Skip to comments.CSM Basil L. Plumley Funeral Video
Posted on 10/17/2012 8:11:00 AM PDT by SLB
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Bump for a hero.
When Basil Plumley arrived Tuesday afternoon, the Fort Benning cemetery was decorated with peace. A rag-tag squad of Vietnam vets stood by their flags. A uniformed band played an old hymn, and an Army bugler held his instrument across his chest as an honor guard from the 7th Cavalry reverently lifted the old soldier’s flag-draped coffin from the hearse.
No one understood war better than Basil Plumley, but he was about to find peace. His Size 12 combat boots were stained with mud and blood from the three great wars of the 20th century and now he was being laid to rest among thousands of other warriors.
Plumley died last week. He didn’t die on a battlefield. He was 92, and he died surrounded by a family that knew him as a hero who doted on grandchildren and great-grandchildren and seldom talked about the service that earned him membership in a fraternity more exclusive than the Medal of Honor.
Like many of the hundreds who were there Tuesday, Joe Galloway knew him as a command sergeant major. The legendary war correspondent met Plumley in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam — a place neither thought they would survive.
“He was the very essence of a command sergeant major. They stand at the right hand of God and sometimes they speak with more authority than God,” Galloway said, before eulogizing his longtime friend.
The former UPI reporter calls himself a “scribbler.” In 1992, he recorded the heroics of Ia Drang and turned memories of that deadly battle into a best-selling book that he co-authored with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, the commander of that outmanned Cavalry unit.
“We Were Soldiers Once and Young” was a thank-you note to every soldier that served in what Galloway refers to as an “orphaned war.”
Plumley was one of only 324 to earn the rare honor of a Combat Infantryman’s Badge with two stars, signifying his efforts in three wars. This compares to the 3,476 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
He has been called “America’s Soldier,” but Plumley’s memorial service was as low-key as the life he has lived since retiring from the Army in 1974 after more than 30 years.
There were clues to his lofty status. Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, who is the current U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs and former Chief of Staff of the Army, was in attendance. Also at the services were: retired Lt. Gen. Carmen Cavezza, executive director of Columbus State University’s Cunningham Center for Leadership Development and former Fort Benning commanding general; Gen. Ken Leuer, former Fort Benning commanding general and Ranger Hall of Fame member; Medal of Honor recipient retired Col. Bruce Crandall; Medal of Honor recipient retired Col. Joe Marm; retired Sgt. 1st Class Ernie Savage, the senior member of the “Lost Platoon” in the Battle of Ia Drang; and former Columbus mayor Bob Poydasheff, among others.
But neither the memorial at the Infantry Center Chapel nor the brief graveside service at the Main Post Cemetery veered far from the traditional military burial.
Lt. Col. Jim Murphy, a Fort Benning chaplain, officiated and reminded family and friends that God was a warrior and that God respected warriors.
Galloway described the terror Plumley could strike in the heart of rookie soldiers. Before emotions overtook him he said, “I know of no man can rest better under that flag than Basil Plumley.”
Plumley’s family invited members of the 7th Cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas, to participate and an honor guard from that unit escorted his remains from the chapel. As their journey up the center aisle began, Moore managed a final salute to his honored comrade.
At the graveside, daughter Debbie Kimble sat between Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, and actor Sam Elliott, a family friend.
From the honor guard, McMaster accepted the flag that had covered the coffin, then kneeled and presented it to Kimble. Snapping to attention, the general gave her a somber salute that in one gesture delivered a nation’s gratitude.
Elliott met the Plumleys when he portrayed the sergeant major in the movie version of Galloway and Moore’s book. Known for his cowboy demeanor and deep baritone voice, he spent weeks getting to know the colorful character he brought to life in “We Were Soldiers.”
A deep friendship developed that Elliott describes as a father-son relationship. Through the years, the popular character actor has snuck into town to visit the Plumleys. Tuesday, he sat with the family and was Kimble’s escort.
Elliott said playing Plumley was a great responsibility. “I’ve played many historic figures, but Sgt. Plumley wasn’t just a great man. He was there.”
As an actor, he often seems larger than life. But in Plumley, Elliott found a person that was truly larger than life.
“That’s the difference,” he said. “I pretend to be, but Sgt. Plumley was real. He lived it.”
Thanks for providing this. Brought tears. A real American hero and a “Soldiers Soldier”.
Yes he was a real soldier’s soldier. Something we don’t have enough of any more.
A better man than I.
As it should have been. I'm sure the CSM would have been pissed as hell if he received anything different.
Some random thoughts:
My dad was an Infantry CSM. Two CIBs, Bronze Star, Purple Heart. I remember him receiving frequent calls from his former Officers who were passing through Fort Jackson. Men for whom he was their Platoon Sergeant, First Sergeant or CSM. He would leave and come home hours later, often with a gift for me from the men these who were now Colonels and General Officers. Sometimes he would take me along. I never realized how much my dad meant to these men until I earned my commission some years later. I'm sure CSM Plumley's kids had the same experience, multiplied tenfold.
-When I was assigned to Fort Jackson a few years ago the same barber who cut my dad's hair cut mine. Often times a retired Soldier would walk in and my barber would look at him and say do you know who this Major is? The old Soldier would look at me, clueless. "This is CSM Gamecock's son." The old vets inevitably would walk over, shake my hand, and say something like "Your daddy was a damn fine Soldier."
I like to think when my dad was young he was just like the CSM portrayed so well by Sam Elliott.
seldom talked about the service
That's the way these men were. My neighbors growing up were all senior NCOs. They just went about their business. I do know they gathered at some dump of a bar every Saturday morning, just outside the fence line of the Fort. They talked about old times and drank cheap beer. And for the morning they again were referred to by the rank they wore, but now instead of rank/ last name they were rank/first name. COL Smith became COL Ed. CSM Gamecock was now CSM John. Dad started taking me there the year before I pinned on my 2LT bars. I was ragged on unmercifully by this group, including my Dad, who would often bellow "I can't believe my son is going to be a damn officer!" His friends would often tell me how proud he was though. He always wanted his son to be an officer they would tell me. He often bragged about how he was going to give me my first salute. And he did and kept the silver dollar I gave him at his bedside until the day he died.
All of that being said, I an thankful for men like Plumley, my dad, and all those who gave me what I have today.
All of that being said, I an thankful for men like Plumley, my dad, and all those who gave me what I have today.
They were the ultimate team players.
Rest In Peace, CSM Plumley, and our prayers are with your loved ones.
|Combat Infantryman Badge (three awards)|
|Master Combat Parachutist Badge with gold star (indicating 5 combat jumps)|
|Vietnam Army Basic Parachutist Badge|
|Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Legion of Merit|
|Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and Valor Device|
|Purple Heart with three Oak Leaf Clusters|
|Air Medal with one silver and three bronze Oak Leaf Clusters|
|Army Commendation Medal|
|Army Presidential Unit Citation with two Oak Leaf Clusters|
|Army Good Conduct Medal (6 or 11 awards)|
|American Defense Service Medal|
|American Campaign Medal|
|European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Arrowhead device and 1 silver and 3 bronze campaign stars (to signify 8 campaigns and 4 combat jumps)|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|Army of Occupation Medal|
|National Defense Service Medal with oak leaf cluster|
|Korean Service Medal with Arrowhead device and three campaign stars|
|Vietnam Service Medal with one silver and three bronze campaign stars|
|Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal|
|French Croix de Guerre (for World War II service) (attachments unknown, but at least 1 bronze star)|
|Belgian Croix de Guerre (for World War II service) (attachments unknown, but at least 1 bronze lion)|
|Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star|
|Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation|
|Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm|
|United Nations Service Medal for Korea|
|Vietnam Campaign Medal|
|Republic of Korea War Service Medal|
|Order of Saint Maurice Primicerius and Doughboy Award|
|10 Service Stripes, indicating 3032 years of service|
This was a man’s man and a soldier’s soldier. An increasingly rare creature in today’s world. RIP CSM Plumley.
I sent this to a good friend of mine who is the present CSM of one of our most spear point Army Infantry Divisions . DIV-CSM . He will like it .
He is buried near my dad in this beautiful, peaceful Ft. Benning cemetery that I once lived down the street from as a child. I have visited this place often. I will visit there soon and pay my respects at his grave site.
This military cemetery is a place of honor. CSM Plumley is in a good place. He will rest peacefully here after a long life of sacrifice so that we can live free.
The tears in my eyes made your story of your Dad very hard to read.Thank you.
RIP, CSM Plumley. You were a great American hero and patriot. We are blessed to have lived in the same era as you and to have known of your deeds, and your honor, and your demeanor.
God grant we can find and raise more of you to stand watch over this Republic in this day and the days ahead.
I have no doubt whatsoever that an angelic warriors bugle blew as you entered your rest with a well done from the true Commander in Chief, above.
All of the Plumley scenes in the film “We Were Soldiers” are amazing. On Ne<tflix streaming I have often just skipped to watch them. “Any of you sons of bitches call me ‘GrandPa’...I’ll kill you.”
RIP Sgt. Plumley. Thank you for your service, sir!
Salty Soldier Language Warning: Don't read if you are offened by such. You were warned.
From the movie.
Lt. Colonel Moore: I wonder what was going through Custer's mind when he realized that he'd led his men into a slaughter?
Sergeant Major Basil Plumley: Sir, Custer was a pussy. You ain't.
[Moore and Plumley are looking on at the NVA headquarters]
Sergeant Major Plumley: You want to know how Custer felt? Why don't you ask him?
Lt. Colonel Moore: When Crazy Horse was a baby, he nursed at the breast of every woman in the tribe. The Sioux raised their children that way. Every warrior called every woman in the tribe "Mother". Every older warrior, they called him "Grandfather". Now, the point here is that they fought as a family. Take care of your men. Teach them to take care of each other. 'Cause when this starts... each other is all we're gonna have. (Moore goes aside with new radio operator)
Sergeant Major Plumley: Any of you sons-of-bitches calls me "Grandpa"... I'll kill ya.
Sergeant Major Plumley: Seen the new rifles too, the M-16.
Lt. Colonel Moore: That's supposed to be a pretty good weapon.
Sergeant Major Plumley: Ahh, lotsa plastic. Feels like a BB gun to me. Believe I'm gonna stick with my pistol.
Lt. Colonel Moore: Think we're gonna get close enough to the enemy to use that?
Sergeant Major Plumley: What do you think, sir?
Lt. Colonel Moore: I think you oughta get yourself an M-16.
Sergeant Major Plumley: Sir, if the time comes I need one, there'll be plenty lying on the ground.
[Galloway is on the ground]
Sergeant Major Plumley:
You can't take any pictures from down there, sonny.
[Galloway gets up and is handed a rifle]
Galloway: I'm a non-combatant.
Sergeant Major Plumley: Ain't no such thing today.
A prayer, Moore and his LT.
Lt. Colonel Moore: Our Father in Heaven, before we go into battle, every soldier among us will approach you each in his own way. Our enemies too, according to their own understanding, will ask for protection and for victory. And so, we bow before your infinite wisdom. We offer our prayers as best we can. I pray you watch over the young Jack Geoghegan. That I lead into battle. You use me as your instrument in this awful hell of war to watch over them. Especially if they're men like this one beside me, deserving of a future in your blessing and goodwill. Amen.
2nd Lieutenant Geoghegan: Amen.
Lt. Colonel Moore: Oh, yes, and one more thing, dear Lord, about our enemies, ignore their heathen prayers and help us blow those little bastards straight to Hell. Amen.