Journalist Reminisces About Time with Cav at the 'First Team' Ball
April 2, 2008
KILLEEN, Texas - The 1st Cavalry Division is officially home. To celebrate and reconnect with their spouses and military family, Soldiers gathered at the Killeen Civic and Conference to "capture the cavalry spirit" at their military ball March 26.
"This is a chance for us to celebrate being together again, being back home with those who are special to us," said Brig. Gen. (P) Vincent Brooks, the commanding general of the division. "Whenever we can do that, we should take advantage of it, because you know in a time like this, in a time of our nation calling as it is, there aren't very many opportunities for us to (get together.)"
To revive that spirit, and talk to the Soldiers and Family Members about his experiences with Cav troopers, Joe Galloway, an author and journalist who served three tours in Vietnam, was the guest speaker of the evening.
"I first took up with the Cav this summer, 43 years ago, in Vietnam," Galloway said. "I had spent eight months with the Marines, from the first day they got there, and I heard about this new experimental division that has 435 helicopters in their TOE, and I was hardly sick of walking to work with the Marines. So I said I am going to beat feet up to the highlands and hook up with this outfit and I will ride to work... and so I did."
That ride led him to the battle at Landing Zone X-Ray in Ia Drang Valley with 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
"There are some things that change your life, and for me it was being there, in that situation, in a river valley surrounded by an overwhelming force of the enemy, and realizing that I was with the 7th U.S. Cavalry, and this had happened before and I wanted to make... sure that it wasn't going to happen again," Galloway said. "And it didn't, and didn't because we had the finest battlefield commander I had ever seen in any of the wars I have been to, and I have ridden and marched along side some of the best"
With that commander, Lt. Col. Harold Moore, Jr., Galloway wrote an account of his experiences in the book "We Were Soldiers Once... And Young." Moore retired as a lieutenant general in 1977.
"While the rest of us might of had some doubts of how this thing was going to come out (Moore) never doubted for a minute that we were going to win this thing against all the odds and sometimes they were 10- 12 to one," he said. "These were no amateurs coming after us. They were as good as a light infantry outfit as we were and they had the home field advantage... so they did their best but it wasn't good enough, because every man on that battle field did his duty and no man faltered."
Galloway wasn't just standing on the sidelines either.
"You know that Hollywood movie that they made, which was pretty good, it portrayed me as kind of a green, new guy and the sergeant major gave me, sort of forced upon me, an M-16 (rifle) and I have to tell you that was Hollywood B-S because the sergeant major didn't have to give me an M-16..." he said. "I brought my own."
Galloway said that later Hal Moore stated, "I didn't know if we needed a reporter, but I saw that he was carrying his own rifle and I can always use another rifle."
That decision to ride with the Cav was one that taught Galloway quite a bit about the American Soldier, and about himself.
"I got to stand along side some really fine, brave soldiers," he said. "It was a different Army ... things change with Soldiers, but they are the external things. Soldiers today are more sophisticated, more educated then they were in 1965. You're volunteers, while 65 percent of the 7th Cavalry at that time were draftee Soldiers, and most of them were near the end of their term of service."
"I left that battlefield and I knew something," he continued. "I knew I owed a very heavy obligation to 79 young Americans who laid down their lives so that I might live. One hundred and thirty had been terribly wounded in that same pursuit."
At that moment, Galloway decided that he was going to make it his personal mission to tell the stories of as many Soldiers as he could... to tell what is in their hearts.
"I have tried to do that as faithfully as I can," Galloway said. "The only way I ever knew how to do it is to go with them wherever they were going and share the small pleasures and great risks of the various battlefields. I count myself the luckiest man alive with the friends that have come to me in the battlefields, in those campaigns, in those wars. ... I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to stand with you, beside you even today 43 years later after that first meeting."
For his actions at Ia Drang with 1-7 Cav., Galloway earned the Bronze Star with V-device, for valor, and golden spurs, a cavalry tradition. He was the only civilian awarded the Bronze Star by the U.S. Army during that war. Galloway has also reported on Soldiers in Sri Lanka, Timor, and Desert Storm.