Or as he preferred to be called – what his troops called him – ‘The Bear’.
General Norman Schwarzkopf passed away on Thursday due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease and pneumonia, according to family members who said his passing was unexpected.
Schwarzkopf, who was 78, had lived in Tampa since 1991, the year of his triumphant return from the Gulf War in 1991, during which he commanded 800,000 coalition troops from 30 nations during Operation Desert Shield, and then Desert Storm in a six-week air assault and 100-hour ground war which was fought to rescue the nation of Kuwait from the hands of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard who had invaded the tiny country claiming they were stealing Iraq’s oil reserves.
The air war which was televised live on CNN was the first ‘arm chair war in history’ so called because during the six-week aerial bombardment millions of people around the world had a front row seat to view the pyrotechnics and video-game like precision of the air strikes which all but destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and prepared the way for the short and furious and lop-sided ground war which ended the conflict, and devastated Republican Guard forces.
Mr. Schwarzkopf had a long and storied history of military excellence and courage.
He graduated West Point Military Academy in 1956, and in 1966 volunteered for two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he earned three Silver Stars for valor, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and three Distinguished Service Medals.
When he returned from the 1983 successful invasion of Grenada, during which he coordinated U.S. landing forces, he was given a ticker tape parade up Broadway.
George Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Queen Elizabeth made him an honorary knight of the British realm.
He took command of Central Command at MacDill AFB from 1988 to 1991, and it was during that time that he took solid control of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaigns.
For all of this, when he retired, he never sought the public eye, preferring to spend time with his family and devote much of his time to charities across Florida – and in Tampa – raising money for organizations which involved the care of neglected and abused children.
President Barack Obama, in a statement released from the White House said, ‘America has lost an American Original.”
Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, in a statement, said, ‘He has left an indelible imprint on the United States and our military.’
And, maybe, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn got right to the point when he told the Tampa Bay Times, ‘ He just sucked the air out of the room.’
Or how about this, when addressing his troops in Iraq on the eve of the war, Schwarzkopf left no doubt as to the purpose for being there when he said, ‘During this war, we need to destroy, not attack, not damage, not surround. I want to destroy the Republican Guard.’
And so he did.
HOO- AH, General Schwarzkopf, well done.
And it’s been good to know you.