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November 11, 2011

The Veteran I Knew Best

The veteran I knew best was my dad. I don't have a picture of him in uniform. Here he is a few years after his service, standing in front of his pink Thunderbird. He was an enlisted man in the Army, and when he went to jump school at Ft. Benning, they offered him a job. He was asked to join what he always called "the cadre." It's now called the Blackhat Cadre, due to the distinctive hats they wear. From Google Books:

They are more than instructors, because in a very tangible way they are the Airborne School. They are the custodians of tradition, and they are the link that joins paratrooper of the past with paratroopers of the future, with every new paratrooper that they train.

. . .

The cadre's main function is to teach you how to get from the airplane to the ground without killing yourself or injuring others around you. The method of instruction has changed little since World War II.

They had already taken notice of him, but he got the job offer because of the way he handled a fight with a bully. There was a lieutenant going through jump school who picked on everyone, and everyone hated him. One day he started-in on my dad who tried to ignore him. Then he said, simply, "Why don't you just leave me alone." They guy persisted and finally thunked dad on the head with his finger.

You can't touch somebody like that.

The lieutenant had a beating coming, and he got it. Before the fight was over, everybody turned out to see it--everyone rooting for dad. He quit as soon as the guy indicated he'd had enough. Apparently instructors or officers witnessed the fight too. About thirty minutes later, dad was escorted to the CO's office. All the officers were there, the big guy sitting at a desk. Dad thought he was going to the stockade. "Brewer, we've been watching you... (here it comes) We like your style, and we'd like you to stay on here as cadre."

So dad stayed at Ft. Benning while his buddies shipped out to Korea.

I told this story to G. Gordon Liddy once. I was a fan of his show and sent him a letter. Liddy read it on the air and explained that my dad was selected because of the way he handled that fight. He had tried his best to avoid it, and when it could no longer be avoided, he took care of business. (Interesting coincidence: Liddy was at Ft. Benning at the same time.)

There were other things in place, of course. He was a smart guy and a good soldier. He had also qualified for the pistol and rifle teams. He chose the pistol team: "I knew I'd spend less time on the ground [in the prone position] shooting a pistol."

The Army was perfect for dad, young man that he was. It gave him structure and taught him how to be a man. It made a permanent impression on him that translated into tremendous practical benefit later on in business. It taught him how to lead.

So, here's to a good soldier, my dad. His birthday was 11-11, by the way.

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posted by rdbrewer at 04:52 PM

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