Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Fade Away

Posted on August 2, 2015


Those of us old enough, know that General of the Army (5 Stars), General Douglas MacArthur spoke these words in front of Congress when he was forced to Retire. Whether we wanted to retire or were forced into retirement, the majority of us have several things in common. Sooner or later we will all miss the comradarie of the military. The closeness of the unit. We all have made friends that are more like family then some of our “family” are. These are men and women who we relied on though some of our worst times and the best times. It doesn’t make any real difference which service you served in. It doesn’t make any difference what your job was. Comradrie crosses all racial, religious and cultural lines. We were there when one another got promoted. We were there when we had kids. We were there for birthdays and anniversaries. We were there to laugh with each other and to cry with each other. Whether you served two years or 30 years doesn’t make any difference.

We like to say Brothers in Arms. In reality, it was Families in Arms. Even today when we hold reunions it is a “Family Reunion”. The reunions that I set up are designed for the family. The day time is for you and your family to do what they want. The nights are ours. This is why I try to hold reunions in different locations every year. I try to pick out places where other Troopers and Troopettes would like to go but have never taken the opportunity to do so.

We all have the “Pride” of having served our country. For those of us that went into combat, we have the “Pride” of the unit and men we served with. We have the “Pride” of being there for our “Brothers” and now “Sisters”. We have the “Pride” of knowing that we had their backs and they had ours. This is a “Pride” that no one can take away from us. This is a “Pride” that grows stronger and stronger every day. This is a “Brother/Sisterhood” that stays strong and even grows stronger throughout the years.

Many time you will hear an Old Soldier (Airman/Seaman/Marine) say let me back in and I’ll kick some ass. Sure it is true that for most of us this means the other guy has to fall down because our legs don’t get that high anymore. Most of us can only run to the bathroom and sometimes we are to slow for that. For many of us we have to take 5-10 steps just to get our hips and knees working right. Saluting takes a little longer because the Arthritis in our shoulders.

So why would  we say send us? One reason is because we have been there before and we don’t want any other young person to have to go through it. We don’t want them to have the pains, the memories and the injuries that many of us now enjoy. The main reason is because we are “Fearless”. That’s right. We don’t fear getting shot. Most of us are damn old the only thing we worry about is our wives, kids and grand kids. We don’t care about dying. We just don’t want them to die. Yes, this makes us a better fighter. There is a big difference between fighting for your country and fighting for your kids and grand kids. Just like a female of any species will stand up and fight to the death to protect her young, so will we. No one in their right mind wants to go to war.

Nobody with any level of common sense wants to be a pacifist. Nobody who believes in individual Freedoms wants to allow another country to dominate them. When you are willing to give in to our countries that don’t believe in the same Freedoms that you believe in, be prepared to become dominated.

God has been great to America. He has given us the Freedoms shared in only a few other countries. He has blessed us greatly. We must stand up for him and our way of life. It is only those who have never lost their “Freedom” and their “Country” who have no clue. Yes, Old Soldiers Don’t Die, They just Fade away.

That is because we will be Soldiers forever.

LTG Charles W, Bagnal Died June 30, 2015

As many of you know, Lt/Gen. Charles Bagnal (Ret.) was a scheduled speaker at the 2015 reunion, but had to cancel in June because of failing health. He died June 30, and was buried at West Point July 15.
As a Major, he commanded Charlie troop 1966-67. He had a direct effect on many of our lives, and because he unable to re-connect with us at the reunion, I thought I would talk a little about him.

During my career in both the Army and the Air Force, I served with many fine commanders. Charles Bagnal was the top of the mountain. As a troop commander, he always led. He was in the thick of every battle, and he had guts. One time Blue was pinned down by a machine gun position, and both helicopters had run out of ammo and rockets. Only the gunners had any left, so Maj. Bagnal told his crew chief that he was going to take him down by the enemy position so he could have a clear shot and kill them. And down they went, came to a hover, and the crew chief came out winner. Probably could have fried a steak on his gun barrel. Just another day in the war. He demanded the best from all of us, but he also cared about each and every one of us. His wife confided in my wife at a reunion, that he still grieved for the men who were killed.

I looked him up in 2000, and we began to stay in contact, and meet at reunions. During one of our visits, he told me that when he was the Pacific commanding general of army forces, he attended a meeting with generals from other countries in the area. The evening entertainment was two SF soldiers in an arena with several cobras. When they had finished their show, they slit the snakes open and drained their blood into a container. Then, they made cocktails of clear liquor and cobra blood, and handed them out. When he was handed his, he asked,” am I supposed to drink this”? Told that the other officers were drinking theirs, he downed it.

In 2005, he e-mailed me that he had developed a blood disease associated with agent orange. From then until his death, he was constantly undergoing treatments. Some of the chemo doses he had to take would have paralyzed a water buffalo, but each time I saw him, he always had a smile, and we enjoyed our visits. We had planned to meet at Ft. Benning, and then in March as I was sitting in my truck, he called to let me know that he now had leukemia. He still hoped to make the reunion, but it was not to be.

I once told him, if I could add one thing to my military career, I would like to have been his SGT Maj. We agreed to do that in Saint Michael’s Army.

Steve Hundley

I only want to add that LTG Bagnal told me two weeks before he passed away that he would sign some more Certificates that I had and that he still planned on making the reunion if at all possible. How did love his Troops.

Posted in: General