Yesterday, I commented that I have doubts in America’s leadership these days. That’s true, but many of us did in the sixties as well. But then, as now, we had heroes. Some of them remain in our hearts, even more than the others. This article also from five years ago, tells of one of mine.
There were plenty of heroes on 9/11. Fire and police and port authority all going in. Passengers counterattacking on Flight 93 and various civilians and military in New York and the Pentagon. Even what the military calls NCA, the National Command Authority.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
But the one that is my especial hero of the day; is my hero because of how he lived his life.
A British NCO from Cornwall who served in the Parachute Regiment, immigrated to the US, served as Platoon Leader, B Co 2/7 Cavalry in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in the battle of Ia Drang, where he gave the British commands of ‘Fix Bayonets, On Line, Ready forward’. His picture is on the cover of ‘We Were Soldiers’. It is a praiseworthy story prompting us to Remember ,
but it doesn’t end there.
On 9/11 he was vice-president in charge of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. We all know what happened that day, but do we remember that only six Morgan Stanley employees died when their building was obliterated. One them was this man, now a retired Colonel, who stayed to make sure he got his people out. In all those situations, he was singing an old song commemorating the resistance of the Cornish against the British, and Roark’s Drift in the Boer War, and other engagements. That song is:
Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors’ pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!
That man was Colonel Rick Rescorla and he is a legend in the 7th Cavalry. He is not a man any of us should ever forget. A real life Sagaman, who lived quietly amongst us.
“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world ‘This was a man!’”
The tragedy of 911 was this; multiplied by three thousand.
After having reached safety, Rescorla returned to the building to rescue others still inside. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains have not been recovered. He left a wife and two children.
He is my hero not least because he fulfilled to the last breath the leadership credo that the Air Force taught me and so many others:
First: The Mission
Always: the People
And thus, on this September 12th the story of how the people of a great American financial institution were rescued by the 7th U.S. Cavalry (Custer’s Own).
If we are to live up to the heritage that men like Colonel Rescorla have left us, I think our motto must be:
At football, golf, and polo you men have made your name
But now your country calls you to play your part in war
And no matter what befalls you
We shall love you all the more
So come and join the forces as your fathers did before
From: Oh! What a Lovely War