Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Bravest Of The Brave

You see, for Rick Rescorla, this was a natural death. People like Rick, they don’t die old men. They aren’t destined for that and it isn’t right for them to do so. It just isn’t right, by God, for them to become feeble, old, and helpless sons of bitches. There are certain men born in this world, and they’re supposed to die setting an example for the rest of the weak bastards we’re surrounded with.” Dan Hill
You see the ammo above? It was taken by a Marine Captain on November 10, 2004 during the battle of Fallujah just prior to sending the 155mm round down range in support of Marine Infantry.
The handwritten message written by the Marine Captain: "In Memory of Rick Rescorla. Fought in IA Drang '65. Killed at WTC on 9/11. Avenged 10 Nov. 2004."
Now who was Rick Rescorla?
Well, he was the bravest man I ever met.

In August 1998, I started working for Morgan Stanley. The office was in the Trade Center. The first person I met on the first day was Rick Rescorla. He was head of Morgan Stanley's Corporate Security and he took my fingerprints. I was a little nervous, but he put me immediately at ease.

This is Rick's story in a nutshell.

Rick was born in Cornwall, England which is Southern England. During the buildup for D-DAY lots of U.S. Servicemen were stationed in Cornwall. Rick was a young boy at the time, and the American GI's would take the time to play with him, give him rides on their jeeps, etc. It made a lasting impression on Rick.

He knew as a young boy that he wanted to be a soldier.

In his teens, he joined the British army, became a paratrooper, and led a unit fighting guerrillas and insurgents in Cyprus. After that, he fought guerrillas and insurgents in Zambia.

In 1964 he migrated to the United States for a specific purpose: he wanted to join the U.S. Army to fight Communists in Vietnam.

In April 1965, Rick was commissioned as a United States Officer of Infantry out of Fort Benning, Georgia. Five months later, he was commanding a platoon of 44 men in Vietnam.

It's in Vietnam where the legend of Rescorla took hold.

Rick's heroic's in Viet Nam were documented in the bestseller We Were Soldiers Once...And Young. Later made into a Mel Gibson Movie. Rick was a main character in the book, and appeared on the cover.

In Vietnam, Rick earned the nickname "hardcore".

An excerpt from another book bout Rick entitled Heart of a Soldier will give you an indication why:

The remote Ia Drang Valley, less than ten miles from the Cambodian border, was a Communist stronghold and a supply route for North Vietnamese forces in the south. In November of 1965, the American military command ordered Rescorla’s unit, Bravo company of the Seventh Air Cavalry’s 2nd Battalion, to the center of a hostile area to support a battalion surrounded by three regiments of hardened enemy troops—more than two thousand soldiers. Rescorla directed his men to dig foxholes and establish a defense perimeter. Exploring the hilly terrain beyond the perimeter, he came under enemy fire. After nightfall, he and his men endured waves of assault. To keep morale up, Rescorla led the men in military cheers and Cornish songs throughout the night.

The next morning, Rescorla took a patrol through the battlefield, searching for American dead and wounded. As he looked over a giant anthill, he encountered an enemy machine-gun nest. The startled North Vietnamese fired on him, and Rescorla hurled a grenade into the nest. There were no survivors.

Rescorla and Bravo company were evacuated by helicopter. The rest of the battalion marched to a nearby landing zone. On the way, they were ambushed, and Bravo company was again called in for relief. Only two helicopters made it through enemy fire. As the one carrying Rescorla descended, the pilot was wounded, and he started to lift up. Rescorla and his men jumped the remaining ten feet, bullets flying at them, and made it into the beleaguered camp. As Lieutenant Larry Gwin later recalled the scene, “I saw Rick Rescorla come swaggering into our lines with a smile on his face, an M-79 on his shoulder, his M-16 in one hand, saying, ‘Good, good, good! I hope they hit us with everything they got tonight—we’ll wipe them up.’ His spirit was catching. The enemy must have thought an entire battalion was coming to help us, because of all our screaming and yelling.”

Rescorla and his pal Dan Hill and Rescorla survived Vietnam, but many of their comrades did not. Three hundred and five died in the Ia Drang Valley alone, one of the heaviest losses ever sustained by a single American regiment. Many times, Rescorla cradled the bodies of his dying soldiers, speaking softly and reassuringly to them. “You’re going to be all right,” he promised, no matter how dire the situation. After a soldier died, Rescorla would cover his hands with the soldier’s blood, in a sort of ritual. “He was terribly compassionate, unlike me,” Hill recalled. “Rick died a little bit with every guy who died under his command.”

After Vietnam, Rick used the GI Bill to get his college diploma and a law degree. He wrote a text book on criminal justice, and taught at the University of South Carolina.

In the 1980's, Rick became the head of Corporate Security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. After fighting in guerrilla wars all over the world, Rick knew that terrorists loved to pick symbolic targets. Thus, he knew the Trade Center was a prime target for a terrorist attack. In 1990, he analyzed the Trade Center for its security weakpoints, and concluded that the basement was vulnerable to bombing. Rick shared his conclusions with the Port Authority, who basically told him to mind his own business.

When the Muslim maniacs bombed the Trade Center for the first time, Rick was proven right. He was also the last guy out of the building, just like in Vietnam, he would leave no one behind.

Rick came to the conclusion that the Muslims would be back, and hit the Trade Center again. This time by plane. There is video out there of Rick predicting just that. Because he was so convinced that the Trade Center was still a prime target, he tried to convince the powers that be at Morgan Stanley to move operations to New Jersey. They refused.

Rick really believed that that he was responsible for the safety of all of Morgan Stanley's employees. And there were a lot of employees-Morgan Stanley rented 20 floors in 2 WTC, the biggest tenant in either Tower. Thus, Rick had people doing fire drills all the time. To prepare, just in case.

On 9-11, Rick led 2,700 people to safety. He had a bullhorn, and would sing to people through the madness, to keep them calm.

Morgan Stanley, lost only 6 people in the attack. Of course, one of them was Rick. He would have never left the building.

The next day, many Morgan Stanleyites were reaching out to each other, to see who made it, and who didn't make it. Everyone I spoke to knew that Rick could not have survived. It was unthinkable that he would leave, knowing that there were people left in the building.

His remains were never found.

Five months before 9-11, in April 2001, Rick was inducted into the Infantry Officer Hall of Fame in Fort Benning. He was reunited with the men who worshiped him, and held him in awe 35 years after they went through hell together.

At that reunion, Rick was given a copy of the We Were Soldiers Once book that was just coming out. He refused to read it. He was also told that the book was going to be made into a movie. He was uncomfortable with the idea. He told everyone that he was uncomfortable with anything that depicted the survivors of war as heroes.

"All the real heroes are dead" was what he told his men at the reunion.

What a man. What a loss.

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