Veterans Day Profiles of Valor: Black Hawk Down
“Without a doubt, I owe my life to those two men and their bravery.”
“Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, ‘What should be the reward of such sacrifices?’ … If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands, which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!” —Samuel Adams (1777)
Last month marked the 30th anniversary of the October 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, as memorialized in the film “Black Hawk Down,” though a very compressed version of the 24-hour fight.
The Operation Gothic Serpent mission began with a joint-force operation, primarily Army Rangers but also some Navy SEALS and Air Force Pararescue operators, to apprehend two top lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s regime. It ended in a bloody fight after two of our UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down deep in the heart of Aidid’s urban territory. There were 18 Americans killed and 73 wounded, with one man captured. It is estimated that our forces responding to the rescue efforts of those helicopter crews killed between 300 and 700 of Aidid’s fighters.
I invite you to revisit the extraordinary sacrifices of that battle ahead of our national observance of Veterans Day Saturday, when we pause at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in honor of all American veterans.
In that spirit, allow me to tell you a bit about two veterans who represent the best of American warriors — Maine native son Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, who served with 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and Nebraska native son Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart, who served with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, Delta Force.
As background, in August 1993 prior to standing up Task Force Ranger in Magadishu, four U.S. soldiers were killed by an IED remotely detonated by Aidid’s terror squads. A week before the main battle, another Black Hawk was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, crashing and killing three American service personnel onboard.
My East Tennessee friend MG Gary Harrell (RIP), who retired as Deputy Commanding General of the Army Special Operations Command, was probably best known for his leadership as a then-Lt. Col. of C Squadron, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, in Mogadishu. He was severely wounded, but Gary was a rock — and he recovered. (Ironically, he had previously almost met his end in a helicopter crash during operations in Panama.)
Conversations with Gary, who advanced the names of M/Sgt. Gordon and Sfc. Shughart for the posthumous awarding of the Medal of Honor, provided firsthand insights into the courage and character, and the heroic actions of our operators on the ground and in the air. His account was bolstered in subsequent conversations with others who fought there, including Lt. Gen. William Boykin (USA, Ret.) and Col. Danny McKnight (USA, Ret.), who commanded 450 soldiers of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Mogadishu.
I should mention they all confirmed that our warriors were hamstrung by restrictive rules of engagement imposed by then “Commander-in-Chief” Bill Clinton, who apparently did not learn anything from the failures of his predecessor, LBJ, whose advisors also endeavored to micromanage combat — in his case in Vietnam — from the basement of the White House.
Perhaps the most visceral account of the actions that day is from CW4 Michael Durant (USA, Ret.), who was the pilot of Super Six Four, the second Black Hawk shot down while trying to provide cover for the downed crew of Super Six One. Durant authored a detailed account of that day and night in his book In the Company of Heroes.
Enter M/Sgt. Gordon and Sfc. Shughart. After repeated denials of their requests to get on the ground and defend Durant and his crew, they were inserted by Super Six Two into a battleground with insurmountable odds of survival. It was clear to all that the odds were overwhelming against them, but they went anyway. They killed numerous Somalis before running out of ammunition, and they were killed in their valorous defense of their fellow warriors, becoming the first Medal of Honor recipients since the Vietnam War.
Their respective Medal of Honor citations detail their actions.
M/Sgt. Gordon distinguished himself by action above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as a Sniper Team Leader, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. M/Sgt. Gordon’s sniper team provided precision fires from the lead helicopter during an assault, and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. When M/Sgt. Gordon learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the crash site, he and another sniper unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After his third request to be inserted, M/Sgt. Gordon received permission to perform his volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused him to abort the first attempt, M/Sgt. Gordon was inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and pistol, M/Sgt. Gordon and his fellow sniper, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. M/Sgt. Gordon immediately pulled the pilot and other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. M/Sgt. Gordon used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers until he depleted his ammunition. M/Sgt. Gordon then went back to the wreckage, recovering some of the crew’s weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that he was critically low on ammunition he provided some of it to the dazed pilot and then radioed for help. M/Sgt. Gordon continued to travel the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. After his team member was fatally wounded, and his own rifle ammunition exhausted, M/Sgt. Gordon returned to the wreckage, recovering a rifle with the last five rounds of ammunition and gave it to the pilot with the words “Good Luck.” Then, armed only with his pistol, MSgt. Gordon continued to fight until he was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life. M/Sgt. Gordon’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
Sfc. Shughart distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as a Sniper Team Member, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Sfc. Shughart provided precision sniper fires from the lead helicopter during an assault on a building and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. While providing critical suppressive fires at the second crash site, Sfc. Shughart and his team leader learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the site. Sfc. Shughart and his team leader unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After their third request to be inserted, Sfc. Shughart and his team leader received permission to perform this volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Sfc. Shughart and his team leader were inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Sfc. Shughart pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Sfc. Shughart used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers while travelling the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. Sfc. Shughart continued his protective fire until he depleted his ammunition and was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life. Sfc. Shughart’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
According to Michael Durant, who was severely injured in the crash of his helicopter, taken prisoner and held captive for 11 days: “Without a doubt, I owe my life to those two men and their bravery. Those guys came in when they had to know it was a losing battle. If they had not come in, I wouldn’t have survived.”
Reading the account of their actions that day, and considering valorous and heroic actions of so many others combat Veterans before and since, it is clear that never in our nation’s history has the contrast between those who have defended our legacy of American Liberty with their blood and life stood in such stark contrast with the domestic enemies of Liberty.
One of the most disgraceful examples of that contrast would be the actions of anti-Semite Ilhan Abdullahi Omar (D-MN), who was born in Mogadishu, and was 11 years old when the lives of Gordon and Shughart were taken. Two years later, in 1995, Omar arrived in the United States, where she and her family were granted asylum. They settled in Minneapolis, which has a large Islamic population and has earned the title of terrorist-recruiting capital of the U.S..
It is from that cesspool of hatred that the now-40-year-old Omar was elected to the U.S. House in 2018. She is a consummate hater whose anti-Semitic sentiments were exposed most recently after the Hamas attack on Israel. She is a charter member of the uber-leftist, America-hating “Squad” — the Marxists who are leading the socialist surge in the Democrat Party.
Omar owes her life and existence to those who have defended the country she loathes, and yet she has been a primary protagonist of the “systemic racism” lie and the Marxist so-called “Black Lives Matter” radicals it spawned.
I mention this not only by way of her connection to Mogadishu and the contrast in character, but because the hatred that Omar and her ilk invoked in 2020 has been tied to the desecration of Master Sgt. Gordon’s gravesite in Maine.
Their disgraceful behavior and lack of gratitude notwithstanding…
Amid all the political rancor that dominates the public discourse and news cycles, we should remind others of the following observation from Army veteran Charles M. Province:
It is the Soldier, not the minister, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
We American Patriots set aside Veterans Day to honor the service and sacrifice of generations of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen, generations of Patriots who have carried forward the banner of Liberty since the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord. Millions of American Patriots have, for generations, honored their oaths “to support and defend” the freedom “endowed by our Creator” as affirmed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in our Constitution.
At one point in their lives, every veteran wrote a blank check made payable to “The People of the United States of America” for an amount up to and including their life.
M/Sgt. Gordon and Sfc. Shughart – your examples of valor – American Patriots defending your fellow warriors and Liberty for all above and beyond the call of duty and disregarding the peril to your own life – is eternal. “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Finally, to genuinely demonstrate gratitude to military veterans and those still serving – Patriots who have and continue to defend the Liberty we enjoy – all Americans should strive, first and foremost, to live our lives worthy of their sacrifice.
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Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776
Join us in prayer for our nation’s Military Patriots standing in harm’s way, for our First Responders, and for their families.
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