The 68th Annual 1st Cavalry Division Reunion provided a remarkable opportunity to link the soldiers of the present with heroes of the past, even those long passed on.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division held a day of remembrance for retired Col. Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla, a Vietnam veteran who died Sept. 11, 2001.
In recognition of Rescorla’s accomplishments and actions, the battalion leadership dedicated their conference room to him June 11 and invited his wife, Susan, to the event.
“How better can you epitomize selfless service to a nation than to first embark on the conflict in Vietnam, and then to continue to serve your community at every level you find yourself,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Watson, the battalion commander. “And to give that last full measure of dedication of service and support in an unexpected terrorist attack that in lesser countries, would bring the country down to their knees, but served as a galvanizing force.”
Born in Wales, Rescorla first served in the British army. After admiring many of the American soldiers he met, he immigrated to the United States to join its Army and became a commissioned officer.
Straight out of Officer Candidate School, he was assigned as the platoon leader of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
“Rick Rescorla was a very hard task master,” said Sam Fantino, Rescorla’s radio operator. “We had to run more; we had to do more than anyone else in the company, anyone else in the battalion. We had to prove to him that we were going to be No. 1.”
Fantino said eventually, through all of the extra work and hardship, his men began to understand why Rescorla pushed them so hard.
“At first we hated him, and we hated it,” said Fantino. “Until we found out he wasn’t doing it for him, he was doing it for us. He wanted us to believe in ourselves, because that is what would bring us back alive.”
Ability to lead
During the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam in 1965, Lt. Rescorla encountered enemy fire for the first time. After three days, he and his men were evacuated only to return to another battle as quickly as possible.
“We were all sitting in our holes with our knees knocking, we have dead guys all around us, and here comes Rick singing Cornish songs,” Fantino said.
“And pretty soon you are saying to yourself, ‘If this guy can walk from hole to hole checking to see if you have your grenades in the right place, checking to see if you have your magazines, and standing up like he is going on a Sunday afternoon’s walk … what do you have to worry about?’”
Rescorla carried his ability to lead from Vietnam back to the United States after transitioning to the private sector.
He was working in the World Trade Center in New York City during the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
“He followed the same instincts he followed in Vietnam and led over 2,700 people to safety,” Watson said.
Before making his way up the stairs for what turned out to be his last time, he called his wife, Susan, and reminded her that she had made his life meaningful.
“He then charged one more time into battle singing his Welsh war songs,” Watson said.
As part of the remembrance ceremony, the current platoon leader of the very same platoon changed their motto to “Hard Core,” a phrase Rescorla used to refer to his own troops.
All the troops in the battalion listened to Watson, Fantino and Susan talk about Rescorla during the ceremony. Fantino charged the current platoon leader of the “Hard Core” platoon to match Rescorla’s intensity and selfless service.
After the ceremony, Susan and the 1st platoon of Bravo Company gathered into the conference room decorated with posters and memorabilia dedicated to Rescorla.
She spoke of her love for her husband and how fulfilled she felt being with him.
“I was so proud,” she said. “He had a choice. He could have walked out there anytime he wanted to. ... If he was here today he would be proud. This is the 7th Cav, this is our home, our history.”