"I, and many of my fellow soldiers, would feel grossly awkward and uncomfortable donning a piece of headgear that we neither earned nor deserved."


Discipline, Honor and Respect Must be Earned -- They Cannot Be Issued

On October 17, 2000, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Eric Shinseki, stated in a speech to the AUSA National Convention in Washington, D.C.:

"It is time for the entire Army to accept the challenge of excellence that has so long been a hallmark of our special operations and airborne units. As another step towards achieving the capabilities of the objective force, effective 14 June 2001, the first Army birthday of the new millennium, the Army will don its new headgear. The black beret will become the Army standard. Special operations and airborne units will retain their distinctive berets. But starting next June, the black beret will be symbolic of our commitment to transform this magnificent Army into a new force -- a strategically responsive force for the 21st century."

The Black Beret has been worn exclusively by Army Rangers and has become a powerful symbol of excellence earned only though extreme effort under adverse conditions. General Shinseki's directive was quickly followed with an order that all active duty Rangers serving throughout the United States Army were to remain silent on this issue.

General Shinseki:

In general, Rangers support your vision of transforming our Army. The entire Army should be more lethal, with increased mobility and ease of deployability. We don't enjoy seeing soldiers who are discouraged due to inadequate housing, outdated equipment and no funding for training. These are definitely areas where there is room for improvement and we applaud your efforts in that regard.

However, it is our view that giving soldiers a symbol which has served as a mark of distinction for others to aspire to, will merely cheapen the symbol. It will not solve the soldier's problems of inadequate housing, need for better equipment, or increased funding for training. These are issues which merit additional consideration, beyond changing what the average soldier regards as headgear, and that which we regard as a powerful symbol of excellence to be earned.

We ask you to reconsider your decision and look towards other measures which would provide useful solutions to these problems.

Everyone realizes the importance of symbols. The symbols of acheivement which are hard earned serve as incentive to encourage others towards excellence. That's the significance of the Black Beret, actually, any Beret worn in the US Army today. This is an attempt to devalue an important and effective symbol. When everyone has it, it won't mean anything.

General Shinseki's staff has the following opinion, taken directly from their public relations talking points:

"Over the years, the Army has made other uniform changes that required some period of adjustment for soldiers and supporters. In the early '80s we went from a solid green uniform to the camouflage Battle Dress Uniform; we adopted a black pullover sweater and then changed to a button-sweater with buttons; Army raincoats have changed; we did away with the Khaki uniform. This aspect of the Army's Transformation is similar."

Have members of General Shinseki's staff advised him that the Black Beret holds as little meaning to Rangers as a button-sweater or a raincoat could to others?

We have undertaken this effort to retain the Black Beret exclusively for Rangers. We need to retain this powerful symbol for Rangers of the future because they deserve to earn it in the same time-honored tradition that Ranger veterans have earned it. action to be Of course, these young men will join the Rangers to be their best and lead our nation into battle, not to wear a hat that may or may not be in style.

More importantly, we also need to retain the Black Beret to honor Rangers who have gone before us and paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their comrades and our nation's interests. A debt is owed. You are urged to join the fight.

Other units in the Army, which are not Ranger units, already have their own powerful symbols of achievement and recognize that there is no need for this decision to be implemented. After all, who would feel comfortable being given that which other soldiers have earned only with great difficulty?

One thing is certain: Rangers must stand united to deliver a clear message. We greatly appreciate all of our Airborne, Special Forces Brothers who have decided to make the stand with us. The rate of fire must be high, focused, and sustained at a high level.

In order to accomplish this, please use the information on this website as a tool to assist you in directing your messages to the correct destinations. We are here to Inform the veterans and the taxpayer. The American people who are not aware of what the Black Beret symbolizes to Rangers need to be educated. We are requesting the support of all Ranger, Airborne and Special Forces soldier to assist the public in becoming educated on the importance of this important issue. The professionalism and well-being or our entire Army depends upon it.

Just before his burial, the Ranger that accompanied my brother's body home presented me with two things: Jimmy's remaining dog tag and his Black Beret.

I am writing to ask for your support. Very recently, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army made the announcement that the coveted black beret worn by Army Rangers, would become a part of every soldier's uniform. Please help me do what is necessary to prevent this from happening.

My name is Dawn Markwell. December 20, 1989, I was home alone (then age 15) in Cincinnati, Ohio when two officers came to the door. I sat at the bottom of a flight of stairs for over an hour watching these men looking uneasily at each other while waiting for my parents to come home. I knew what they had come for, but I was a child, and I would not believe it until it was spoken. My brother, PFC James William Markwell, Army Ranger medic, had been killed in Operation: Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama.

My brother had been very proud to be a Ranger. He had the opportunity to go to West Point and become an officer, but instead chose to be a part of the Rangers. When discussing this decision with my step-father, William Rouse, Jimmy said to him, "Where would I be needed more than as a medic for the Rangers? No, I want to be with the best." He worked hard and earned his beret only months before he was sent in battle. He saved lives, at least two of which were saved during training operations to prepare the men for their mission. He lived and died for his country.

In January 1990, former President Bush used my brother's "death letter" (a letter Rangers write home just before being sent into battle, in the event that they do not return) in his State of the Union address. Jimmy made it clear that he chose to fight and die for his country so that we, you and I, could live our lives freely. Just before his burial, the Ranger that accompanied my brother's body home presented me with two things: Jimmy's remaining dog tag and his black beret.

Every man and woman that fights for our country should be honored in some way. But only those who have earned it should be given the honor of wearing the black beret of the Rangers. Imagine telling the Green Berets that a part of their uniform was no longer sacred, but instead would be worn by every soldier. It would be unthinkable. Why then should the Rangers be dishonored in such a manner? They should not. Our Rangers are the first in. They are the best. Please do not sit idly by and let this happen.

I am a voting citizen. This issue may not seem of high importance to you, however, to Rangers past and present, and to their families, this is an outrage. Please consider the hardships that my family has endured and do what is necessary to stop what we all consider to be another. I implore you to do what you can to help us win this fight. Honor is earned, not given away freely.

Thank you for your attention.


Dawn C. L. Markwell