Our all-volunteer military is comprised of your neighbors, friends, and relatives, who have answered America’s call to service during a time of war.
I would like to tell you the story of one such American that exemplifies the heroes of America’s 9/11 generation:
Rick Rescorla was not born of this country. He came to this country from his native England in 1963, and entered the United States Army shortly thereafter. His natural leadership abilities were identified early on. Having graduated from Basic Training, Rick was selected to attend Officer Candidate School and Airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Upon graduation Rick was assigned to 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. It was here that he would learn lasting lessons in service and sacrifice.
In November 1965 a young 2LT Rick Rescorla found himself leading his men during America’s first major battle of the Vietnam War, the Battle of the Ia Drang (also known as the Battle of LZ X-Ray). The battle was a vicious, guttural affair, and was vividly described by the commanding officer of the battle, LTC Hal Moore, and war correspondent Joe Galloway in their book, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, which was later made into a movie starring Mel Gibson.
In the book, Moore described Rescorla as “the best platoon leader I ever saw.” Rescorla’s men nicknamed him “Hard Core” for his bravery in battle, and revered him for his good humor and compassion towards his men.
Shortly after the Battle of Ia Drang commenced, Rescorla was ordered to move out to seize the high ground surrounding the landing zone. He immediately led his platoon forward through the brush towards an enemy that they knew was lying in wait. As he did this, his image was captured by a combat cameraman – this iconic photograph adorns the cover of Moore and Galloway’s book. In the picture, his face muscles are taut and eyes wide under the brow of his helmet. His eyes look almost white because they are open so wide….intense anxiety is plainly evident in LT Rescorla’s face. He is very clearly afraid…afraid that his life may be snuffed out at any moment, yet he moves with his M-16 at the ready, clenched firmly in his hands, its bayonet fixed – a Soldier dutifully doing what is asked of him despite the danger.
The picture – captured in a moment of desperation and sheer terror – is a powerful image of a Soldier doing his duty in combat. It’s quite probable that LT Rescorla didn’t really know why it was necessary to move his platoon forward and take the high ground, but he felt a compelling responsibility both to his fellow Soldiers and unit to do his duty. Rescorla did his duty that day earning a Silver Star for his valor. Yet, this was not the last time that his nation would require his service and his ultimate sacrifice.
The final chapter of the Rick Rescorla story is even more moving. On September 11th 2001, Rick was serving as Vice President of Security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in its headquarters in the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. After the building was struck on that fateful morning, Rescorla calmly and expertly directed over 2700 employees to safety down the fire escape stair wells of the South Tower. Rescorla also oversaw the evacuation of another 1000 employees from the World Trade Building #5. When an old Army buddy, Dan Hill, reached him on the phone that day, Rescorla could be heard barking orders calmly and collectedly through a bullhorn. He exhorted his fellow employees to “be proud to be Americans…everyone will be talking about you tomorrow”.
After the last of the employees had evacuated the South Tower, he took his security team back into the building to make a final sweep to ensure everyone had escaped safely. When one of his colleagues urged him to evacuate as well, Recorla replied, “As soon as I make sure everyone else is out”. He was last seen alive on the tenth floor, moving towards danger much in the same way he had done 36 years prior at the Battle of Ia Drang. Rick Rescorla certainly knew the mortal danger he faced, yet did his duty for his fellow man.
Rick Rescorla was not the last hero to die in our Nation’s Global War on Terror. His actions along with hundreds of others that momentous day sparked a renewed era of sacrifice and service in our country. Our military members today personify the very best of America. They are a generation of men and women that saw our Nation brutally attacked, yet elected to serve – knowing full well that they would face our Nation’s enemies down in combat in obscure battlefields half a world away. Yet, they have never wavered or questioned. They quietly stand among the generations of Americans that have gone before, standing in the gap between the evil of the world and the values of our Nation and Constitution.
Many in our country do not yet fully realize the incredible value and impact that 9/11 generation is having, and will continue to have, on our society – for they are a humble, resilient and focused generation. You represent our Nation’s future – among our ranks are the future leaders of our society – leaders of industry, leaders of our communities, and leaders of our Nation.
I have no doubts that history will be kind to you. Your service and sacrifice have protected the free world from tyranny and evil, you have restored freedom and inspired hope where it was absent, and you have confronted and repulsed extremism, violence, and exclusion in all corners of the world. As was the case with our forefathers, you seek moderation, tolerance, and inclusion for all of humanity. You continue to protect, defend, and advocate for the downtrodden and defenseless. You are indeed a reflection of the American people.
I ask that we all remember our fellow service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our Nation. We are forever indebted to them for their service and sacrifice.
May we also remember our comrades that are, at this very moment, standing watch around the globe in the name of freedom and democracy.
And may God continue to bless the United States of America!
The last nine years of persistent conflict have provided countless examples of courage, resiliency and sacrifice on the part of our Army and Nation. I ask you to share with us stories you may have of other heroes of the 9/11 Generation. Our duty as Americans is to never forget and always admire our heroes’ contributions to our Nation’s continued existence and freedom!
LTG Robert L. Caslen, Jr., Commandant, CGSC