Ranger Clement Ross, Veteran 1/75 Ranger and Combat Veteran of Grenada

General Shinseki:

I served with Aco 1/75 from 1980-83. You may know of CSM Micheal Hall, the current command sergeant major of JSOC -- he was my platoon sergeant as an E-5.

With all due respect, sir, the ends do not merely fail to justify the means, the ends have severe consequences from which there can be no recovery.

You, yourself, wear a Ranger Tab. With all my outrage at this proposal to make the Black Ranger Beret the headgear of all active duty personnel, I demand to know: how dare you?

When I arrived at 1/75, the Rangers were different from the regular army -- both in aggression, attitude and professionalism. We also wore a different uniform. The regular army wore the OD leg fatigues; the Rangers wore the rip stop cammies and OD patrol caps. We didn't wear steel pots on the range during live fire exercises, because we trained as if everything were real. Around 1982, the army went to BDUs. The Rangers went to OD jungle fatigues. Always apart, always different.

In 1999, I went to Fort Benning for the Ranger Rendezvous 1999. I saw CSM Mike Hall. He wore BDUs (including the BDU cap). At least the Black Beret's were still there.

Now, by your initiative, you want to take the Black Berets away from Rangers and make our Black Ranger Berets the dress headgear of all troops. General Abrams must be turning over in his grave. We were after all "Abe's Own" (and I am proud to have been awarded with two Abram's certificates).

This unconscionable act is a disgrace and a dishonor to those who died for the honor of the duty to wear the Black Ranger Beret. Marlon Maynard died in Grenada in 1983. He was part of my gun team. You, sir, blaspheme his memory. And I am one among thousands who can state such examples. Since this especially pertains to those who have died, would your next trick be to replace "Taps" with "Zip-a-dee-do-da"? And please don't miss the metaphor due to the sarcasm. For very little differentiates the two.

A comrade of mine has indicated his desire to send his Black Ranger Beret (a "piece of cloth" he named it) to the address you would specify. I cannot fault him for his passion and empathize with all my heart. You may diminish the present meaning of the Black Ranger Beret which I cherish, but you will never reduce or tarnish the meaning it held when I wore it on active duty. I'm appalled by your absolute void of any respect for Rangers who've proudly served in the 75th Infantry. Even the Ranger Tab you wear must burn with desire to separate from your uniform. You belittle our values and honor. You participate in a two-decade long effort to undermine Ranger traditions, adding the final effort.

As you have already guessed, I am very passionate about this totally revolting decision you have made. My tone which is obviously disrespectful of your rank is my advantage for being a civilian now (which means I outrank you). But my tone is justified and my words voice the heart-felt betrayal countless Rangers now must endure.

I am as passionate as I convey about this issue because it matters for those who follow. If you choose to remain oblivious to symbolic meaning that tradition and Rangers hold for the troops of the future of the army, then by all means continue with your banal and insipid reasoning which led to your fubar-decision.

I may commend you for having the future of the Army's morale at heart when making your decision; however, I despise and loathe your means to this end which only serves to bring dishonor and insult to the proud tradition of Rangers, alive and dead. A wise man once wrote: "With great power, there must also come great responsibility." You seek only the former, abusing the latter.

With great restraint, I refrained from the use of profanity in this letter, no matter how much this issue sickens, saddens and disgusts me. And where is your shame for proposing it? Where is your shame?


SGT Clement Ross (ret.)
Aco 1st BN (RGR) 75th Inf, 1980-83
Berlin Brigade, 1983-86