'The Bear:' Schwarzkopf a true American hero
BY World's Editorials Writers
Monday, December 31, 2012
12/31/12 at 3:03 AM
Sometimes the word hero is too casually used in our culture. There are, however, those who deserve to be called and whose life demands that they be considered heroic. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf is one of those. The retired general died Thursday. He was 78.
Schwarzkopf is best known to most Americans as the commander who orchestrated and led the successful invasion of Kuwait in 1991 that pushed then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein back across the border in a sweeping and surprising military move that continues to be talked about today.
He was, however, more than that.
The son of a military officer, Schwarzkopf, following his graduation from West Point, volunteered for Vietnam in 1966 and served two tours, one as a battalion commander.
He became known as "Stormin' Norman," a tag that he did not like, because of his volatile temper. Stories of his exploits in Vietnam are numerous, including his calm and bravery in leading his men out of a mine field.
He went on to receive three Silver Stars for valor - including one for saving those troops from the minefield - plus a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and three Distinguished Service Medals. He later was honored with decorations from France, Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. He was even knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
One of Schwarzkopf's more honorable decisions was calling off the air strikes along the road from Kuwait to Iraq, known as the "Highway of Death." It was an act of humanity seldom seen during war. The enemy was helpless, bodies and vehicles littered the road. The general, knowing that Saddam's army was thoroughly defeated, granted mercy. It was a proud moment for Schwarzkopf and the United States.
Schwarzkopf wowed the American public and the press with his no-nonsense, to-the-point press briefings during "Desert Storm." His presence on the podium was commanding, his information detailed and his delivery often humorous.
In one press conference he was asked if Saddam was a good military commander. He rattled off a litany of military strategies, all of which Saddam obviously had failed at, and then declared that other than that Saddam was a pretty good commander.
In the latter stages of the war, he informed the press that any Iraqi aircraft that took off was in the process of running away.
Schwarzkopf might have had disagreements with some of his superiors, including then-President George H.W. Bush, but he remained the loyal soldier. He became affectionately known to his troops as "The Bear," a moniker he embraced.
In retirement, many believed Schwarzkopf would seek political office, although no one knew his political affiliation and he called himself an independent. Instead, he wrote a book, did a short stint as a TV military analyst and devoted his life to charitable causes. He was a national spokesman for prostate cancer awareness, of which he was a survivor, championed the recovery of the grizzly bear, served on the Nature Conservancy board of governors and was active in charities for chronically ill children.
"I like to say I'm not a hero," Schwarzkopf once said. "I was lucky enough to lead a very successful war."
"I may have made my reputation as a general in the Army, and I'm very proud of that," he said. "But I've always felt that I was more than one-dimensional. I'd like to think I'm a caring human being. ... It's nice to feel that you have a purpose."
In our books, Schwarzkopf was a true hero. And he was far from one-dimensional.
The United States, for which he served so well and fought so valiantly, has one more salute for this outstanding American and soldier, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Original Print Headline: 'The Bear'
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf waves to a crowd at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. Schwarzkopf died Thursday. He was 78. LYNNE SLADKY / Associated Press file