Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I did not write this, but it sums it up just about right. I don't know this hero's name but a teammate reports an article in a WW II mag ID'd him as a 17th Airborne Division guy just prior to Operation Varsity, the jump across the Rhine in March 1945 . . . S.L.

Paratroopers have a pride and arrogance that most Americans don’t understand and don’t like. Even soldiers who aren’t Paratroopers don’t understand. The pride doesn’t exist because we have a job that’s physically impressive. It certainly doesn’t exist because it takes a higher level of intelligence to perform our duties. It’s sad and I hate to admit it, but any college student or high school grad can physically do what we do. It’s not THAT demanding and doesn’t take a physical anomaly. Nobody will ever be able to compare us to professional athletes or fitness models. And it doesn’t take a very high IQ to read off serial numbers, pack bags according to a packing list, or know that incoming bullets have the right of way.

The pride of the Paratrooper comes not from knowing that he’s doing a job that others can’t, but that he’s doing a job that others simply won’t. Some Paratroopers haven’t seen a lot of combat. While that may sound ideal to the civilian or non-paratrooper soldier, it pains the Paratrooper. We signed up to spit in the face of danger. To walk the line between life and death and live to do it again – or not. To come to terms with our own mortality and let others try to take our life instead of yours. We have raised our hands and said, “Take me, America. I am willing to kill for you. I am willing to sacrifice my limbs for you. I will come back to America scarred and disfigured for you. I will be the first to die for you.”

That’s why the Paratrooper carries himself with pride and arrogance. He’s aware that America has lost respect for him. To many he’s a bloodthirsty animal. To others he’s too uneducated and stupid to get a regular job or go to college. Only he knows the truth. While there are few in America who claim to have respect for him, the Paratrooper returns from war with less fanfare than a first down in a high school football game. Yes, people hang up their “Support Our Troops” ribbons and on occasion thank us for our service. But in their eyes the Paratrooper can detect pity and shame; not respect. Consider this: How excited would you be to meet the average Paratrooper? Now compare that with how excited you’d be to meet a famous actor or professional sports player and you will find that you, too, are guilty of placing the wrong people on a pedestal. You wouldn’t be able to tell me how many Paratroopers died in the war last month, but you’d damn sure be able to tell me if one of the actors from Twilight died.

Yet the Paratrooper doesn’t complain about that. He continues to do his job; to volunteer his life for you, all while being paid less in four years than Tom Brady makes in one game.

It’s a job most Americans don’t understand, don’t envy, and don’t respect. That is why we have pride as Paratroopers.

When I was a kid I read two books about U.S. paratroopers in Normandy and later in Bastogne. I wasn't even an American yet, but I knew that somehow, I would one day be an American paratrooper; of this there was no doubt. I had to make my way to America first, and there were a few hurdles along the way, but I made it and to this day my proudest achievement is to be able to claim that I was a United States soldier, and I spent 25 years on jump status. Airborne!



  1. In This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness, the seminal history of the Korean War by someone who led troops during that war, T.R. Fehrenbach has this to say about paratroopers in his chapter about Heartbreak Ridge:

    "The seemingly nonsensical swagger of paratroopers, their special insignia, their carefully nurtured arrogance, seemingly in conflict with most decent, democratic practices, make sense only when what paratroopers must do is considered.

    "At the final moment, when a man must leap from a speeding aircraft into what is normally the most hazardous of military missions, an airdrop behind enemy lines; when his chances of serious injury or death are always high, even routine, a special esprit is required."

    All the way!

    And never, ever forget the Rule of the LGOPS.

  2. As an aside, the lovely young woman whom I am currently seeing is always baffled by a certain phenomenon she sometimes observes. Whenever she mentions that she knows a (retired) paratrooper to coworkers who also served as paratroopers (common in her line of work), they always ask her how many jumps I made. I tell her that it's important; they tell her that it's important. She still doesn't quite grasp why it would be important.

    For the record, I made about 25 jumps, including those at the Basic Airborne Course (I misplaced my jump log over the course of several moves, so I may be off by one jump either way). No mustard stain, but I did get to represent my unit in the jump back to Ft. Bragg after Just Cause. 20 C-141 aircraft disgorging over 1900 paratroopers over Sicily DZ must have been an amazing sight from the ground. Amazingly enough, the winds over the DZ actually were 3-to-5 knots that morning.

  3. While not a paratrooper myself (air assault RedLeg) I take great pride in the fact that we gave our best efforts to support our brothers when and where they needed it. In later years a coworker who was on Hamburger Hill found out what unit I was with and was very effusive in his thanks. It was an emotional moment. My appreciation and regard for sky troopers remains strong to this day.
    Lazarus Long

  4. I don't care what Tom Brady makes. I haven't watched him play "basketball". I don't know what Twilight is. I have nothing but complete respect and gratitude for paratroopers.

  5. I have always been proud to say that I went through the U.S. Army's jump school. I was not a paratrooper myself, but I stood with some of them as I received my jump wings. I still wear them with pride and salute those who are and were paratroopers.

    Paul L. Quandt

  6. Thanks for this from another Paratrooper.

    As you know, this is a brotherhood that spans nationalities and time.


    1. Mind if I pass this along?


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