“You picked a helluva place to lay down.” were the first words Poncho recalls hearing from Ed Ricord as he lay bleeding profusely from the neck on a Mogadishu street on the 25th of September in 1993. Poncho recalls thinking how strange it was that Ed was so calm and with a sense of humor in the midst of the chaos.
After publishing an excerpt from the book on this incident, something miraculous happened: a special forces soldier who was there was reading the excerpt and popped on a Facebook post with a surprising correction. He recognized Ed Ricord’s name though we had misspelled it as “Ricard”. I sat there completely dumbfounded as Russ Baker then tagged Ed in a comment. Yet another amazing outcome of the book before its even published. Poncho and I had tried several resources to track Ed down but with no success. Then out of the blue…. there he was, 25 years later.
I immediately got ahold of Poncho and told him what had just happened on the Facebook post. I then sent Ed a friend request followed by a few messages before asking if he’d be ok talking with Poncho so Poncho could thank him for saving his life. Ed agreed.
The two of them spoke by phone over the months that followed. Eventually Ed informed Poncho he’d be traveling to Ft. Sam Houston on the weekend of March 3 to pay respects to SFC Robert Deeks, a 5th Special Forces Group Soldier who was killed in Somalia in March of 1993 while A CO 1-87 & 2-87 were the QRF. Just as A CO had worked alongside 5th SFG, C CO did as well.
Poncho was extremely nervous leading up to the March rendezvous. I told him I’d fly down to be there and we’d make a weekend out of it.
When the day of their meeting arrived, they recognized each other instantly. Poncho had only been conscious for a few minutes when the Special Forces medic went to work on him. And after 25 years, each man inexplicably recognized the other, a recollection untarnished through the chaos of battle or the passage of a quarter century: the medic and his gravely wounded patient. Even more miraculous is that Ed recalls the face of every wounded soldier he worked on.
The emotion of the moment wasn’t exclusive to the two old soldiers. Poncho’s mother had come along and as they made introductions, Poncho turned to her and said “He’s the reason I’m still here.” She was visibly emotional as she thanked him again n Spanish with Poncho serving as the translator.
As the two discussed the battle in which 3 Americans and more than 200 Somali fighters were killed, Poncho’s mother got very quiet. It was the first time in these 25 years that have passed that she heard details of the battle. And the realization that her son had not only miraculously survived a terrible battle and subsequent wound, but that he had taken human lives in the process. Something few combat veterans ever discuss outside of amongst themselves. More than 15 minutes passed before she would speak again as she tried to process the details.
Poncho then presented Ed with a token of his appreciation, a statue engraved with the medic’s name. They spoke at length of the difficulties faced by combat veterans and particularly those from Somalia who were all but swept under the rug. Though we never lost militarily in Somalia, it was a political defeat that the US government wanted to just disappear largely unknown in the history books outside of October 3rd, 1993.
I’m sure Ed found the same strength in Poncho that I had found when he and I reconnected. He was happy to be alive. He struggles at times like anyone else, but he rarely shows it. Living life as a paraplegic alone takes unimaginable strength. His strength is an inspiration to all of us. It’s contagious.
The rest of the details between Ed and Poncho’s miraculous reunion will remain between them. I believe both found some healing. If you haven’t read the excerpt that covers their original meeting 25 years ago in Mogadishu, check it out here.
Read about Ed Ricord, Robert Deeks, Poncho and scores of other amazing soldiers in Behind the Gun while we tell you the rest of the story of our involvement in Somalia.
Copyright© 1992-2018 by Steve Slane / Bravo Charles and Behind The Gun