Remembering the General

Published 2:31 pm Friday, December 28, 2012

“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” These are the wise words of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, former Commander of U.S. Central Command. Stormin’ Norman was a big dog.

For those that don’t fully comprehend what exactly that means, please allow me to make an analogy. If the President of the United States is the most powerful man on the planet, he has become so because he has the biggest and baddest dog on a heavy leash.

When I was a teenager, George H.W. Bush (aka Bush Version1.0) was the president holding the leash and Schwarzkopf was the dog. He may have been well known amongst knitting circles at the Pentagon, but it wasn’t until Saddam Hussein became a household name that the American public became enamored with General Schwarzkopf.

When everything escalated in Kuwait and the time to mobilize arrived, the General became the mastermind behind the four day ground war that was our takeover of Iraq in the Gulf War.

A look at his Wikipedia page reveals both interesting and impressive facts about the man who used to be known as Herbert Norman. For example I was not aware that Herbert’s father was the lead investigator in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case.

I also did not know that while serving in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was injured while attempting to rescue men under his command from a minefield. Miles from the danger, he directed his helicopter pilot to take him to his men and, without regard for his own safety, Schwarzkopf became injured himself and watched some of his men die while guiding others out of the minefield. If he had not already been recognized as a leader I can only imagine the respect he earned as word of his heroic effort spread throughout Uncle Sam’s neighborhood.

While respected by many it appears he was liked by less. One doesn’t rise to the status of Commander of U.S. Command without upsetting a few people, but it was not without effectiveness. Schwarzkopf reportedly told his men “When you get on that plane to go home, if the last thing you think about is ‘I hate that son of a bitch’, then that is fine because you’re going home alive.”

Throughout his time in service to his country Schwarzkopf earned many decorations including the Silver Star (with two Oak Leaf clusters), the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart (with Oak Leaf cluster) the Legion of Merit and numerous others. The man had more colors on his chest than crayola.

His death is saddening, but it’s the death of what Schwarzkopf represented that should truly be mourned. Men of Schwarzkopf’s intelligence combined with a sense of duty is a most rare find nowadays.

President George W. Bush said it best when he said “General Norm Schwarzkopf, to me, epitomized the ‘duty, service, country’ creed that had defended our freedom and seen this great nation through our most trying international crises.”

In an era where the lines between politician and soldier are more blurry than ever, I mourn the loss of a great soldier and an American hero.


David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publications. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at