BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AFGHANISTAN
By U.S. Army Spc. Ken Scar
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan—“We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young” is the New York Times bestselling book about the battle for Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War. It is considered by many historians and literary critics to be a seminal account of men in combat. Retired U.S. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf called it, “A gut-wrenching account of what war is really all about, which should be "must" reading for all Americans.”
This month more than 100 copies of the book found their way into the hands of U.S. soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division, Combined Joint Task Force-1, serving in Afghanistan as gifts from the two men who wrote it: journalist Joseph L. Galloway, and retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.
“No matter how many times I read this book I’m humbled,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack Usrey, CJTF-1 senior personnel officer, who helped dole out the shipment of books. “Brand new privates and men on their [third] war, experienced more in three days at LZ X-Ray than most of us will in a lifetime.”
Moore was the commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment during the battle, and Galloway was a reporter for United Press International who talked his way onto a helicopter to cover the action.
For their heroic actions during the battle, Moore received the Distinguished Service Cross and Galloway received the bronze star with V for Valor, the only U.S. civilian to receive that award during the Vietnam War.
In the critically acclaimed movie based on the book, “We Were Soldiers," Moore and Galloway were portrayed by actors Mel Gibson and Barry Pepper.
Each donated book includes a special message from Moore, Galloway, and retired U.S. Army Col. Bruce Crandall, who received the Medal of Honor for flying 22 missions into enemy fire with an unarmed helicopter to bring supplies and evacuate wounded Soldiers during the battle. His is one of three Medals of Honor that were earned during the three-day battle.
“With these gifts, active-duty soldiers can relate to heroes from the past,” said military historian Alexander Omhof, a close friend of the three heroes, who has been coordinating these donations for the last seven years.
The book should be particularly relatable to soldiers in the 1st Cavalry Division, he said, because it was units from what would become the 1st CAV who fought in the Ia Drang – but active-duty service members of all kinds have gratefully received special copies of the book.
“Book donation number 50,000 will happen later this year,” he said.
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This work, Vietnam heroes give the gift of history to 1st Cav soldiers, by SSG Ken Scar, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.