EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM BY THE SON OF A FRIEND OF MINE—A SALUTE TO STAFF SERGEANT SEAN KEOUGH WHO WAS AWARDED A WELL DESERVED SILVER STAR
Patrick Keough is a former officer in the 82nd Airborne Division—an outfit I had spent some time with in the Nineties while gathering material for my book, THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINT.
Colonel—later General—David Petraeus was the brigade commander at the time. The division made quite an impression on me. They jump out of perfectly good airplanes, and do remarkable things when they hit the ground.
Patrick started off as a fan. Then he invited me to stay, again in the Nineties, and, though we had never met, somewhat to my surprise, I accepted—he lived near Quantico at the time and I was visiting the Marines—and soon we became fast friends. And thus I met his son, Sean, who, at the time was a rather obstreperous, but likeable, teenager. Trouble was written all over him, but dominating that was a great spirit.
Subsequently Sean joined that legendary outfit, the 75th Ranger Regiment, which was an achievement in itself.
The Rangers have a truly remarkable history of doing the impossible, arguably best epitomized by their WW II D-Day attack on suspected German artillery positions. The assault involved climbing a near vertical 100 foot high cliff under enemy fire. The mission looked impossible and must have required unimaginable courage—but they succeeded. Such feats of arms are their tradition. The action, which is well worth seeing, features in that excellent movie, THE LONGEST DAY. It is generally known as the assault on Pointe du Hoc.
On October 7 2011, Staff Sergeant Sean Keough maintained that tradition in a raid on a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Subsequently I heard an account of the action over dinner in Seattle in 2012 and the story—told somewhat reluctantly by Sean—was so remarkable it was the kind of thing I would have thought twice about before putting in a book. But the events were witnessed by other Rangers in Sean’s unit, and in May 2012, he was awarded the Silver Star for courage under fire.
The citation doesn’t do Sean justice, but specifically, despite being shot in the right arm, he advanced while taking enemy fire, and provided cover so others could come to the aid of two wounded Rangers trapped in an alleyway. The killing was at virtually point blank range.
What makes this action even more extraordinary is that it was only one of thousands. Since October 2001, the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment—Sean’s unit—has conducted more than 2,500 raids and has killed or captured thousands of key Al Qaida and Taliban leaders.
How do these guys keep going? Sean is off for his eighth combat tour shortly. That is a level of operational tempo that is hard to grasp—especially when you appreciate that these guys are in nearly constant action. These are not garrison soldiers. They take the fight to the enemy.
I regard writing as a privilege and an honor—but the fact that I get to meet such people as Patrick, his wife Terri, and Sean is a very considerable bonus. Besides that, they are wonderful friends.