young men and those who slugged it out with them were made of that same stern, gritty stuff as their forefathers who hacked their way from Virginia to California and who've defended us so well in all our nation's battles.
They proudly flew the same standard too: country, duty, honor and high physical and moral courage.
All six were patriots who joined up to serve their country. But at the end of the day, they said they fought that hard fight not just for the Red, White and Blue, but for the same reason that was the bottom-line motivation for their granddads and dads: each other.
They just didn't want to let each other down. And believe me, the individual acts of heroism out of Mogadishu make the movie "Braveheart" seem like a nursery tale.
I was humbled and inspired by these brave men. I walked away from the interview with my hope for America recharged.
Like you, I get down when I see the sleaze that daily oozes out of the White House and the special prosecutor's office, and that bubbles out of the television tube along with tales about 11-year-olds with guns murdering other kids.
But a day with these lads made all that pain go away. As long as we have these kind of young folks -- and there are tens of thousands of them out there -- we'll make it through the night.
Their extraordinary story will air on Fox TV, May 7. See it and get inspired too.