Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Puckett’

Retired Ranger Col. Ralph Puckett Gets Top Columbus Rotary Award

April 25, 2012

It’s not the top award he has received, since he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, second only to the Medal of Honor, twice, once for valor in Korea and once in Vietnam.  Among his other combat medals are multiple Purple Hearts for his battle wounds.  The honor retired Colonel Ralph Puckett received today, the Mary Reed Award for Service above Self, at the Rotary Club of Columbus was, however, the highest one that can be bestowed on a member of the club.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett and former Sec.of the Army Howard "Bo" Callaway

He was surprised that he had been selected and was visibly moved. He was being honored by his peers, peers that include  not only some of the top  business and professional leaders in Columbus, but also a number of retired Army generals, and the highest ranking veteran in the room, retired Secretary of the Army Howard “Bo” Callaway, who was a fellow classmate  at West Point.  Both were members of the class of 1949.

Mary Reed, veteran Rotary Club secretary for whom the award is named, Ralph Puckett, Jean Puckett (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

He was also surprised when his wife Jean was escorted to the dais, because he thought she was out of town.  He said, “She is my hero, the wind beneath my wings. I would be nothing without her.”

This proven Army Ranger hero is no friend of war. I have heard him say more than once that war is insane and stupid, but there are times when they simply have to be fought to preserve our country’s freedoms.  One of the freedoms, the one I put at the top of the list, freedom of speech,  is courageously practiced by Col. Puckett.  He is not happy that our soldiers are being deployed too long and too often, and that  less than one percent of the country’s population is fighting our wars, while the rest of us are shopping in the malls. He made all of this clear in a talk to the Unitarian Univeralist Fellowship of Columbus. You can read my blog post about it at this link

He was given the most thundering and prolonged standing ovations I have ever witnessed at a Rotary Club meeting.  And, in my view, deserved them.

He continues to  give his time freely and makes many trips to Fort Benning to support our soldiers. And when he is honored as he was today, he quotes President Eisenhower’s comment on humility:  “Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”

I can’t think of a person more deserving of the Mary Reed Award than my fellow Rotarian Ralph Puckett.

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Bring Back the Draft?

March 12, 2012

Retired Col. Ralph Puckett speaking to Columbus Unitarian Universalists

Retired Colonel  Ralph Puckett, a highly decorated and honored retired U.S. Army Ranger,  told Columbus Unitarian Universalists Sunday that “our country has put unconscionable stress on the few in our society who serve in our military,” and raised the question of reinstating the draft as a way to ease that stress and resolve the unfairness of less than one percent of the population defending our country.

He said that some soldiers are on their fifth 12-month deployment.

He got an email from a brigadier general recently who is in Afghanistan  The general, referring to a photo he sent, said, “Next to me is the Brigade Command Sargeant Major. Speaking of sacrifice, this was the CSM’s fifth deployment of the war. During this tour his son fell in battle in Iraq serving as a squad leader with  the rangers. The father returned to the US with his son’s remains, attended services, and returned to duty in Afghanistan.”

Col. Puckett told of the sacrifices of the wives of soldiers, saying, “The wives of our soldiers deserve all the support and praise we can give them. They are serving, and sacrificing. They are combat multipliers!

“I know that I could not have made it without my wife, Jeannie. She is my hero, the wind beneath my wings. I would be nothing without her.”

This sacrifice is not being shared. He repeated the saying, “The Army and Marines are at war. The rest of America is in the shopping mall! Our soldiers are giving everything to include their lives while most of us give little or no thought to those who keep us free.”

As for our politicians, forty years ago there were nearly four times as many veterans in Congress as there are today.  “We expect our military to give their lives to defend America. Can we expect our politicians to put our country first before any political gain?”

He spoke of “sending volunteers on their third, fourth, and fifth deployments while the majority of our citizens exhibit little or no interest in those wars puts our country at risk.”

There would, no doubt, be one sure way to get the rest of the country interested in its wars, a military draft.  He told  of military expert Charles Moskos and Washington Post editor Paul Glastris proposing universal registration for men and women between 18 and 24. Individuals could choose service in the military, domestic security, or community organizations.

“If more of our Congress were veterans they would be less likely to support military intervention. Before the attack on Iraq, General Anthony Zinni wondered ‘why all the generals see [attacking Iraq] the same way, and those who never fired a shot in anger and are hell-bent on going to war see it a different way.”

He knows there are strong arguments against the draft. Unless there is mobilization, few serve while most don’t. Service members don’t want a return of the draft, think volunteers make much better soldiers. Then, there is the question of whether women would be drafted. “Would we evolve into an Army that is 50 percent women?  The impact of a politically correct environment could be disastrous.”

He would be for a return of the draft, but fears it would tear the country apart. Still he thinks the draft and national service “are certainly worthy of concern and an effort to resolve the unfairness of the current situation where our defense is borne by a select few.”

Col. Puckett closed with, “The changing international scene including the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan and the growing war talk about Iran, Syria, and elsewhere will bring to the fore the question, ‘Who serves when all do not serve?’ “