For nearly three hours, the Ranger Hall of Fame opened its doors to 17 men who had distinguished themselves in battles from World War II to the Global War on Terror.
Master Sgt. Gilbert H. Holland marched 110 miles into Burma as a member of Merrill’s Marauders in 1944. Wednesday afternoon, he stood on the stage at Fort Benning’s McGinnis, Wickam Hall and spoke with clarity about military leaders like Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, men he knew personally.
“I am here for all the Marauders,” said Holland, who enlisted when he was 18.
Those inducted along with Holland were: Chaplain Jeffery D. Struecker, Sgt. Maj. Tyrone J. Adderly, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank G. Ashe, 1st Sgt. Herbert M. Baugh, 1st Sgt. Ronald W. Grenier, Staff Sgt. Ronnie N. Imel, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard C. Lamb, Maj. Larry D. Moores, Brig. Gen. James C. Nixon, U.S. Navy Lt. Thomas R. Norris, Master Sgt. Leroy A. Petry, 1st Sgt. Michael J. Ramsey, Sgt Maj. John W. Roy, Chaplain Jeffrey Struecker, Command Sgt. Maj. Charles W. Thompson, Lt. Gen. John R. Vines and Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew C. Walker.
Four of them — Nixon, Struecker, Moores and Lamb — fought in the legendary Battle of Mogadishu that was immortalized in the feature film “Black Hawk Down.” Lt. Gen. Scott Miller, former commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and now assigned to Fort Bragg, fought in that battle and attended Wednesday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Ranger School was an introduction into manhood and a rite of passage, said Adderly, who was personally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by then President Richard Nixon. Adderly participated in all-volunteer mission termed the Son Tay Raid to rescue American Prisoners of War in North Vietnam. It is listed as one of the 10 greatest raids in military history.
“At Ranger School, I came to understand fully what maximum effort is about,” Adderly said. “Either you want to be or you don’t want to be.”
Three of the inductees — Struecker, Walker and Ashe — reside in Columbus. Walker and Ashe work as civilians at Fort Benning and Struecker is senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church.
Walker paid tribute to the current Rangers, “who continue to execute the most demanding missions this country can ask.”
“I remember and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Walker said. “Our charge is to live life to make their sacrifice worth it.”
Walker turned to the written words Ret. Col. Ralph Puckett, a legendary Ranger leader and inducted into the initial Hall of Fame class in 1992. Puckett described times like the Ranger Hall of Fame induction when a soldier is honored.
“’... If you have any humility, you will be embarrassed,’ ” Walker said, quoting Puckett. “However we can put the compliments in perspective and give credit where credit is due. ... I am very humbled to be included with the men in this group and added to the ones from previous years.”
Walker then rattled off the last names of dozens of soldiers he had served with who helped him along the way.
Walker, who’s final assignment was as command sergeant major of the Infantry School, saved special recognition for his wife, Laura.
“Laura, thanks for always being my best friend and biggest supporter,” Walker said. “Unbeknownst to most of the people here, you were as valuable an asset to my organizations as I was.”
Laura Walker was proud of her husband’s accomplishment.
“He always lived the Ranger Creed, at work and at home,” Laura said. “I am really glad that others saw that, too. ... I do feel like I am part of it. I was not on the battlefield, but I was happy to support him.”