I served for 10 years as a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. It was an incredibly rewarding way to learn about the Civilian and Military leadership of our Armed Forces. I remember doing what you are doing now for Armed Forces Radio Network in Germany. Denzel Washington and I were standing in full battle tank gear in El Paso Texas recreating a scene from Persian Gulf 1 and I shoved a microphone in front of him and said, can you say Merry Christmas to the troops. He stood tall with a fat cigar in his hand surrounded by a bunch of Australian Sheridan's made up to look like T-72's and started talking to the guys in the field, hunkered down (in Bosnia I think) like they were having a beer together around a barrel fire.
Civilian Aides can only serve for 2 five-year terms, which I did under Sec. Army's during the Clinton and Bush administrations. I remember having a little conflict with one of them who was disparaging of “Hollywood.” I reminded him of the extraordinary legacy that movie stars and studios have had working along side the fighting men and women of our country.
Your and my experience working on Memphis Belle is a small example and our personal tribute to the Brave Airmen who gave everything in service of the Army Air corps in the skies over Nazi occupied Europe. Then they went and created the Air Force. Oh, well.
I haven't been a Civilian Aide since 2005 and the thing I miss the most is visiting our bases and installations all over the country and abroad. The time I've spent with the troops is sacred and I'll never forget it. Even the MRE's please God stay away from the “Corn beef Hash” or you'll never leave the latrine, or whatever they call it now. I see these movies about Iraq and Afghanistan and I feel like a hundred year old man… You know, “these kids today with their funny clothes and their rock and roll music.”
I get so excited when I think about what it must feel like on a dawn patrol, knowing that you are a trillion miles from home, fighting for freedom and facing danger, surrounded by your team…my heart sticks in my throat when I think about the soldiers I spent time with at Walter Reed and those who are there now. I feel a swell of pride and loneliness and gratitude when I picture children away from a parent and a parent in uniform missing a loved one at home on the Holidays.
But I spent enough time with the soldiers to know that they are professionals. They are the greatest professional fighting force in the history of the world. And I'm not just saying that. I was a History and English major at UCLA. I'd take our guys, blindfolded, over a Roman Centurion any day, I mean just get a load of their costumes. These guys and female warriors know what their job is and they do it with strength and honor.
Please relay my thanks!