Rangers Lead the Way
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the 2012 Army Ranger Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Fort Benning, GA. 12 men were inducted. Put simply, they were being recognized for being the Best of the Best. Several things struck me and will stick with me from this experience. First, the Rangers are one of the US’ truly elite fighting forces. In the audience were active duty and retired Rangers of every rank up to and including General. This was a combat hardened crowd. With most serving multiple combat tours. It was clear the amount of respect and admiration these men had for each of the recipients. It was also surreal to see decorated combat veterans sit in awe of the accomplishments of their “Ranger Buddies”.
This was a very tight knit group. Everyone seemed to know everyone. And if they didn’t, there was no barrier to starting a conversation. Rank is of course highly respected in any military outfit, more so in one like this, but the Colonels and Generals were very approachable. They all had clearly served together.
There was their professionalism. One only need to observe the audience during the playing of the National Anthem to identify retired Rangers. Standing at perfect attention.
Then there were the recipients. Their service to their country truly legendary. The WWII vet, who had fought has way through Africa and up through Italy. It was during a battle in Italy when he jumped on and neutralized a German tank that was preparing to fire on a building where his fellow Rangers had sought cover. He was captured that day and spent 18 months as POW. There was the Ranger who at age 63, re-enlisted so he could help train a new generation of Ranger during Desert Storm. There was the 14 year old boy that accepted the award on behalf of his father who was killed in action.
My brother-in-law accepted the award for his son who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. His unit was ambushed and his Captain badly wounded. He ran alone to the front to take on 50+ of the enemy so his unit could withdraw to cover. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.
Each recipient made a brief ‘acceptance’ speech. To a man, they deflected all credit for the award, labeled those with whom they served as the true heroes, accepted the award with great humility and on behalf of their fellow Rangers.
The retired colonel delivering the keynote made perhaps the most profound observation. He was not sure where such men came from. He was sure that so long as the United States continued to have such men in her service, she would always be the Land of the Free. You can sleep well tonight knowing these men stand watch over your family.
Photographs and citations of the twelve men inducted Thursday will forever hang on the walls of Fort Benning’s Ranger Hall.
These Rangers were inducted:
• Lt. Gen. (ret.) James M. Dubik
• Col. (ret.) Robert L. Powell
• Col. (ret.) Robert C. Murphy
• Command Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Alfred G. Birch
• Command Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Joe Heckard
• Command Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Gerald Klein
• Former 1st Sgt. Frank Mattivi
• Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller (killed in action)
• Col. Richard J. Malvesti (killed on duty)