James Bradley, 173rd Airborne Brigade and Veteran of the Vietnam War

General Shelton
Chairman of joint Chiefs of Staff
The Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0200

Dear General and fellow Skysoldier,

Like you, I have served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam. I was and am most proud of the "HERD" patch that I wore on my uniform for over 20 years. I was equally proud of the Jump wings on my chest.

I still remember the day, when at age 17, I graduated from jump school. What made me proud was the fact, that I like you, was one of the elite! I earned my uniform items through blood, sweat and tears. Other soldiers looked upon me with pride and in some cases envy. I would very quickly learn what true soldiering was all about. It is that Soldiers fight not for Mom, Apple pie and their Country but for their Brothers, like them, in combat with them. This brotherhood is forged through mutual suffering, sacrifice and earned respect. That is the key word “Earned”! Everything had to be earned, your jump boots, jump wings, combat patch, Combat Infantry badge, Bronze Star, etc. . Nothing was given.

Elite soldiers earned what was theirs. Why would we do it any other way? Why would we want to weaken our already weakened military? I was thrilled when you became Chief of Staff. Finally someone who knows what real soldiering is about! Was I wrong? Have you forgotten your roots? Have you sold out to the politics of the capital beltway? Are you now an “in-general” with the young soldiers...their buddy? Our soldiers don’t need a buddy for a leader. They need a leader with vision, not fashion.

There was an old saying back in the HERD “Good, Better, Best!...never let them rest,...until the Good is Better...and the Better Best”! NO soldier will be a better soldier by issuing him his pride. It must be earned like countless soldiers before them.

What will you say to my Ranger brothers when you down grade their Beret to the level of a truck driver, clerk or cook!?

I ask you...Skysoldier to Skysoldier, no I plead with you NOT to do this. Stand up for the past and ensure a strong future of our military. Make the Beret (Black, Green, Maroon), what it always has been… a Mark of Excellence… not an issued item.

CW3 James R. Bradley, U.S. Army (Retired)