By Alex Quade
As a lone, woman war reporter covering U.S. Special Operations forces on combat missions downrange, an unexpected mentor came into my life. This unlikeliest of sources hated reporters. Despite that, he “chose” me, treated me as an adopted SON, and taught me everything I need to know that matters.
Love him or hate him, everyone respected Medal of Honor recipient Col. Robert L. Howard (or “Mean ol’ Ranger Bob” as I liked to call him) for his bravery during five tours in Vietnam, mainly with the Studies and Observations Group. He was one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history; nominated for the Medal of Honor three times.
Bob said many people in that community deserve medals for all the unheralded things they’ve done, which, due to their classified nature, lack of witnesses, nor write-ups, few Americans will ever know about. He said he wore his Medal of Honor for each of them.
When I was with him, and his family, during his last weeks in hospital in Texas in 2009, he asked me to share a last “tasker” for each man or woman serving in Special Operations: “Continue the Mission.”
And he tasked me, too: “You must be tough as woodpecker lips,” Bob told me. “You must do the thing you cannot do. Whatever your fate may be . . . you make it happen along the way.”
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Colonel Howard WAS as tough as woodpecker lips . . . he was the stuff of legends . . . and a great mentor to the next generation . . .