When I Last Saw Jean-Luc

     This morning I received a phone call from my friend Jean-Luc Nash’s West Point class mate, Don Mooney. Don was given the unenviable task of telling me that Jean-Luc had passed away at his home in Pensacola last night.  Those of you who know my story, know about Jean-Luc and Tim Andruss and their heroic efforts on the battlefield during Operation Urgent Fury on that October afternoon in 1983, in the wake of a misdirected air strike that hit the Second Brigade Tactical Operations Center (TOC) for the 82nd Airborne Division.

 

I know a lot about the depths of desperation and despair and loss, but, nothing in my life has compared to the absolute sense of loss of this great giant of a man. There is a hole in the world and there is a hole in the depths of my heart.  Superlatives pale in comparison to the magnitude of the greatness that was Jean-Luc Nash. I did not know him before we invaded Grenada on October 25th 1983.  There has not been a day that has passed since then that I have not thought of him.  What transpired on that bloody battleground was more than lives (my own included) being saved.  One cannot truly understand the depths of true brotherhood until one has shared the absolute intensities and desperations and depravations of warfare.  Jean-Luc Nash did more than make it possible for me to have a chance at surviving that day. He gave me countless opportunities.

 

The last time I saw Jean-Luc was in September when we spent a few days with him and his wife Michele at their home in Pensacola, Florida.  We were on our way to Disneyworld for the first time and we had our granddaughter Maia along with us for the three week trip.  Miss Maia was particularly smitten by Jean-Luc and he with her.  Jean-Luc and Michele had a little girl’s tricycle that he kept in the garage for their grandkids.  Maia would ride her “bike” up and down the driveway at the house there in Pensacola.  Maia’s second favorite activity was gathering up all the acorns and placing them in the basket of the tricycle to plant to make “baby trees.”  Jean-Luc, being Jean-Luc, played gracefully along. He was like that. He was always accommodating, and, he always had time for the soft cuddly tyranny of a toddler’s whims and fancies.

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I remember taking this picture on my phone camera and thinking then how poignant it was.  I also remember thinking how he—Jean-Luc—had made this scene possible. Without me surviving that dreadful day in Grenada in 1983, there would have never been the possibility or the opportunity to share this quiet reflective moment in Pensacola 32 years later. Yeah, you made it possible big guy! You made so much possible. I had hoped to have more scenes like this to share with you before you left this world too soon. And now, you are gone.  I will forever reach out to you and the memory of who you were and seek to be worthy of the faith you had in my life.

 

Godspeed my friend. “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. “

 

 

A Perfect Chaos

For those of you who survived the 1990s (I would pretty much bet that includes everyone reading this!!) you probably remember the hit series “Third Rock From The Sun”. Joe Diffie sang these words in the title track for the opening credits of every episode:

“Cause and effect, chain of events

All of the chaos makes perfect sense”

It was while I was trying to make sense of the events that have transpired since the First of May of this year that Joe Diffie’s playful tune popped into my head.

I was thinking that the chain of events that have transpired since the failed parachute jump in Houston are the most divinely perfect kind of chaos—if there can possibly be such a thing! Nevertheless, it has defined my crazy life and I am going to stick with the metaphor! I think of it as a showering of goodwill and incredible good luck that has fallen down on me like a welcome warm summer rain that comes out of nowhere here in South Texas sometimes on those white-hot wide afternoons and you feel refreshed.

So, if any of my loyal readers have been wondering what is up with my efforts to walk again and why I have not posted anything on my blog these last few weeks, it is not that I have given up—no sir! Far from it! These last few weeks have been filled with action but not the kind that lends itself to insightful writing and cutting epiphany. The repetitious nature of physical therapy is like that—repetitious, not particularly capable of invoking cutting edge commentary. It is probably equally true that physical therapists, coaches, and especially sports stars don’t make brilliant scholarly insights above the standard overused sporting cliches. So, rather than give you a grocery list of reps and sets of particular exercises I decided to spare you the details and wait till I had something of substance to write about.

So there I was about a week and a half ago in the Tricare office at NAS Corpus Christi making sure that the next round of physical therapy was good to go and that there would be no breaks in the treatment. When I made the comment that while I was generally ok with how things were going; however, what I would really like more than anything else in the world was an all expense paid trip to the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston. To my surprise, was met with the response by the Tricare representative Charlene Hagar, “Well, why not!?”

I was dumbfounded. Could it really be that easy???

A few emails exchanged by my dear friend Jean-Luc to his friend Don and Johnny and lo and behold tomorrow I have my first appointment at the Center for the Intrepid with my doctor and will meet the team that will set my course of treatment for the next few weeks. Johnny was the secret weapon so to speak, he is a retired Sergeant Major. Anyone who knows the Army will tell you without a doubt it is the NCOs that make things happen. I do not make this statement in jest either!

Throughout this process of getting my legs I have been humbled and astounded by the level of effort and faith that people have put forth on my behalf. In Houston the TMC Orthopedic and the Amputee and Prosthetic Center broke every record getting me measured and fit for my C-Legs. A process normally took a couple weeks was done in less than 72 hours! Moreover, this has carried forth to the selection process for the Center for the Intrepid where I have been informed that a great many people went to great effort on my behalf and again new benchmarks were set.

To all who have advocated on my behalf and who have offered the most kind words of support and encouragement, I vow to you that your efforts and support are and will be worthwhile.

Thank you! I promise to not disappoint! So, for the next few weeks, me and my wife and daughter Lucie will be staying at one of the Fisher Houses here on Fort Sam Houston and I will be setting course on a a redefined treatment to get me up and walking on my C-legs.

Exciting stuff!

Stay tuned for more!

Hardcore Harry

Sergeant Sean Luketina

Some days are indelibly burned into your memory. For me, one of those days is June 30th. Today is the day that Sergeant Sean Luketina died. I did not know Sean before Operation Urgent Fury; but, there has not been a day that has passed that I have not thought of him.

I live near the ocean. I find that the massive expanse of the sea helps me to put everything in perspective. Today Hurricane Alex is bearing down on the Gulf Coast south of where me and my family have made our home. In a strange way I find the immense power of a hurricane calmly reassuring. It helps me to feel small. I know too well what it is like to get caught up in the whirlwinds of life and the storms that churn in the Gulf of Mexico offer an affirmation of proportion in all things.

James Taylor sings the song “Walking Man” that I have never been able to get out of my head for many, many years. It is only now that I am beginning just now to add meaning to the last part of the opening refrain:

 Moving in silent desperation

Keeping an eye on the holy land

A hypothetical destination

Say, Who is this walking man?

 Who is this walking man? I am: a husband; the father who dotes on his daughter; always the paratrooper; eyes on the sky wishing to fly…again; a college graduate; a font of trivial knowledge; a teacher, sometimes the muse; always the seeker of truth; and I am the survivor of tragedy unspeakable.

Sean and I were wounded side by side in the misdirected air strike that took my legs. Sean was evacuated immediately as it was determined that he had the best chance of surviving. Me? If you ask Jean-luc Nash he will tell you that they really didn’t know where to start. I was a perfect mess.

It was a month later that Sean went into the coma. He was suffering from uremic poisoning and it was during the operation that the doctors at Walter Reed removed his legs that he went into the coma from which he would never awake. It was shortly after that that I got a letter from his mother. She told me about her son who had also lost his legs. She was looking for answers. She did not know that Sean and I had been shot in the same incident. I am not sure she found comfort in the truth that I wrote her. I can only hope that she did.

I visited Sean’s grave in Arlington in 1994 on the tenth anniversary of his death. I did not know that his mother had chosen to be buried with her son. It was a touching display of motherly devotion and this sight on the green fields of Arlington haunts me to this day:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He died one day shy of his 24th birthday.

Who is this walking man?

I am the keeper of memories of fallen heroes.

Rest in peace my brother.

Hardcore Harry

How’s Your Ischial Tuberosity?

My darling wife has brought it to my attention on numerous occasions these last couple weeks that I have not been writing as much as I should in my blog. Incidentally, I was not aware that the word nag was of Scandinavian origin. Think about it. It was the persistent action of the womenfolk back in Scandinavia that led to one of the greatest invasions in all of history!! What probably started out with a blond, vivacious, buxom, Scandinavian goddess, we’ll call her Helga, complaining that her man, Thor, had left his chain mail and sword on the kitchen table again and why is it he could never pick the lid up on the slit trench??? So it was with the shrill echo of the lovely Helga still ringing in his ears reminding poor Thor that the thatch roof needed repairing, and that they were about to run out of moose burgers, that the Vikings set off to engage in an all out war of conquest. (The Viking’s must have looked to the sanctuary of the longship much like Homer Simpson eyes a box of glazed donuts!) Helga was to eventually be bought off with a few shiny trinkets of booty from far away lands and Thor was able to get a group of monks in a monastery write a revisionist history—in exchange for their lives–that covered up Thor’s shortcomings as a husband!

This last week marked my first full week of physical therapy. Slowly along the way I am being re-introduced to the peculiar language of the physical therapist. One of my favorite questions is: “How is your is your ischial tuberosity?” Or, “Is your prosthesis bearing weight on your tuberosity?” No doubt some of my more curious readers were sent scampering away toward yonder bookshelf upon reading that—we’ll call this category reader the more distinguished scholars amongst us: that being the reader who has books that they actually read; books that do more than prop up the shorter leg of the kitchen table that the darling wife with her persistent ministrations caused the reader to “fix” himself rather than call a skilled tradesman. Never underestimate the value of a feeling of self-sufficiency however sad or misplaced!!

Now, that the rest of you lazy bastages have finished looking up the words on Google we can continue!

The ischial tuberosity is quite a common set of protrusions that will be instantly familiar with anyone who has ridden a horse for any length of time. Being “saddle sore” and having a pain in your ischial tuberosity are the same thing! Now there are a great many feelings and sensations that accompany a person such as myself who has not walked in 26+ years that are pretty dang cool: shopping for shoes, standing, and, taking first steps. Trust me when I tell you that remembering that you have an ischial tuberosity IS NOT ONE OF THESE SUPER-DOOPER COOL BEANS (RE)DISCOVERIES!!!

So there I was a saddle sore trooper and nary a horse in sight! It was then that I remembered that I had just turned 48 and thought that this kind of physical endeavor would have been easier 20 some years ago had only the technology been available. It was then that I remind myself that if it were easy then everybody would do it and dang if I can’t help the challenge!!

After all of this, a funny thing happened Thursday afternoon. It was while standing up on my C Legs that I knew right then and there that this was actually going to happen! It was then that balance didn’t seem all that hard a thing to achieve and for the first time I was able to stand without powering through with my upper body. Up until then walking again was something I had imagined in my mind. It was then something I knew with the rest of my body.

My wife Ginny was there too, smiling. For now she didn’t care that my underwear drawer was full of assorted books, half finished journals, and the odd box or ten of ammunition. “Stand up straight! Look straight ahead! Quit looking at your shoes! One more!”

I love her!

 

Hardcore Harry

Gypsies and Paratroopers

The 28th annual Southwest Memorial Airborne Days convention is in Corpus Christi, Texas this weekend.

 

 When you report to the hall at the Holiday Inn, Emerald Beach take care you don’t end up in the convention hall set aside for the psychics and fortune tellers!!!!

 

Be it by accident or design, there the two respective organizations were arrayed side-by-side to receive the aligned convention delegates!! One can only view these two groups side by side and be struck by the immense irony that two such organizations would end up side by side. On second thought, perhaps we were not so different. We paratroopers identify and pride ourselves on floating on rarefied currents of air and the psychics make their living on more ethereal—some might say, super-heated—currents! (Did I just say that?…..I need to find my rabbit’s foot charm to guard against any spiritual reprisals!!)

I sat an pondered this over a bit and it struck me just how incredibly brilliant it would have been had both conventions pooled their respective advertising budgets and made a super-charged, double-billed, weekend extravaganza!!

 

 ONE WEEKEND ONLY!! SEE THE PSYCICS AND PSYCHOTICS TOGETHER!!

 

SEE THE MEN AND WOMEN CRAZY ENOUGH TO JUMP OUT OF PLANES AND SEEK PROFESSIONAL PSYCIC ADVICE THAT CONFIRMS YOU OUGHT NOT TO DO IT!!!

 

BE THERE FOR THE UNVEILING OF THE NEWLY RELEASED PARATROOPER TAROT DECK!!!

WATCH AS THE PALM READERS MARVEL AT HOW SHORT THE LIFELINE IS FOR THE AIRBORNE TROOPER!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BE ASTOUNDED HOW MUCH BEER EVEN THE RETIRED PARATROOPER CAN PUT AWAY!!

SEE AIRBORNE WARRIORS!! HEAR, THEIR LIES, DAMN LIES, TALL TALES, AND WAR STORIES!!!

LEARN WHY THE AIRBORNE TROOPER IS THE MOST AWESOME SOLDIER BOTH ON  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND OFF

 

 

 

THE BATTLEFIELD!!!

 

You gotta love it! God most certainly has a sense of humor!

Hardcore Harry

LOYALTY

Today is my birthday. I have always thought it fortuitous that I was born on June fifth. After all, it was 66 years ago on June 5th that the Allied Airborne forces took to the air to kick off Operation Neptune, the airborne phase of the D-Day landings. As a veteran of the 82nd Airborne and a field artilleryman I have always had a special place in my heart for paratroopers and artillerymen—especially airborne artillerymen! There is an old artillerymens’ saying that: “Artillery lends dignity to what otherwise might be an unruly brawl.” We are considered the “King of Battle.” Sure the Infantry—the Queen of Battle—takes ground. We artillerymen make sure they hold to it!

The first commander of the 82nd Airborne’s Division Artillery was none other than the great Maxwell Taylor. Maxwell Taylor would go on to command the 101st Airborne in D-Day and the remainder of World War II. We troopers of the 82nd Airborne like to point out that before Maxwell Taylor ever donned the uniform of the “Screaming Eagles” he wore the double “A” of the “All Americans!!!”

My birthday present today was a tattoo. Amazing as it sounds, although I did manage to pick up a tattoo or two during my time in the Airborne; I never managed to find an airborne tattoo that I liked. The off the shelf tats in the off base parlors just did not speak to me. I wanted something meaningful and today, nearly 26 years after I got out of the Army I finally found one that I like. My wife and daughter actually designed this one for me. It is a combination of my airborne artillery regiment’s unit crest and the wings from this year’s Airborne Amputee event that was sponsored by TMC Orthopedic in Houston this last May first and second.

 I like it. It is unique, and it certainly has a great deal of meaning for me. I have always been fond of the sentiment expressed in the regiment’s motto: LOYALTY. It is one word yet it carries with it connotations that cut all the way across ever tradition near and dear to the military:Duty, Honor, Country—SAME THING!

The wings, aside from their obvious connection to parachuting, symbolize the hope that organizations like TMC Orthopedic and its charity Limbs of Love offer to amputees like myself. I had never dreamed even a few months ago that I would ever be offered the chance to walk again yet here I am. It is astonishingly humbling. I have decided that even if it were to turn out that is was all for naught, I am better for having tried my best. There are simply some offers in life that you cannot turn your back on. Thank you TMC and The Amputee and Prosthetic Center for giving me this chance again. I vow to give my utmost toward this endevour and prove that your trust in my abilities was not unfounded.

 

Lastly, I will close by admitting that my loving wife, Ginny,  has long conceded that the Airborne will always be my first love. Therefore, the heart is indeed a symbol of the affection that I hold for the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.  Thank you for understanding, dear!

Airborne!

Hardcore Harry

First Sergeants I Have Known

You can ask anyone who has served at least one term of enlistment in the United States Army who it is they remember most and invariably they will name one person: their First Sergeant. I don’t care who you are,. I don’t care where or when you served. The First Sergeant IS the core of the United States Army. Call him “TOP, “ “Top Sergeant,” Top Soldier,” “Smoke,” “Top Asskicker,” “Top Kick,” or “Top Hat;” it does not matter. They are all just names for PERFECTION. The First Sergeant is your mommy, daddy and God Incarnate all rolled into one. Yes, they may give “command” of a line company or battery to an officer wearing Captain’s bars, but before we go any further lets get this straight: An officer may command but THE FIRST SERGEANT IS THE COMPANY! How he or she goes, so goeth the rest of the unit!!!

I look back now and I can honestly say that God has truly blessed me. I never had a bad First Sergeant. In fact, I am sure that there is probably no such thing as a BAD one. I am sure they must exist briefly from time to time but only for the time it takes for the Hand of God to reach down smite such a vile abomination from the face of this great and green earth!! God adores perfection and his most perfect mortal creation is the First Sergeant!

My very first “Top” Sergeant I remember quite fondly. I was seventeen years old when I began basic training and First Sergeant Hadden had probably spent more time in Army green than I had been alive—I kid you not!!! I still remember quite vividly the day we were introduced to First Sergeant Hadden. There were were, Alpha-Four-Three standing in formation in front of our barracks at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri during that morning in early May, 1980. Up strolls this most awesomely starched and creased sergeant who’s uniform was so stiff and perfect that you would swear it would deflect bullets and assorted projectiles up to and including all known species of artillery and probably a tactical nuclear missile or two! Up strolls First Sergeant Hadden. His very presence commanded the air of respect. His first words were: “Hello. My Name is First Sergeant Hadden, as in You-hadden-ought-to-do-it!” Do what you ask? It didn’t matter. If there was ever a question of whether you ought-to or ought-not-to be doing something you “hadden” ought to be doing whatever that was!! And, trust me when I tell you that he well and truly meant just that—as some in the basic training company were to find out to their deep and everlasting regret!

Top Hadden’s one pet peeve above all others was that no one–especially a lowly spec of human evolution like us trainees–were to step on his immaculately manicured grass. We trainees were not schooled properly in the virtues of paying attention to details enough to truly appreciate the quality lawn care–the velvet smooth grass was aligned in a most military dress-right-dress precision. Top Hadden was placed on this earth to teach us the why of lawn care we were to find out.

It was not long before one of us trainees were caught in First Sergeant Hadden’s lawn “Kill Zone” taking a “shortcut” across Top’s grass to make formation in time. Big mistake! BIG, BIG, BIG, MISTAKE! It was the First Sergeant’s response that was most peculiar many of us thought. Matter of fact-like, he summons the offending life form to the front of the company and announces that he has won the privilege to mow and maintain the company lawn that weekend. What? No yelling? No screaming a half-an-inch from your face? No push ups? What was this blasphemy??? Many of us would come to fear this quiet, calm, and casual disarming approach;because, as we were to discover, a storm was brewing and none of us had any idea of the magnitude of destruction. I know now that Mother Nature Weeps at the insane fury of a storm of this kind that a First Sergeant can summon. Hurricane’s and tornado’s are mere child’s play to what awaited this young private that Saturday morning.

There we were the following Saturday morning and the condemned is called before the company. The First Sergeant informs the guilty private that he wants his grass mowed ASAP and to get started. Sure enough, the private snaps to and rushes about looking for the lawn mower. Come to think of it, none of us had seen the lawn mower either!

Did I mention that First Sergeant’s could also be insanely diabolical? Well, it turns out this is one of their “higher order” OLD TESTAMENT type skills that are personally taught by the Lord Jehovah himself at the First Sergeant’s Academy.

So, there we have the company in formation, the First Sergeant standing there at its head having given the order to have the grass mowed. I don’t remember how long it took but I do remember it was not very long before the offending private reported back to TOP to find out where the lawn mower and gas can were. When First Sergeant Hadden reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of scissors no one, I mean no one was expecting this! You could hear a collective groan come from the assembled company followed by sighs of relief that it was not one of us who were going to have to cut Top’s grass with a pair of scissors!

Did it get done? You bet it did! And, the spectacle of that poor private on his hands and knees cutting the grass with a pair of scissors served as a more than ample warning that you did not EVER want to get caught on the wrong end of a conflict with a First Sergeant!

As I said before, I never served under a bad First Sergeant. They just did not exist in the 82nd Airborne. Even though my first experience with a Top Sergeant when I was fresh out of jump school at Fort Benning involved a great many push ups, I still loved him for it! First Sergeant Crawford would go on to become the Division Inspector’s General Sergeant Major but while he was still our Top Sergeant he performed with perfection his role as the soul of our unit and the guiding force behind our junior non-commissioned officers.

One of the more colorful First Sergeant’s we ever had was Top Johnson. Top Johnson was fond of two things, soul food and lecturing the battery (company). He used to talk in his slow Southern drawl and you can bet he meant every damned word he uttered. I remember one lecture in particular. The night before a couple troopers had watched some marshal arts movies and had a beer drinking-fest in the day room. They then decided to practice their Kung Fu moves on the latrine stall doors. Top Johnson stood up there in front of the unit and his lecture went something like this:

Headquarters Battery, now I know that sum you all like goin drinkin dat IGNORALL. You drink dat Ignorall den watch dem Kung fu movies den tink you Bruce Lee and s**t and go practicin dem Karate moves on my latrine stall doors (pause) I got sumtin for joo! When I catch joo Kung Fu heros Jo are gonna be on S**thouse partol for a month. (pause) Maybe longer. I ain’t quite decided myself yet. Don’t joo dare doubt me. I will catch joo heroes and joo will suffer!”

Do I make myself understood?!!”

Yes, First Sergeant!” The Battery responded.

Top Johnson caught the Kung Fu culprits and they did perform “S**thouse Partol” for a solid month. This duty consisted of having to wear an equipment belt with scouring pads, brushes, and comet cleanser and whatnot and carry around a toilet plunger at right shoulder arms!! Their duty was to maintain their duty post in a pristine environment. If someone used the urinals, they had to be there Johnny on the Spot right afterwards scrubbing up. If the toilets were clogged—as they often were in the barracks several times a day—our Kung-Fu heroes had to unclog them! You know, I sincerely doubt the mess hall was as clean as those latrines were for that month that these two were pulling this duty!!

Of all the Top Sergeants I ever served under, the best was by far First Sergeant Gordon Graves. (The following pictures of Top Graves appear in the 82nd Airborne Division 40th Anniversary Yearbook that was published in 1982).

Top Graves was the First Sergeant for A Battery, 1/320th Airborne Field Artillery of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was from Mule Shoe, Texas and he loved everything about the the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys—I do mean everything! Top Graves was a veteran of Vietnam and had served with multiple units there including the 4th Infantry Division and the famed 173rd Airborne Brigade. He only stood about five foot six or so inches tall and you would swear that his shoulders were double that. He was built like a tank. It was impossible to mistake him approaching with his bulldog like build. Us troopers had a secret nickname for him because of this. We called him “Spike.” I don’t think there was anyone who was ever so foolish as to let him hear them calling him this though! He was TOP and we loved him more than a father.

As a First Sergeant, Top Graves was in his element as an administrator (as are all 1st Sgts) as anything. Paperwork was and still as much a part of the duties of a First Sergeant. Here is a picture of TOP at his desk. Top Graves was famous for his innovative displays of manifesting his temper. More than once a phone like you see in this picture would be sent crashing into the brick wall. I recall one such incident after Top getting a call from the Division IG (Inspector General) that some weeniefied trooper had issued some kind of formal complaint at Division HQ. Top Graves hung up, picked the phone up, while speaking a great many unmentionable words and sent the phone crashing against the wall of his office. Then, he calmly goes next door to the Supply Sergeant notifies him that he needs a new phone issued right away and a Statement of Charges for the now defunct former phone! We thought the world of Top, but, you DID NOT want to get on his bad side! Ever!

As I mentioned before, the First Sergeant was a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Did I say huge? I meant HUGE!!! During football season we knew that if the Dallas Cowboys had won their game that week that PT (Physical Training) would be a breeze. It meant that Top was in a good mood and would take it easy on us. Now, if the Cowboys had lost the previous Sunday, Heaven help us! Top would make it his mission to take it out on us! I would like to point out that we troopers were not passive victims in this punishment by any means.! If anything we would make Top push us even harder. So there we would be knocking out push-ups and someone would yell out, “How bout them Redskins Top?”

Extra Push-ups!

Danny White wears pantyhose!” was a favorite put down.

More pushups!

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are Lesbians!”

Top Graves would growl in defiance and then yet more PT would be administered!

We loved it and we loved him.

When the battalion was called out to support the Second Brigade’s deployment to the Island of Grenada on October 25, 1983. I followed Top Graves to Charlie Battery of our battalion to fill some manpower shortages. Top Graves was sent to fill in for the Charlie Battery First Sgt who had a broken foot from a parachute jump a short while earlier. I could think of no better man to lead us into battle. Top Graves was everything an NCO should be and then some. I cant tell you how proud I was when I was asked to be part of the security team that rode with Top Graves on his jeep on the second day of the fighting.

The most special memory I have of First Sergeant Graves was about ten minutes before I was shot and nearly lost my life. I remember Top coming around and just visiting with the troops and I remember him coming up to me as I was kneeling down working a field radio and he reached out and patted me on the helmet and told me that I was a good trooper.

That kind of an affirmation coming from that man nearly became the last memory I would have on this earth. As it is now, it is one of my most treasured memories. This was made even more special when seven months later when I had my retirement ceremony in front of the battery that Top Graves still led. Top and I talked about that moment then and I found out that he too remembered it is as well and how much it meant to him that I had survived the attack. Great leaders like First Sergeant Graves are what makes the Airborne so special and such a dominating force on the field of battle. All the Way, First Sergeant Airborne!

Hardcore Harry