BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
23 November 1999
"A THANKS TO THE RANKS"
I've been on the road for the past month promoting my new book,
"The Price of Honor." Visited 10 military bases and
20 cities. Reckon I talked to more than 20,000 military folks
-- active and retired -- and a bunch of civilians.
A book tour is worse than combat except no one's shooting bullets.
The tours are planned as marathons, as an extreme sport in which
the authors participating aren't allowed sleep, food or attention
to other bodily functions. I averaged four hours' sleep nightly
during the tour. It was all go, go, go. But at least I got through
it, and "The Price of Honor" made it onto the Los Angeles
Times Bestsellers list.
I'm convinced that without Army training, where shaving, showering
and out-of-there is a 10-minute drill, I'd never have survived.
On the plus side are the wonderful folks I met along the way.
New friends and a lot of old pals stretching back to Italy, Korea
and Vietnam. Most shared their concern about where our country
is going, especially the good people who make up the bottom rung
of our armed forces. They're really feeling down these days. Many
don't have faith in their senior leaders. They think most are
totally out of touch with them and don't have the moral courage
to sound off about the way things really are. Hundreds of senior
NCOs and junior officers with 10 to 15 years service said they
weren't sticking around for their gold watches.
At Fort Bragg, N.C., the home of our Special Forces, the book-signing
line was heavy with women. Dozens of Army wives told me that during
the seven years of Clinton's military misadventures, their men
have been constantly away on missions. "He comes home from
Kuwait, kisses me, pats the kids on the head, drops off his laundry
and is off to Kosovo," explained one frustrated wife. Almost
the identical words were spoken by Air Force wives in San Antonio
and Navy and Marine wives in San Diego.
Doing too much with too little works only if the mission's critical
and our nation's imperiled. But not for Globo-Robo-Cop exercises
in futility at hot spots around the world that in no way have
anything to do with our national security.
Sixty-five percent of the force is married, and I can tell you
the military wife is unhappy. When Mommy isn't smiling, you can
expect there's a lot of pressure coming down about changing jobs.
Particularly when outside that base gate, things are booming and
life's easy compared with a frantically overcommitted military
establishment whose medical services and living quarters approach
Third World standards.
The mandatory requirement to take Anthrax shots is another major
morale beater. Many warriors simply don't trust this inoculation
designed to prevent mass casualties during a germ attack. Literally
thousands are choosing to walk rather than risk the suspected
The force-feeding of women into combat slots and the morphing
of the military into a feel-good organization where political
correctness is more important than combat effectiveness are also
still taking their toll. A senior sergeant at Fort Drum, N.Y.,
told me there were 142 pregnant soldiers in his unit who couldn't
deploy. No wonder the Army's head man recently declared this division
unfit to fight! Yet to stand tall in the military against women
on the front lines or in maternity wards remains an absolute career
Then there's the January pay raise that the lower rankers say
won't ease their pain. The fact that sergeants will be getting
a mere 10 bucks more a month while a four-star somehow merits
an additional 10 grand a year isn't exactly winning hearts and
minds. A wife at Fort Bliss, Texas, said, "The brass only
look after themselves."
As we enjoy our bounty this Thanksgiving, hundreds of thousands
of fine men and women will be separated from their families at
distant posts in grim places like Korea, Kosovo and Kuwait. We
should make a point of giving thanks to these extraordinary men
and women by asking our legislators to dig into their concerns.
This is our absolute obligation to those whose service and sacrifice
allow us to continue enjoying the fruits of our land of opportunity
and the freedom too many of us take for granted.