Respect is the first word that comes to my mind when I recall this soldier. Brother is the second. You can imagine my delight when I had to spend Christmas in Somalia with none other than “The Grinch” himself. If they were going to steal our Christmas, surely the Grinch would one-up them. He didn’t disappoint in Somalia, The Grinch spread joy as an M249 SAW Gunner, carrying over 160lbs of gear, weapons and ammo. He’s among the most fearless & honorable men I know.
Tough as nails, funny as hell, reliable, loyal and tactically proficient; that’s what I remember most about “The Grinch”. Hailing from Southern California, the Grinch was a member of the same cohort as myself, Earl Almighty, Spaceboy and Mangold, all having joined the Army during the 1st Gulf War and attending the Benning School for Wayward Boys. Once we arrived at our duty station, we were all put in the same squad consisting of all new privates, a hardcore squad leader, and two high speed team leaders. One of the toughest guys I know, he was part of our squad when we did a 12 mile march with full gear in 1 hour and 53 minutes.
In Somalia, Grinch was as reliable as they come and never griped; he just did his job no matter what, and did it to perfection. In his downtime, he kept a Walkman with all the best Seattle Grunge on hand and shared it with whoever needed some easy listening. On the rare occasion that we had time, we would lift weights together or just shoot the breeze about anything and everything. Like most of us, Mangold gave him his nickname and the two of them got along famously having come from the same part of Southern California.
The Grinch was always a true professional. Not only was he my peer for much of my first enlistment, during Operation Uphold Democracy, he showed his loyalty and professionalism as one of my subordinate team leaders. That doesn’t always work out so well when a peer becomes your boss, which is why it’s common to send soldiers to other squads or platoons after they become NCO’s. I couldn’t have asked for a better team leader in the squad. He was hardcore, loyal and a good leader and mentor to the privates under our watch. Out of our original cohort squad, he was one of three of us that quickly became an NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) shortly after proving himself in Somalia.
Aside from being one of the best soldiers & friends I’ve ever known, The Grinch is also one of the best family oriented guys I know. He is still married to the same woman, Minnie, all these years later, with several grown and nearly grown children. He’s also basically worked the same job since the time he left the Army, even putting in time in various leadership roles in his organization. Not surprising given his dedicated work ethic.
The Grinch was Spaceboy’s roommate for quite awhile until he got his family moved near the base and situated, and watched Spaceboy’s struggle after Somalia. Like all of us, he tried to help Spaceboy to no avail. He probably knows Spaceboy better than anyone. From the time we got to the unit and through deployments to Death Valley, Hurricane Andrew and Fort Bragg, the Grinch pushed Spaceboy to succeed.
In Somalia, the Grinch was a member of our 16 man platoon that faced Ali Tihad (Al Shabaab) twice in less than 24 hours. He was present during “The Baptism” in a Mogadishu Suburb in 1993, as well as every other enemy engagement we had. He was among the first members of our battalion and division to earn the highly coveted Combat Infantryman’s Badge since WWII, 1 of only 1280 awarded for Somalia out of the 100,000 troops that served there. Fearless and proficient, I’d not only go to war with him again, I’d gladly follow him.
After again making history by conducting an Air Assault from the deck of the U.S.S. Eisenhower to kick off Operation Uphold Democracy, the Grinch was one of the best combat leaders in 1st platoon; one of a mere handful that our senior leadership relied on heavily. After then Air Assaulting by Chinook into the mountains of Haiti, he was recognized for leading patrols and keeping his troops squared away at all times.
Being around guys like the Grinch forces you to be better and try harder. The Army truly lost something when the Grinch decided against re-enlisting after returning from Haiti. If you ask him, however, there’s no love lost and he is proud to have served and grateful to have been among us. He credits the Army for giving him the life skills that have allowed his life to flourish to this day.
Like myself, he enjoys fishing. Hopefully we can go catch a few soon.
Come read about The Grinch and scores of other amazing men in “Behind the Gun”!
Copyright© Bravo Charles & Behind the Gun 2016