CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq - When the two old men arrived their appearance personified a leadership trait that no one could ignore.
The Vietnam veterans were humbly dressed in civilian clothes, but still had a core of military bearing, despite having been retired for many years.
Each retired Soldier wore around their neck a gold medal attached to a sky blue ribbon adorned with 13 white stars -- an image that speaks volumes and the Army condenses into two words: Personal Courage.
Retired Col. Robert Howard and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Gary L. Littrell both received the Congressional Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry under fire, without regard to their own safety, during the Vietnam War, and are among the lucky few who lived to tell about it.
Thirty six years later the Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division were lucky enough to meet them April 13 during their tour of Iraq.
Howard and Littrell toured the brigade headquarters, including the tactical operations center and the information technology center, and then spoke to the assembled Soldiers for more than an hour, answered their questions, shook hands and posed for photographs.
"When we see a need, we go to that need," said Littrell, referring to the attention they bring to issues affecting all Soldiers today, including continued medical care for veterans; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; and the Fisher House Foundation, which builds houses near military medical centers where family members of injured Soldiers can stay at no cost to them.
They described Soldiers they knew, some who struggled with PTSD and didn't make it, and others who did. "An injury can be a disability or an inconvenience," said Littrell, challenging the gathered Soldiers to keep a positive attitude, and to help others do the same.
They also spoke about the standards for the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Medal of Honor Museum, located on the USS Yorktown, which is part of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Before the veterans left, the assembled group of young Soldiers saluted Howard and Littrell for their sacrifice, inspiration, and their continued service.