I knew him slightly. I briefed him several times in the eighties. I would go over to his office in the forenoon. He was usually so hung over that it was difficult to know how much he actually heard or comprehended. He would occasionally ask questions, good questions. I liked the man. I liked his humanity. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said "what's the good of being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart?" I always felt that the world had broken Ted Kennedy's heart and that he drank to dull the pain. He was not a puritan. I liked that too. You could sense that he cared about ordinary people. He did not much like men like me, but I understood that. I never reminded him in the course of those briefing meetings that he had met me once before, in Vietnam under terribly difficult conditions. This had been during a trip he made out there to see the war for himself.
I remember him getting off an Air America Huey in the midst of something terrible, the aftermath of a VC attack on a Montagnard re-settlement village. He wept after he looked around. I began to think I might like him.
I did not agree with him about a lot of things politically, but he "was a man for all that," a man with a warm heart.
He belongs to the ages along with a president for whom he must have had a special feeling. pl
Thanks for sharing your memories – and opinions about Ted Kennedy. Coming from someone with no (federal) government servce in my background, it must be very interesting to know – and be able to reflect upon the fact- that you have had personal interactions with people of legitimate historical import.
He deserved many “mulligans” for the brotherly disasters and others that befell a family that was on the way to be a Catholic Royal Family of the Democrats and the USA.
Such is the Kennedy Legacy it is easy to see why he survived politics since the early sixties in the Senate
I am pretty sure he was sober when he wept openly for the Montagnards, he’s probably human first and politician second, not many of his type around now.
Your comments made me tear up a second time today over Teddy. Senator Byrd’s statement was the first time.
He wasn’t perfect, but who is? He had the peoples best interest at heart.
A magnificent epitaph, Colonel, for a great man, by another great man.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your memories with us.
Teddy’s no more. So, shut the door, and let’s sit down to tally the score.
He did good work; he wasn’t a jerk. He did his best, and deserves his rest.
I walked out of an upper level course as a college junior with a professor to have someone run up to tell us that President Kennedy was shot dead. I was on the parade ground at Ft. Sill Officer Candidate School when the entire OC battalion was told that Senator Kennedy had been shot dead and we were placed on alert status for potential deployment as NCO’s for riot duty in major American Cities. From that snowy INAUGRAL in 1961 to this passing of a great Senator should cause all Americans to reflect on the sacrifices and contributions of the children of that scoundrel if ever there was one Joesph Kennedy, Sr. History unfolds but can never be rewritten based on “ifs”! But I can only think “If” and “If” and now that he is gone we can measure Teddy the youngest fully and his contributions long outweighed the tribulations he caused himself, his family and the country. The best thing for me about TEDDY, and I met him once and shook his hand when he spoke as a 1958 graduate of U.VA. School of Law at the Law School Forum, was that he did in fact live a full life! No “ifs”! He lived out his life and fulfilled his obligations to himself, his family, and his country. His sacrifices and contributions certainly earned him the right of burial near his slain brothers at Arlington Cemetary. Arlington is hallowed ground if ever there was in American life. Where I once rode a sleigh in winter on the snow as a child the slope is now filled with the tombstones of all those since those times of swift childhood joy and happiness whom at one time or another were able to give either “the last full measure” or their very best (better than most of the living or me) to their country. God bless the Kennedy Family and the sacrifices and gifts of your selves and family to our country. Only the passage of time will tell whether another family ever makes the same contribution to our democracy (republic)! Personally I doubt it.
At 34 I am too young to have known Teddy Kennedy except through school books and the news.
As I watched the accolades to him today, Kipling’s “If” came to mind:
“Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools”
“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”
If I may, would you care to expound on the statement about his not liking ‘men like you’. I’m not quite sure what you mean or why you would think that.
A flawed man, to be sure; but despite that, he helped to carry the family torch. Being of Irish immigrant stock, a once despised people, when once the family attained riches and power, they chose to give thought to those less fortunate than themselves, those pariahs of their day. Instead of offering the back of the hand to the hoi polloi as some mean-spirited stratagem to establish their bona fides with the powerful amongst whom they now had a right to be named, they instead offered…a hand up.
Many little stories are coming out of personal kindnesses rendered by Ted, things done away from the glare of publicity, and thus inoculated from cynical dismissal.
Requiescat in pace.
As a professional soldier and intelligence man I do not expect to be liked by many. pl
A flawed man, are we all not flawed? Unfortunatly his flaws were known to all though many looked past them to see the the better part of the man.
What more can be said of a man when he meets his maker than he did his best to help lift up his fellow man.
I appreciate the anecdote as it adds to the mans humanity.
I expect I will always have mixed feelings about Edward Kennedy, but I count myself lucky to have read what you had to say about him. Thanks for sharing those thoughts with me.
Colonel Lang, thank you so much for your words. His death has touched me, maybe because I also so clearly remember the deaths of his two brothers. The family gave a lot to our country. I am glad they will be resting togather at Arlington.
I disliked him heartily during my long conservative phase but grew to see his merits during the Bush-Cheney years, when I found myself agreeing with his passionate anti-torture stance and desire for real immigration reform. It was quite a shock to find myself in agreement with him 100% time and time again over the last few years.
The worst blot on his life and career has to be Chappaquiddick. I also think he could have been a far better man, and senator, without the alcoholism and gin blossoms. However, he did clean his act up, and his years of positive public service count for a lot in my book.
I think of Ted Kennedy as a near-great man almost destroyed by his flaws, but one who should be judged leniently because the good he did far outweighed the bad.
Thanks. Your memories of Ted Kennedy are moving.
Most of us forget that the oldest son, Joe Jr., was the one groomed by his father to lead. Teddy was fourth in line. He was neither expected nor required to achieve greatness.
Joe Jr. was killed when his Navy Liberator blew up over the English Channel in WWII. Jack was next in line. He was also a naval officer and he survived the South Pacific only to die in Dallas.
Teddy’s election in 1962 to Jack’s seat in the Senate kept the Kennedy name alive in politics. But, even after Jack’s death in 1963 I don’t think anyone ever thought Teddy would be anything but a place-holder. After all there was still Bobby.
After Bobby’s death in LA in 1968 Teddy was the only one left. I think the enormity of that fact both made the man and took a terrible toll. He was lucky to have had good genes.
I’m grateful for the man he became.
I can tell you from personal experience that his staff was excellent on working for individual veterans.
May God comfort his family. Amen.
I am sure that you are right. pl
I never reminded him in the course of those briefing meetings that he had met me once before, in Vietnam under terribly difficult conditions.
I just wonder out of sheer human and emotional curiosity why you never felt like telling him about that event?
I often thought that whether any one could have done much better than him – as a young boy he had 3 older brothers and all that goes with it.
As a young man, he lost them to violent death.
“Heartbreak” does not begin to capture the pain and the agony.
‘As a professional soldier and intelligence man I do not expect to be liked by many.’
Interesting. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
Well done Col. Lang, thank you. Sen. Kennedy stated that his vote not to go to Iraq was his best.
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Edward Kennedy
Aired April 20, 2006 – 21:00 ET
KENNEDY: No. The best vote I cast in the United States Senate was…
KING: The best?
KENNEDY: The best vote, best vote I cast in the United States Senate (INAUDIBLE).
KING: In your life?
KING: Was not to go to Iraq?
KENNEDY: Yes, not to go to Iraq.
KING: Why did you vote against?
KENNEDY: Well, I’m on the Armed Services Committee and I was inclined to support the administration when we started the hearings in the Armed Services Committee. And, it was enormously interesting to me that those that had been — that were in the armed forces that had served in combat were universally opposed to going.
I mean we had Wes Clark testify in opposition to going to war at that time. You had General Zinni. You had General (INAUDIBLE). You had General Nash. You had the series of different military officials, a number of whom had been involved in the Gulf I War, others involved in Kosovo and had distinguished records in Vietnam, battle-hardened combat military figures. And, virtually all of them said no, this is not going to work and they virtually identified… [..]
It seemed to me that it would have been a “cheap” and opportunistic thing to do.
Even now, I will spare you the details. pl
I never agreed with just about anything he stood for, but admired his courage to stand up for his beliefs.
Few in Congress have that courage now days which is a sad reflection on all of us.
He will be missed.
Col., thank you sharing your experiences with him with dignity unlike what I saw last night on “Harball”.
A transcript of Sen. Kennedy’s speech have gave in the senate against giving the president the power to go to war with Iraq is online and worth reading. He knew the administrations reasons for going to war were lies: the cooked intelligence on WMD and SDs connection with al-Quaeda. The msm ignored his speech, preferring to cheer lead the nation into war.
I also think he was right on the need to reform healthcare, something he had proposed for as long as I can remember. Passing a bill named for him would be a fitting memorial.
TK – A flawed man searching for redemption and purpose (aren’t we all?). I think he got “there.”
As a politican, he did his job, namely to represent the people who elected him. While that made him a stand-out, it highlights sad state our political system. Maybe that’s what we’re really mourning.
Curious what you think about Weiss’ remarking that “Brave Ted Kennedy Could also be craven when he had to.”
He characterizes Kennedy as personifying the iron law of PEP in American politics: Progressive Except on Palestine
and by voting pro AIPAC 100% of the time.
I have always thought that his challenging of Carter in the 1980 primary was what brought Reagan and a Republican Congress to power. Of course at the time I was GOP so was overjoyed at his challenge of Carter. That and of course Chppqddck turned me against him. Later after being disappointed in the Reagan Revolution I turned Indy and then Democrat. But I still disliked the man as being a drag on progressive politics and the party’s goals. I believe that millions of Americans voted against local and national level democrats because of Ted Kennedy.
But if you liked the man Colonel, he can’t be all bad. So I will in fact put my flag at half mast.
Someone explain to me why Ted Keenedy has military pall bearers. Are civilians not strong enough to carry caskets? He was not president and commander in chief. He was a senator? What?
He was in the Army for a couple of years during his “vacation” from Harvard. Is that it?
Was he a member of the senate armed forces committee? What?
Soldiers are “props” for every politican who dies?
Regarding the Pallbearers
Title 10 USC Section 1491 lays out the governments responsibilities. As a PFC with an honorable discharge he is entitled. Granted the law leaves discretion to the Secretary of Defense and it seems discretion was granted.
May he rest in peace.
Maybe it’s de riguer for a burial in Arlington. Or maybe it’s just the nation’s recognition that Ted Kennedy, the last of the line, deserves the best the country has to offer.
Check out this tribute to Kennedy by these elite SF veterans:
A bit much. Hardly anyone knows what is appropriate anymore. pl
Title 10 works for me. pl
Sirhan Sirhan mowed down Bobby Kennedy over “Progressive Except Palestine” (PEP). Had Teddy broken new ground, that is a reversal on PEP, he would have courted death from the other side over PEP.
Israel is the third rail of American Politics. The subway comparison comes from the third rail from which the car gets its electric juice. If Congress covered up the U.S.S. Liberty incident which involved American uniformed lives bombed & strafed by Israel, how can it be expected, w/ a handful of exceptions, to stick up for the largely Muslim Filistin.
Hence, instead of reaping the dividend of Peace after the end of the Cold War, we have been sucked up by the Israel-Firsters into an un-ending Jihad against the Muslims. This leasves us w/ few arrows in our quiver to deal w/ a resurgent Russia.
The other thing that comes to mind is Kennedy’s work on increasing the number of immigrant visas which can go to Iraqi and Afghan interpreters. I know a number of beneficiaries of that 2007 law, who barely got out of Iraq with their lives after years of dangerous work.
I think he did a similar thing after the Vietnam War for the Vietnamese, Cambodians and Montagnards.
Apparently good taste isn’t a requirement for SOF anymore.
“Silent Professionals” indeed.
I don’t know. There is a difference (perhaps disappearing) between real SF (Green Berets) and the counter-terrorism commmandos of JSOC, etc.
Someone asked me to make clear what my SF background was. I graduated from the SF Officer Course in 1964, and received a prefix 3 for my various MOSes. This denoted an SF officer. I served in the 8th, and 5th Groups and then, MACVSOG and JSTDAT-158, SOG’s successor organization in the last eight months of the VN war.) I have a certificate hanging on my office wall, signed by the branch proponent for SF attesting to my membership in the 1st Special Forces Regiment.
“Quiet professionals?” That used to be true. A lot of the old timers were so mature and combat experienced (WW2 in various armies, Korea, etc.) that they instinctively listened carefully. In those days the enlisted men in SF were often of higher caliber than the officers who in many cases were people who did not fit in well in the rest of the Army and for good reason. These “old” paratroopers made life difficult for the “college boy” types like me.
“Good taste?” Hard to come by anywhere these days. pl
Even though I was only an 11C1P with the 1/501st in Afghanistan, we did quite a bit of hand in hand work with the Special Forces types out there. They always impressed me as being very competent, courageous, and very humble. To wit: a rocket hit a tent in our camp, and the first person on scene was our platoon medic. As he tried to stabilize everyone and perform first aid, he realized someone was helping him. Looking over, he realised one of the 18Ds had come over and was giving him a hand. When he tried to turn over responsibility to the senior man, the 18D refused, stating “You can do this. Just tell me what you need me to do.” All four of those men made it out alive.
A few years later in Iraq, it seemed the Blackwater cowboy mentality had replaced that quiet competence I witnessed in Afghanistan, and sadly our command seemed to worship these types who answered to no one, blew the doors off residences and yanked out blind old men into the streets for a midnight beating.
I suppose it comes with the muddling of the entire CI/DA roles, but to be honest I believe quality control might have something to do with it.
Did you know when I entered the Army, that they were allowing people to enlist directly as 18 series and fast track the SF career course?
I meant to add it in my last post, but your credentials are impeccable and I imagine your experiences someone should write down.
What kind of meal would it take to get a chance to sit down and pick your brain for a bit? ; )
maybe it’s just the nation’s recognition that Ted Kennedy, the last of the line
Notwithstanding the legal aspect and my respect for the dead: the last line of what?…His Royal Majesty Kennedy?
‘Hardly anyone knows what is appropriate anymore’
You all got me past the issue of the military pall bearers, but now there is the matter of a massive requiem Mass. Now, I understand that he went to his death well shriven. I do not presume to judge his prospects. I further understand that the marriage to his first wife was annulled on some “interesting” ground or other and that he died in full communion with the Body of Christ. It is a shame that the church did not find some equally “interesting” ground in the basis of Henry VIII’s desire for an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, but, then, her brother was the king of Spain.
What I DO NOT understand is the liturgical fandango being produced today for a man, however admirable he might otherwise have been, who blatantly flouted the teaching of the Catholic Church in the matter of “choice.” That same Church will publicly and scandalously honor him today. Should he have a Catholic funeral? Certainly, but not like this. pl
In re the funeral, in the end it was the kind of carefully nuanced occasion at which the Catholic Church excels. They should after 2,000 years of practice.
The Redemptorist community (CSSR) were Kennedy’s hosts. The cardinal archbishop of Boston attended as a guest of the Redemptorists. There were no other hierarchs present on the altar.
It was a beautiful service. pl
De mortuis nil nisi bonum.
a very nice post.
Have you ever heard a more beautiful rendition of “Ave Maria”? I don’t know who the woman was, but it was moving. Thankfully, no “Amazing Grace”. I hate that song!
Nor for publication, necessarily. But this was the best eulogy of Kennedy so far.