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As a matter of historical importance, the 1982 Veterans Day dedication of the Vietnam Memorial was a time of realization, of opening wounds that had scabbed over in time, but now were bleeding profusely. It was also a time intermixed with extreme joy and pride. I distantly recall now a gathering in Washington, D.C., during the dedication of the memorial in November
1982, when a handful of LRRP, LRP, and Rangers, along with author Lee Lanning and publisher Owen Lock, gathered in a hotel hospitality suite to comfort ourselves with men who had common experiences and to seek refuge from the scores of news reporters lurking about looking for stories.
In the course of our impromptu meeting we recalled fallen teammates, both American and Vietnamese, and courage and moral resolve under tremendously trying circumstances. We also spoke of the courage and ability of the North Vietnamese Army, Viet Cong, and Warsaw Pact counterparts who faced us, serving as the measure of the danger, daring, and resolve we contested as members of LRRP/Ranger units, lest we be delusional in our chest beating and paint a fantasy picture of extremes that would for the most part be untrue to what really took place. I was grateful for this, for, as a Sicangu
Lakota Kit Fox soldier, it had been a long-standing tradition in the Tokala Society to recognize your enemy and his courage as a measure of your own ability and courage. A long-dead Sicangu Tokala elder once said, "If you cannot respect your enemy as your equal, how can you respect yourself?” However, over Jack Daniels, copious rum and Cokes, and sundry drinks, a consensus was reached among us former LRRPs, LRPs and Rangers: we needed a formal organization, an organization capable of representing and substantiating our combined historical experiences. In relation to this organization,
a conduit would be needed to give our folks the opportunity to tell their stories, not in the manner of the clinical, official, military unit histories and after-action reports, but more in the form of individual and team oral histories based on accurate recollection of their missions.
One of the chief drivers behind all of this was 101st Airborne Division LRRP/Ranger veteran Kenn Miller, whose influence among us grew out of his LRRP experience and his extremely well-received novel based on it, Tiger the LRRP Dog. Inspired by Miller's book and the advice of Owen Lock, Lee Lanning, and some of the boys who were lawyers, we were reminded by those gathered in that hospitality suite that organization and media are and were important in telling our story. Armed with this knowledge, the task was then to "operationalize"
an organization and to allow a conduit to develop to debrief our guys and formulate individual and team experiences into accurate stories.
Most of us felt an urgent need to organize in order to counter the tales of the wanna-bes, for lack of a better word, and those who are prone to rewrite fact so as to build their social standing within and without the LRRP/Ranger community. We had all watched the Special Forces and SEAL veterans experience the "Rambo phenomenon" as the Vietnam Memorial festivities unfolded around us in 1982; it appeared that every "ragbag" in the world was drawn to the Wall and to the reunions. All of course were the "only survivors" of outrageously improbable missions, and in most cases their descriptions of their exploits outdid the authentic veterans of real missions. Granted, time and the individual's perception of combat often affect the description of actual events but, clearly many of those claiming special warfare experience in Vietnam-as LRRPs/LRPs/Rangers, SEALs, Force Recon and Battalion Recon, Special Forces, Air Commandos, etc.-had penetrated no closer to actual combat than the local surplus store. That said, we must discuss the importance of the evolution of the code of honor that had been passed to us by the early rangers and raiders, the Indian Scout service, Darby's Rangers, Merrill's Marauders, the Alamo Scouts, and the Korean Rangers, to name a few similar units. In almost ten years of combat operations in Vietnam, and by happen-stance, we refashioned the code by our resolve and our courage so well that later that code of honor was summarized by Command Sgt. Maj. Neal Gentry in the form of the Ranger Creed. This code and creed still works its magic and influences moral responsibility of most of us on a daily basis. If one becomes quiet and mindful enough, the words can still be heard through time itself:
If one goes, we all go; an LRRP never leaves an LRRP behind; once an LRRP, always an LRRP; Rangers lead the way.
Mind you, there are those who are unconscious of this simple code, but those who are not in such an altered state of consciousness are indeed mindful of it. It echoes still, in our modern day LRSUs and the Ranger Regiment, where the Ranger Creed is the moral foundation of the unit.
Besides having the honor of being asked to write this introduction to Gary Linderer's Phantom Warriors Book Two, make no question that this book and the series of books he has produced are the stories of the courage and resolve of outstanding team leaders and heroic team members. Often, time shades the events of the past. In combat, in those brief firefights or pro-longed battles, or in the sheer trauma of no-quarter combat, the truth is often misplaced by the war story. This results from the many perceptions of individuals experiencing the trauma of combat and the passage of time. Gary Linderer has developed not only a conduit for recording history, but a method of debriefing team members in a way G-2 and S-2 could never accomplish. He has in the process of writing these books allowed the team members to reconstruct and substantiate the events of the day among themselves, and even though it has been acknowledged that a story may have forgotten something or overlooked someone, the interesting thing is that every effort to provide a clear and accurate ac-count of the patrol's activities and teammates' thoughts has been made. These books are the accounts of the combined experiences of these teams, and not war stories. There is no chest beating or a "there I was..." tale, only a story of six good and very brave men who never wavered in duty or in the light of the Ranger Creed, and that's as good as it gets.
1st Brigade LRRP, 101st Airborne Division;
Brigade LRRP, 173d Airborne Brigade;
74th Inf. (LRP), 173d Airborne Brigade;
Co. N, 75th Inf. (Ranger), 173d Airborne Brigade;
81st Ranger Co., South Vietnamese Army