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WWII West Point grad's perspective on terrorism, ISIL

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
With the last surviving members of World War II averaging in their mid-nineties, I often wonder what thoughts these heroes may have about the evolution of war since the 1940s and the rise in terrorism.

In the 70 years since WWII, America has fought in multiple wars and operations. It's safe to say that technology has significantly influenced war, giving birth to a whole new breed of conflict and strategy. That makes it hard to find historical parallels to the terror tactics of organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

In my 10 years of active duty experience during a time of three major war operations, I have seen drastic changes in adversary tactics from my first combat tour in Afghanistan to my fourth. I can only deduce that modernization, technology, ingenuity, and new ideologies are catalysts shaping modern conflicts.

With these thoughts, I sat down with retired Col. Harry Buzzett, a WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veteran. Buzzett is a West Point graduate who fought the Germans, Chinese, and Vietcong on the front lines of battle. He knows a thing or two about war.

My first question to the colonel was, "what are your thoughts on the rise in global terrorism and the savagery of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant?"

"I continually educate myself with the current situations happening around the world and can't believe what I'm seeing--these bastards are bad news," said Buzzett. "The way that these organizations conduct business is in blatant disregard to humanity."

Although the modern terrorist/radical agenda is far different than the objectives of our enemies in Buzzett's three wars, I was still curious to know if there is any comparison to the war fighting that he experience.

"This is nothing like I have ever seen before," Buzzett said. "In my time, war fighting was based on pride; there was honor in the way we fought. The differences between the U.S. and terrorists, in this regard, are that we don't run scared, we don't attack the weak, and we don't benefit our cause by means of selfless destruction and devastation."

Understandably so, the colonel keyed in on an interesting perspective that I had not considered much: our fearless stature and unequivocal sense of pride. This pride runs deep and is part of our lineage and history.

As I mull this thought, I am reminded that many of us have family stories; a parent, grandparent, or distant relative who served in the military, perhaps helping define the course of history. We have cousins who fought on the beaches of Iwo Jima, in-laws who battled in the jungles of Vietnam. These valiant echoes of military service continue to inspire generation after generation. I believe that it is these stories, these heroes, who rally our nation and bond us in an undeniable way.

Circling back to Buzzett's previous statement, I couldn't help but wonder about his thoughts on a global deterrence strategy, as well as his opinion on our domestic efforts.

"Terrorists worldwide have us in a situation that we cannot extricate ourselves from," said Buzzett. "I propose we continue to go after them with a strong and unrelenting force. We recognize their lack of remorse and the cruelty of their tactics; we need to find them, and don't stop fighting until they are destroyed."

As far as our domestic efforts, I think we are doing a great job at containing terrorist activities. We are alert; we are ready."

As the interview wrapped up, I couldn't help but be taken aback by his love for the military, and his thoughts about our current generation.

"Our (current) military has the same strength and devotion that we had in WWII," said Buzzett. "I look with great pride at the way your generation conducts themselves.  Both generations willingly joined the military for the honor and distinction, knowing that it would not be a Sunday school picnic. It takes a great amount of strength and courage and tenacity to do what our military does."

This, coming from a man who saw nearly 500,000 Americans lose their lives during his military tenure, is empowering. Knowing that my fighting forefathers have the same respect for me as those who were part of battles such as D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge is an honor.

Buzzett left with one final thought, a motto he says he's loved and lived since he was a 17-year-old West Point cadet learning to lead troops into battle:

"Duty, honor country; Let Duty be well performed, Honor be e'er untarn'd, Country be ever armed."

--
Buzzett, of Apalachicola, Florida, served 32 years in the military alongside his four brothers. He currently resides in Tampa, Fla.