|Paratrooper Ronald England, Veteran of the 2/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment
General Eric Shinseki
Chief of Staff, United States Army
Washington, DC 20310-0200
Dear General Shinseki:
As a former paratrooper of the 2/504th P.I.R. 82nd ABN who had the honor of serving under General Shelton, I must tell you that I was shocked and disgusted while watching the morning news on 18 October, 2000. What you are undertaking will diminish the significance of the beret to elite units, the Army and the entire military. As a taxpayer I see this as a complete waste of money that would be better spent on housing issues or on training. Maybe then troops could jump more often or not have to be shuttled to the field in passenger vans due to lack of fuel.
I, like so many who came before and after, have earned the right to wear the beret. This was not handed to us in the basic training issue line, We had to earn it. The beret holds the same significance to us as Parachutist Wings (of which I was proud to have pounded into my chest by an Uncle who was a paratrooper in the 173 then a LRRP), the EIB or the EFMB (of which I was proud to have pounded into my chest by my brigade commander). To many of us veterans, the thought of GIVING a beret to every soldier is as insulting as giving an EIB to every infantryman upon completion of basic training.
To compound the problem, you took the beret of the Rangers. Wearing a black beret should be something that young soldiers aspire to, not something they are given as a piece of issue. Why not brown or tan or some other color? Or better yet why not some other type of headgear all together? If you really wish to make a change to the uniform, how about starting with the Class A's, everyone knows they could use it.
I feel that this will be a terrible blow to the moral of Paratroopers, Rangers and Special Forces soldiers, who as I am sure that you will agree, are the cornerstone of this country's rapid reaction force and have always had the highest moral in the military. I am sure there are many active duty soldiers as well as veterans and civilians who will agree with me on this as well.
Sir, pleased be advised that I am requesting of every veteran and civilian that I come in contact with, that they to send you an email stating their displeasure with this decision. I would also like you to know that I am going to send an email to every member of the house armed services committee, all the current presidential candidates and every other government official I can get to listen. I am also going to petition the 82nd Airborne Association, the 75th Ranger Association and every other military association I can find to do the same. Sir, I may be wasting my time and energy on this, but as a former member of the 82nd Airborne and taxpayer, I feel it is my duty to do everything in my power to have this action blocked.
Remember Sir, that from 1978 to 1981, the paratroopers of the 82nd were not allowed to wear their berets, then when a new ACS came in, this was overturned. Do you really wish to have the demoralizing of the elite units as your legacy upon retirement? Please Sir, in the day of stress cards and don't ask don't tell policies, do not take away any more of our military's pride.
I welcome any response that you may have.
Ronald L. England
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