Soldiers from today, yesterday pay tribute to fallen Delta Raiders
October 16, 2012
LOCKHART, Texas -- They gathered. After all the years, they still get together to remember their friends and brothers. They prayed for those who were not there. Tears were shed. And to honor their ultimate sacrifices, they placed dog tags of each hero who died during the Vietnam War on a memorial board. Their fallen brothers are not forgotten.
With more than 50 fellow brothers in arms and family members, I paid tribute to the fallen Soldiers of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division in a twilight memorial service Oct. 5 in St. Michael's Church at Agarita, in Lockhart. Known as the Delta Raiders, the service honored their 54 fallen Soldiers; all American heroes from a forgotten war.
I was accompanied by my command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Rhoades, and five Fort Sam Houston Soldiers including Staff Sgt. Luke Jefferson from the 323rd Army Band who played "Taps" during the ceremony, Staff Sgt. Brandon Carroll and Sgt. 1st Class Oswald Pascal of the 412th Contracting Support Brigade, and Sgts. 1st Class Lamine Fall and Marcos Madrazo of the 410th Contracting Support Brigade who presented the colors.
The seven of us stood among the ranks of the Delta Raiders still living with many of their spouses, and we walked away with a renewed spirit and newly discovered friends; generations of Soldiers connected from love of soldiering and common pain of war. We listened to their individual stories and discovered the connection that so few would understand. From these stories comes a calling and commitment to never forget.
The incredible spirit of the Delta Raiders comes from how this unit was formed. It was a combat unit organized in an unorthodox manner, from many different specialties to include cooks. Members of the unit were trained in just eight weeks and then sent to war. The Delta Raiders found themselves in the darkest hours of life and in the fiercest of fighting during the 1968 Tet Offensive. It is their story and their common bond and love for one another that must never be forgotten. Their story and the pain still held in their hearts reflect the intangible spirit of the American fighting Soldier that should capture the hearts and minds of all. It was against all odds this unit prevailed. Their valorous conduct was a direct result of sheer will, perseverance, training, trust, friendship, love of country, and incredible individual and raw unit leadership combined.
The Delta Raiders had two Medal of Honor Award recipients; Sgt. Joe Hooper and Sgt. Clifford Sims, as well as many valorous awards by all unit members. Their courageous conduct was emblematic, but silenced by time. The living members of the Delta Raiders come together every other year to remember those who fought and died because, after all, how could they ever forget the 54 men who ensured they would live to tell the story of the Delta Raiders.
My fellow Soldiers and I drove back to Fort Sam Houston later that night humbled and awe-struck by the deeds of this unit and the enduring character of the Delta Raiders.
This year marks the 50th anniversary since the beginning of the Vietnam War. It is now our call to action to honor these men and all those who fought, served and died during the Vietnam War. We must embrace each of them and welcome them home in a way to heal their pain and quiet their suffering over the many decades.
I ask all Americans to pause and reflect, honor units like this, and never forget those who have fallen or served. Please send notes and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org thanking this forgotten unit and others, for their deeds and kindled spirit. It is through this gesture that we renew our nation's strength and love as Americans.
For us, this memorial service is etched in our hearts and minds. We are deeply honored to have met the men and spouses of the Delta Raiders. We few gained so much in one night of kinship, admiration and respect that will endure the test of time. Their stories must be told now as this nation and our military struggle with the challenges of more than a decade of war. With common purpose and understanding, we learn and stand together with the Delta Raiders, fallen and still alive, with the sacred pledge to never forget.