Wednesday, April 10, 2013


US Army insignia

US Army insignia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Back in the Nineties, I had the honor of spending considerable time with various U.S. Army units as part of research for various books. It was, without question, one of the best times of my life. The weapons and technologies were fascinating, but what made it were the people—the soldiers.

They were ordinary people doing extraordinary things to keep us safe. I found that a sobering thought. These people were prepared to die for us if necessary—and die they do—for us.  If you pause to think about it, such a sacrifice is breathtaking.

When I was in the Mojave Desert, watching a brigade of 3ID (Mechanized) maneuver their tanks, and my guide, BG Dale Nelson commented to me: “You have got to love soldiers,” I could not but agree.

Somehow, the Army—though far from a perfect institution (it is human after all, though generals will deny the fact) seems to be able to attract some particularly fine human beings and then to develop them to their fullest potential. In that context, I have always liked the old Army slogan: “Be all you can be.” It conveys the essential truth of the matter. It trains people to do the remarkable under any and all conditions with stoic good humor in a way the civilian world largely does not.

Specialist Ricardo Cerros Jr. made a point of living up to that slogan. His photograph is above, and well demonstrates the American soldier at his best—together with the humor and camaraderie which are two of the most attractive aspects of Army life.

Ricardo, a man with a phenomenal work ethic, was someone who pushed himself to the limit—and beyond. While at school, he served for four years in the Navy’s Junior ROTC, he excelled academically at UC Irvine and he gained a black belt in taekwondo. His friend, Mike Clark described him as “Just a ball of energy.”

After graduation in 2009, he joined the Army and eventually made his way to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment—one of the most storied units in the U.S. Army and extremely hard to get into. Beyond that, the operational tempo of the Rangers is quite extraordinary. Their talents are at a premium. Currently, they are much used on raids in Afghanistan—going after high value targets and generally keeping the enemy confused and on the defensive. Though relatively few in number, they excel at this extremely dangerous task, as at many others. They also jump out of perfectly good aircraft.

Ricardo was killed on October 8 2012 during a firefight in Afghanistan’s Logar province south of Kabul. He was 24. It was his first deployment.

“Spc. Ricardo Cerros was incredibly talented and a well respected member of this battalion,” said Lt. Col. David Hodne, Commander of 2nd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment.  “He was a warrior who lost his life while fighting courageously alongside his fellow Rangers.  We will honor his service to our country and never forget his sacrifice.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cerros family.”

When I look at Ricardo’s photograph, I found it hard not to be moved by his humor and vitality, and be much saddened by his death. But, he was doing what he loved to do while wearing the uniform of an extraordinary regiment. It was a noble death, a righteous passing. He died with honor for his country and will long be remembered.

He and his family deserve both our thoughts and our thanks.

Cerros is survived by his father Ricardo Cerros Sr. and stepmother Deborah A. Cerros of Salinas, Calif. and his mother Maqueirte D. Cuevas of Gary, Ind.  He is also survived by his brother Nicholas Cerros, sister Theresa Cerros, and stepbrother Marko Cerros all of Salinas, Calif.

I wish I had met the man. I was asked to write this tribute by a friend, a fellow Ranger—and it is an honor to do so. Now he too is deploying shortly (after numerous previous deployments).

Keep safe, friend. Keep safe, guys.

You are America’s finest. I salute you all.




Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment