Myers Draws Connections Along Long Line of Warriors
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan., Sep. 26, 2005 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers often speaks of the long line of men and women in the military who have stepped forward when their country called. He met two such men at an award ceremony here Sept. 24.
The chairman presented retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Gooden with the Silver Star for his heroism in Vietnam in 1965. In the audience was Army Sgt. Jason Brannan, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran now on recruiting duty here.
The chairman linked the two men as the way generations of Americans have stepped forward.
"You do what you have to do," said Gooden of his actions in the Ia Drang Valley. "That's what all military personnel do." The action was detailed in the book and movie "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young."
The same is true of Americans today, Myers said.
"I'd go back to Iraq in a heartbeat," Brannan said. "But the Army said (recruiting) was more important now."
Brannan was not your typical Army recruit. In 2002, he was working construction here in Kansas when he decided he wanted to participate in something bigger than himself. "I was making good money," he said. "A lot more than I would make as a soldier. But we're at war, and if I don't step up, then who will?"
He discussed the decision with his wife Lindsey -- the couple have two children -- and "she was all for it."
He joined the Army as an infantryman and went through Airborne School. In March 2003, he arrived at the 82nd Airborne Division and deployed to Iraq almost immediately. "I was a new soldier, but the NCOs took me under their wings and continued training me even as we were doing operations," Brannan said.
His unit was based south of Baghdad. He said he and his fellow soldiers bonded incredibly tightly during the deployment. During the deployment, he and his friends saw the insurgency grow. He said he also saw the way terrorists targeted Iraqis trying to help their own people and the way American soldiers reached out to help Iraqi civilians. "You do what you have to," Brannan said.
Gooden, who retired from the Army in 1980, lives near here and often stops in and to speak with the Army recruiters.
"When I heard the sergeant major was receiving the award I knew I had to make it here," Brannan said. "This is a connection between soldiers today and those that carried the torch before us. It's an honor to be here and witness this."