God Bless America And All Who Serve Her
THANK YOU MAJOR GENERAL DAVID ZABECKI
Back in 1944~1945 I served in China with the guy pictured above. One Julian Zabecki. He would come home and he and his wife Virginia would have a son named David who would grow up and join the army.After 41 years of service and gaining the rank of Major General David Zabecki would retire.The following is the speech he made at his retirement ceremonies.
A very young Major David Zabecki early in his army career.
Major General David T. Zabecki Retirement Speech 7 August 2007
General McKiernan; General Speer; General Melvin; Command Sergeant Major Savusa; Fellow Soldiers; Friends. Thank you all for being here today. I especially want to thank my family: my wife Marlies for her unwavering support over the years; my son Jonathan, who hasn't seen a whole lot of me for the last five or six years; and my older son, Staff Sergeant Konrad Zabecki USMC, who isn't here today because he is in Iraq on his fifth GWOT tour. How many guys get to say that their hero is their own son?
As General McKiernan noted, I've been in the U.S. Army a long, long time—almost 18 percent, in fact, of the total time that the institution has existed. I've seen a lot of changes over the course of those years. Today I find myself one of the last Vietnam Veterans still in uniform.
But the U.S. Army I first joined in 1966 really wasn't the Vietnam War Army. Not quite yet. It was still very much the post-Korea and post-World War II U.S. Army. None of my DIs in Basic Training had been to Vietnam. Most of them were Korea veterans, and the First Sergeant and Senior DI were both World War II veterans. The entire upper leadership of the U.S. Army in 1966 consisted of World War II veterans. Every Colonel and above and most of the Lieutenant Colonels were World War II veterans. Every Sergeant Major and most of the First Sergeants were World War II veterans.
When I was in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968 all three of the company First Sergeants I had were World War II veterans. My Brigade Commander in the 9th Infantry Division was Colonel Charles Murray, who earned the Medal of Honor as a Platoon Leader in the 3rd Infantry Division about a week after Audie Murphy earned his, and for an almost identical action. I had the honor of meeting Colonel Murray a couple years ago in Luxembourg during the Battle of the Bulge 60th Anniversary observances. (When I was a PFC back in 1967 I saw him from a distance a couple of times.) About the time I left the 9th ID in early 1968, right after the Tet Offensive, my Division Commander was Julian Ewell, who commanded a battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at the Normandy and Eindhoven Jumps, and later commanded the entire regiment at Bastogne, where he received the Distinguished Service Cross. (When I came out on the Brigadier General List several years ago I gave him a call at his home near Ft. Belvoir. He said that he was glad to learn that he had done such a good job of subordinate development back in 1968.)
Soldiers like Ewell and Murray, of course, are the giants of U.S. Army history. But I also served with countless other World War II and Korea veterans, many of them crusty old sergeants right out of central casting. They are the ones who trained me how to be a soldier; the ones who made sure I absorbed Army values—long before those values were finally written down on a list and issued on wallet cards and dog tags.
The Vietnam generation also produced its share of heroes and legends. Vietnam was the war in which the Baby Boomer Generation came of age. There are many people who would argue that the Boomers by and large have not exactly covered themselves with glory. But as my good friend Joe Galloway once said of the Boomer Vietnam Veterans, "They may not have come from the 'Greatest Generation,' but they were the greatest of their generation."
Despite the unfortunate image far too many people still have of Vietnam veterans, almost all the popular stereotypes about them—joblessness, suicide, divorce, and drug addiction rates—are total nonsense, myths, urban legends. Study after study has shown that Vietnam veterans have slightly lower rates in all those categories than the American population at large for their age groups.
Don't get me wrong--the Vietnam War was tough on the U.S. Army and the people in it. By 1972 the U.S. Army was only a hollow shell of the institution I had joined only six years earlier. We had some serious problems. The 1970s was a tough time to be an American soldier. The real heroes were the mid- and senior-level leaders who went through Vietnam and then stayed in to rebuild the institution—soldiers like Generals Depuy, Starry, Thurman, Sullivan, Miegs, and Shinseki. We owe them a great deal.
Today, on the second to my last day in uniform, we find ourselves once again engaged in another very difficult and confusing war. Well…there is no such thing as a clearly focused war when you are in the middle of it. As a military historian I will tell you that wars only come into clear focus in the pages of history books, and many years after the fact. And the main rucksack carriers of this war are yet another generation of American Soldiers. They are called Generation X, or Generation Y, or maybe some combination of the two. I'm not quite sure I understand where the dividing line is between those two groups. All I know is that some of them hadn't even been born yet by the time I already had 20 years in uniform.
Many comparisons have been made between these various generations of Americans; the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, and Generations X and Y. For the broader population as a whole, there are big differences, and I won't even attempt to address those. The key point I want to drive home today is that the differences among the American soldiers produced by those generations are almost negligible. I've had the great privilege of spending a lot of time in uniform with all three groups. Today's generation of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines is better educated and better trained than those of the Vietnam Generation, just as we were better educated and trained than the GIs of World War II. But at their very cores, all three of those generations still possess the heart and the steel of the American GI.
And there is one thing that we owe this current generation, X or Y, or whatever it's called. And that's the best leadership and the best training we can possibly give them. That's the continuing and never-ending mission that will remain for all you out there who will be still standing here the day after tomorrow, after I've taken off this uniform for the last time.
I want to conclude my farewell to the United States Army with the lines that the author James Jones used when he dedicated his great novel, From Here to Eternity, to the U.S. Army. Jones won't mind if I plagiarize from him a little bit, because he stole it from Rudyard Kipling in the first place.
To the United States Army: I have eaten your bread and salt. I have drunk your water and wine. The deaths you have died I have watched beside. And the lives you have lived have been mine.
Thank you for the last 41 years.
A very handsome Major General David Zabecki as he ended his army career.
To learn more about the General and some of the great books he has authored go to Google and type in David Zabecki.You will be amazed at all the books he has written about Military History.
I salute you General and may your retirement be all that you wished it to be,
An Old CBI Vet
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