Friday, December 28, 2012

Saluting Stormin' Norman -- So Long, Sir

Sadayuki Mikami—Department of Defense (DOD)/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images courtesy of Britannica Kids

1990. I had been in the Illinois Army National Guard for over three years. I had been deployed to real world contingency operations already. I had volunteered for Operation Desert Shield only to be told that the active component needed combat support personnel, not light infantry. So, I applied to transfer, permanently, to the active Army. That application took until June of 1991 to be granted. I missed participating in Operation Desert Storm.

So I watched it on CNN, like so many other Americans.

That was how I was familiar with General "Stormin' Norman" Schwartzkopf. Stormin' Norman was the George S. Patton Jr. of my generation. He was the lovable rough'n'tumble compliment to General Colin Powell, who was much more a diplomat similar to General Eisenhower was to Patton during World War II.

I have met several General Officers during my career, getting to know a few of them quite well. I used to brief General George Casey and General Metz on a weekly basis, plus on case-by-case special instances. I used to speak with General Richard Formica on a daily basis, including a phone conversation lasting several hours while I talked him through filling out some paperwork. The list goes on and on and on.

I graded each of those Generals on a scale that had Stormin' Norman at the top (and Shinseki at the bottom).

He was a Soldiers' General. He was beloved by the Soldiers he served and led.

Last night, I sat silent staring at my screen for a few moments as I read the news. Stormin' Norman had succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 78. My wife and daughter looked over at me, taking their eyes from the movie on our television. I couldn't even formulate the words. I knew neither of them would understand. My wife is 17 years my junior and was but five years old when General Schwarzkopf  was arguing with the press and fighting the war as wars need to be fought -- all out, no holding back.

Norman, you will be missed. You fought hard for the peace you so greatly deserved. Know you will be missed.