Who Are Your Heroes?

 

Fallen Heroes

A confluence of events has caused me to reflect on this question. The first is the posting on social media by a very dear friend of photos of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, policemen, and firefighters who have died in the performance of their duties. The second was a speech given this past Monday at the weekly luncheon at Aggie Park in San Antonio by the Fifth Army North Commander, LTG Jeffrey S. Buchanan, where he addressed this very question. Third is the upcoming gathering of Texas A&M University alumni to honor those Aggies who have died this past year. And last, though I don’t have an exact release date, is the publication of my most recent book, Tarnished Brass, and my inclusion of a section entitled “In Memoriam.”

The social media postings honor individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Their photos are poignant reminders that service to country, whether in the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement, or as Firefighters often comes at a very high cost. These men and women are the very embodiment of heroism. Their conduct reflects great courage, superior character and integrity in a noble cause greater than self, and it cost them their lives.

In his own way General Buchanan echoed these sentiments by relating the story of a subordinate officer who served with the general in various assignments throughout his career including multiple deployments in Iraq where he was severely injured by an IED, and in Afghanistan where he lost his life. The general wears a wrist band in his memory.

The Muster tradition, an annual gathering of fellow Texas Aggies that dates back to 1883, has evolved over the years from just celebrating college memories to honoring those Aggies no longer able to attend the ceremony due to their passing. Normally held on April 21st in remembrance of Texas Independence and San Jacinto Day, this year’s event at the San Antonio A&M Club will take place April 22nd. April 21st is Easter Sunday.

National recognition of Muster hearkens back to April 21, 1942 and the Second World War when a roll call of the twenty-seven Aggies serving in the Philippines on the small island of Corregidor was held. All would either be killed or captured by Japanese forces, but their solidarity in the face of overwhelming odds heartened the nation’s will to persevere.

On April 21, 1946 the memory of those twenty-seven Aggies was honored in a ceremony on Corregador at the Malinta Tunnel, and the tradition of remembrance has continued ever since. Aggies gather together wherever they are in the world, read aloud the names of the departed, and answer on their behalf… “Here.”

It is the solemnity of making that declaration that leads to me to my final thought before my book comes out. Tarnished Brass is a work of fiction but the war and many of the characters included in the novella are real. At the end I pay tribute to two of those individuals:

Lieutenant Colonel, James M. Basile, U.S. Air Force, served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. MilGroup, San Salvador during the years covered in the book. More importantly, he was my friend who I both admired and loved as a brother-in-arms. He was killed in a helicopter crash July 16, 1987 at age 43.

I also had the honor of serving under General John R. Galvin, who was the Commander, USSOUTHCOM during the three years that I was assigned to the J3. He passed away after a distinguished career September 25, 2015 at age 86.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency within our society to equate heroes with sports figures, celebrities, wealth and power. When asked, the average person will name their favorite football, baseball or basketball player as their hero. Those not into sports might name a famous pop icon, television or movie star. However, though fame and fortune may keep these individuals in the public spotlight, their notoriety does not constitute heroism and their designation as heroes does a disservice to those who have given their all in service to others.

Keep this in mind the next time you’re asked the question, “Who Are Your Heroes?”

 

 

 

 

History and Legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers

In honor of Black History Month I thought it appropriate to revisit the history and legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers (see my post, Top Soldier, November 24, 2017.)

These all-black units were formed in the aftermath of the Civil War and served at posts stretching from the Texas frontier to the Dakota territories performing duties that included improving the nation’s infrastructure (the building of forts, roads, and telegraph lines), acting as rangers within our national parks, and participating in the Indian Wars.

Their record of outstanding military service begins in 1866 when six regiments (two cavalry and four infantry) were mobilized in concert with the peacetime restructuring of the Army. Eventually the four infantry regiments would be consolidated into the 24th and 25th Infantry, while the two cavalry regiments would be designated as the 9th and 10th Cavalry. All would adopt the name Buffalo Soldiers.

Native Americans originated the name. Its derivation has been attributed to their comparison of the soldiers’ hair to the hide of a buffalo, but it also reflects their admiration for their courage in battle.

The Indian Wars ended in the 1890’s with the capitulation of the Apache, however, the Buffalo Soldiers also fought in the Spanish-American War and in the Philippines. During World War I their duties were limited to patrolling the border with Mexico, and they did not see any action during World War II.

Military segregation came to an end in 1948 and the last all-black units were disbanded in the 1950’s. Today associations such as the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association proudly carry on that heritage by dedicating themselves to the preservation of the Buffalo Soldiers’ history through educational programs and historical reenactments that inform the general public about their extraordinary record of accomplishments.

During their existence the Buffalo Soldiers have the distinction of having the lowest desertion and Court Martial rates in the Army. Many were recipients of the Medal of Honor. The nation’s highest award was bestowed upon eight members of the 9th Cavalry, four members of the 10th Cavalry, and six members of the 24th Infantry for acts of heroism from 1865-1899 during the Indian campaigns. Additionally, five members of the 10th Cavalry received the honor for their actions during the Spanish-American War.

I dedicated chapters of my book on westward expansion, Palo Duro, to their legacy. They are only now receiving the recognition that they so justly deserve.

 

Happy New Year!

2019 will be a busy and exciting literary year for me.

9ab95-lonestarbookblogtours2bsmIt begins with my continuing association with Lone Star Literary Life and the periodic use of this forum to assist them in promoting Texas authors and their work. Currently featured on the Lone Star Blog Tour is the YA Action-Adventure book Einstein’s Compass by Grace Blair and Laren Bright. Targeted at readers age 12-18, it imaginatively takes a look at a young Albert Einstein, time travel and spiritual exploration to explain how he arrived at his groundbreaking theory of relativity. Look for an excerpt from the book January 7th.

Also arriving the early part of 2019 is my own book release! Tarnished Brass looks at America’s involvement in El Salvador throughout its civil war (1980-1992) and the aftermath of that bloody conflict. Twenty-six years later gang violence has replaced and even surpassed the brutality of both the Salvadoran military and the guerrilla factions during their prolonged struggle.

Loosely based on my own experiences in country, the story is told through the perspectives of a U.S. Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member. By giving voice to all three, the novella looks not only at history but at the current crises. Today, El Salvador has one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the world, and the influence of MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) has spread beyond its borders to many cities in the United States.

Page Publishing LogoI do not have a release date yet, but I’m working closely with Page Publishing on both page and cover design and will post publication information to my blog as soon as it is available.

I wish everyone of my readers a very Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Presidential Libraries

 

Recently the nation watched as our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, was laid to rest in College Station, Texas on the campus of Texas A&M University. As a graduate and former cadet I was especially proud to see the student body and citizens turn out along the route and witness the Corps of Cadets render honors as the hearse carrying the flag-draped coffin passed by.

The news coverage had me wondering which of our Presidents also located their libraries on college campuses. Surprisingly, there were only three; Lyndon B. Johnson (The University of Texas in Austin, Texas), Gerald R. Ford (The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan), and George W. Bush (Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas). *While the Gerald R. Ford library is located in Ann Arbor, the museum is a separate facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

These four are among the fourteen Presidential Libraries federally maintained and administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The facilities not only provide a broader understanding of the Office of the Presidency but information specific to the individuals who aspired to and achieved the highest office in America. They house their memos, letters, policy decisions and ceremonial/personal artifacts.

This formal Presidential Library System didn’t exist until 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated his belief that the historical records and artifacts associated with his presidency were a part of our national heritage and needed to be preserved for future generations of Americans. Prior to that time these items might have been sold, lost, deliberately destroyed, or subject to ruin because of poor storage conditions by other libraries or private collectors.

FDR was the first to raise private funding for the construction of a library and museum and ask the National Archives to be responsible for its administration upon completion. In 1950 President Truman followed suit, and in 1955 Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act establishing privately funded and federally maintained libraries.

Because the facilities are built with private funding each President is allowed to choose the location. Additionally, up until President Reagan’s administration, access to and inclusion of personal property was at the discretion of the former President. Since then any records created or received in conjunction with constitutional, statutory, or ceremonial duties are considered property of the United States government.

For further information on all fourteen Presidential Libraries I recommend visiting the official website at:     https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries

Finally, this post comes just before the holidays so I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!