War hero donates artwork to National Infantry Museum
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

When CSM(R) Basil Plumley arrived at the National Infantry Museum Monday, he was prepared to see a Vietnam War print featuring him hanging on the wall for the first time.

The Columbus resident was not prepared, however, for the two-layer yellow birthday cake that was waiting for him in the museum's Warrior Conference Room.

"He was very surprised," said chief curator and museum acting director Mike Criscillis, who organized the event.

The decorated war hero who was featured in the film We Were Soldiers turned 90 years old Jan. 1, and Monday's celebration was Plumley's second birthday party, said his only daughter, Debbie Kimble.

"It's a landmark," she said. Kimble said her father stays active by making several trips to the commissary each week and taking care of her mother.

The small gathering was held in the same room where battalion and brigade commanders are trained.

"This room is about leadership, about people who sacrificed (in the name of) valor," Criscillis said. "They were leaders who took a group Soldiers into a hot combat zone trying to liberate a country. That's what we're about, protecting democracy around the world, and to have these Soldiers (with us), we learn lessons from them and their experiences. So we want this print to represent the sacrifices of war."

Titled First Boots on the Ground, the print depicts Plumley and LTG(R) Hal Moore, who was Plumley's battalion commander, and the Soldiers of the unit on the landing zone.

"That was a long day," Plumley said. "I was the second one in and next to the last to leave."

He dedicated the print, donated to the museum by him, to all the veterans of the Ia Drang Battle, which was the first major battle of the Vietnam War. It has been signed by Plumley and Moore.

"That was about the best part of my military career," Plumley said.

Moore, who lives in Auburn, Ala., was also present to wish Plumley a happy birthday.

He said the two were a great team and hailed his battle buddy as the "most outstanding" noncommissioned officer he knew.

"When I arrived at Fort Benning in 1964 ... the first man I saw on Kelley Hill was Sergeant Major Basil Plumley," said the retired general. "He led me for the following two years, and whenever he talked, I kept my mouth shut and listened. We were the first two men on the ground at Landing Zone X-ray on 14 November, 1965 ... and I thank God forever that he put Sergeant Major Plumley as my sergeant major in the battalion at Fort Benning and in battle."

Other Soldiers from the same time period will also be honored in the Warrior Conference Room in coming months.

"These guys are incredible," Criscillis said. "It's an honor for us to be around these folks. They instill in every Soldiers some type of pride, and to have a war hero like (Plumley) who has fought in all three major wars come back and talk to us, you just couldn't ask for anything better."