- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2001

As someone who has spent a fair amount of time in “ordinary” Army combat units, I have found the continual attention to the black beret tiresome. However, your recent editorial really crosses the line (“Battle of the black berets,” May 4).

Strangely enough, the oft-lauded Marine Corps doesn´t seem to see the need to discriminate in headgear for its different skills, nor do “elite units” such as the 82nd Airborne prevent the frequently cited “cooks and clerks” from wearing the maroon beret when they are assigned to the division. Certainly, the number of badges, tabs and scrolls awarded to our elite personnel distinguish them sufficiently for their dedication and elan.

These facts are rarely cited by those who have picked the black-beret issue as their platform to lambaste an institution that has honorably served the nation for 225 years. Nor do I think these people really have an idea how much goes into being an “ordinary” member of any service.

The idea, perpetrated by some with little combat knowledge, that only Special Forces personnel face the dangers of combat or suffer death flies in the face of logic and disregards the thousands of “ordinary soldiers” who over time have shown valor, sacrifice and heroism. A visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial should quickly end such selfish and shortsighted attitudes. I am sure Gen. Eric K. Shinseki´s extensive combat experience in Vietnam gives him some insight into what being a soldier is all about.

The Army Rangers are heroes to all soldiers. However, the increasingly shrill tone of this debate denigrates the Army, an institution to which the Rangers also belong and which millions have loved. And, please, the Army motto is not “An Army of One.” That is an advertising slogan. We prefer “Duty, Honor, Country.”


JEFF WILLIAMS

Garrisonville, Va.


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