Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Afghanistan Through My Eyes:

While I am no longer in Afghanistan I think about it every day; especially when I am visiting a military installation as I am today.

I am at Ft. Benning Georgia home of the US Army Armor School, US Army Infantry School, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security cooperation, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 3rd, Brigade 3rd Infantry Division. It was also home to Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley who was laid to rest October 16 in the Main Post Cemetery.

Who is Sgt. Maj. Plumley you may ask? He was the hero played by Sam Elliot in the film, We Were Soldiers.

Sgt. Maj. Plumley fought in more than 20 military operations during his 32-year career. Enlisting on March 31, 1942 as a private after two years of high school, he fought during WWII at Salerno and the D Day invasion at Normandy, he made four combat jumps with the 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, he made another combat jump in Korea with the 187th Airborne Infantry and while it can't be proven, he may be the only man to claim five combat jumps behind enemy lines. He should not have survived all of that, but there is more.

In the book on page 220 is a brief account of an incident that happened on the second day of the bloody battle with the North Vietnamese in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965. "In the midst of this bedlam a blazing flare...streaked across the sky and plunged into the ammunition dump near the battalion command post. It lodged in a box of hand grenades, burning fiercely. Without hesitation, Sergeant Major Plumley ran to the stacks and with his bare hands reached into the grenade boxes and grabbed the flare. (He) jerked the flare free, reared back, and heaved it out into the open clearing. He then stomped out the grass fires touched off by the flares in and around the ammo crates."

The refrain, "God may look like Sgt. Maj. Plumley, but he isn't nearly as tough on sins small or large," in some version is used in most discussions involving the Sergeant Major.

He retired from the Army on December 31, 1974.

RIP Sgt. Maj Plumley

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