I don’t unusually write about my family, but this week I make an exception. My oldest son is retiring from military service and I am so proud of him and his accomplishments that, as a proud Dad, I have to share with the world.
Many years ago, I want to say thirty-five, but maybe more, we were sitting in the kitchen when he broached becoming a professional Soldier. The memory of Vietnam was still fresh for this country. Our Soldiers had been treated in a vile fashion by their fellow citizens and for a lot of people soldiering was less than desirable as a life’s work. I told him that the profession of arms was an honorable one and that, if he wanted to do that he should pursue it. He had my blessing.
And so through ROTC, through jump school and summer camps and being sworn in as an officer the day he graduated.
He retires as a full bird colonel in the US Army, completing his assignment as Director of Operations for the newly established Army University. He has received the Legion of Merit twice, the Bronze Star, numerous joint awards, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Combat Infantry Badge, the coveted Ranger Tab, the Order of Saint Maurice (which is a story for another day), and the one of which he is most proud, the Humanitarian Service Medal. He is a six-tour combat veteran with nine rows of ribbons stretching from his shoulder almost to his waist, and down his right sleeve are eight overseas bars, each denoting six months in a recognized combat zone. The guy is a hoss.
He has served in the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 4th Infantry Division, commanded two battalions in combat, served on the staffs of First and Third Armies, and created a division-level task force from the remnants of the U.S. withdrawl from Iraq in 2011. For the most part, his career has consisted of what I called Tour de Hell-Hole. From the Sinai to Kuwait, from Desert Storm to submerged New Orleans and the streets and rooftops of Baghdad, the most awful places in the world, my son went where others would not go, and did the jobs that had to be done.
In Desert Storm he served with General Luck's tactical command post, leaving about 40% of his lung capacity on the field of battle from chlorine burns. He was dropped from the Ranger course when he broke his ankle, but argued his way back in less than a month later. He dropped 52 lbs and walked with a limp for over a year as a result, and the memory of that particular crucible is now immortalized in black and gold ink on his left shoulder.
If you watched the US Army under General Honore sweep into New Orleans and get the job done, you probably did not know that the Chief of Operations for the Task Force—the guy who kept the choppers flying, the transport happening, the fuel, the food, everything else moving—was my son. He was the guy who got it done for General Honore.
Through it all he has served with great distinction. He enjoys the affection of those he served with. His appreciation for and understanding of the enlisted personnel was repaid many many times with the genuine respect of the men and women who served under him.
His service to his country has not been all of it. He has helped and mentored his brothers far beyond most normal men, while also being a caring, present father to three children, one of whom, First Lieutenant Gareth Rogers, attended his retirement ceremony at Fort Leavenworth. One of his brothers flew in to Fort Leavenworth from New York to attend his retirement ceremony. His brother in Seoul, Korea sat up late to be there and in our home his mother and I watched on the computer. My daughter’s family gathered to be part of it as well.
It’s a small moment, but he’s one astonishing man and I wanted to share him with you, just for a moment.