Some men are born with all the luck.
Luck doesn’t translate Sometimes to money or riches.
Often Luck doesn’t translate to fast cars and women.
Occasionally it means someone you consider a bad guy throws a lot of bullets in your direction and you don’t catch any and die.
Retired Sergeant Major Basil Plumley died of cancer at 92. He got to hold the hand of the woman he married 63 years earlier while he said his goodbyes to the world and the country he helped defend.
This is what makes him lucky.
Because the United States Army tried its hardest to kill the man.
Born right down the street from Beckley West Virginia, he was whip thin at about 156 pounds and a hairs breath under six feet tall.
He fought in three major battles in World War Two, Normandy, Operation Market garden and the Invasion of Palermo Italy. He got combat jump wings in each battle. He wasn’t even a boot on the ground.
Not just one of the many green uniforms to shoot at.
He occupied a glider thousands of feet above the ground looking to land with his artillery cargo attached. Artillery that would help save the lives of his fellow troops. He threw those rounds bigger than his head at the enemy from behind.
I know the images of the battle of Normandy, men climbing from boats and taking bullet after bullet. Bodies littering the ground, the moaning, the screams of the dying everywhere.
Imagine being in a completely powerless glider gliding through the air thousands of feet off the ground high in the air surrounded by antiaircraft fire, as it explodes all around.
I guarantee a change of pants would be needed at the end of that day.
Then after beating the Nazis in Europe this soldier keeps his uniform on and goes to Korea and jumps out of a plane to help fight Communists.
After that he fights in Vietnam during one of the first Air Mobile/Assualt attacks in military history. I have read books about this engagement. A company versus a viet cong division. He stood and fired a nine millimeter handgun and is quoted as saying, “if it’s your day it’s your day.”
It wasn’t his day.
He retired in 1974 and I am happy that he got almost forty years to relax. After what he did with his life and all the death and destruction he had to witness.
We have heroes in the country who have dived onto grenades. Or attack fixed fighting positions. Or climb over rubble looking for survivors on dates that will live in infamy throughout U.S history.
But the true heroes are guys like Basil.
He woke on three separate dates and we sent him to war.
For most of his adult life he had to deal with those realities.
I couldn’t imagine it.
As we celebrate Basil and what he gave to the country I want to also stop and think about all the soldiers that have defended our country four or five times in the last twelve years. Constantly rotating back and forth from war to home.
It’s not just the soldier either war takes its toll. It the families that give as well. Without Deurice Dillon could Sergeant major Basil Plumley have done what he did?
If I had my way flags would fly at half-mast today. Or any day a veteran dies. I don’t know. I did not serve my country like he did. I put on the uniform, but never had to throw bullets down range. My hope is less and less of America’s youth will ever know what it feels like to do such a thing.
But in the meantime thank you Sergeant Major Plumley for being tough, tougher than any normal man can ever hope to be and rest knowing a population owes you their thanks as well.