The last line in the movie “The Bridges At Toko Ri” asks the poignant question about the US Military: “Where do we get such men?” That same question being asked during the Korean War film is just as applicable today in real life in Afghanistan, Iraq and any place else our armed forces have a presence. The answer: we get them from the legions of today’s fine generation of young men and woman across the country. In the case one Army lieutenant, the answer is Staten Island, New York.
Lt. Mark Zambarda, who is a personal friend of one of my employees, is a young man who lived a normal down to earth life of typical young man growing up in the New York City borough. He played sports in high school, chased girls, studiedhard, the usual. In 2003, in answer to a prompting from within to join the military he was accepted to. (Perhaps his father being a member of the NYPD ingrained in him a call to service.)
Mark, whose wife is a fellow West Point classmate (I anticipate some verywell-behaved children in the future Zambarda brood), graduated in 2007, trained for two years and was shipped overseas for combat duty in platoon leader is now a seasoned veteran. He also was awarded a , the Army’s third highest honor, for bringing in captured insurgents
through a day-long ambush with no water or radio contact.
But one of Lt. Zambarda’s most important mission involved a trip to a local village, where he promised to help the school obtain flush toilets. “We’ll do that bathroom first, then that one,” the officer said, during a tour of the premises. “500 kids go to this school and some hike four kilometers to get there. If they can spread the message that ‘Hey, the coalition forces built new toilets,’ it
makes us seem that much more legitimate and makes them more willing to work with us.” [courtesy ABC News]
Soldiers like Lt. Zambarda are a testament to the claim that no warrior in history has ever been so educated, so well-trained, so well-equipped, so deadly efficient in the application of force, and yet so compassionate towards those civilians who have been sadly forced into harm’s way as the modern United States soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine.
The World War Two generation is often hailed as “The” but we see plenty of greatness in today’s soldiers. Perhaps even more so in some regards as those in uniform today are an all-volunteer force. And because of the various media outlets, 24/7 streaming news, and, of course, the Internet, they have exponentially more information at their disposal when it comes to the true horrors of war than did the WW2 recruits whose information was mostly filtered through heavily censored news sources and carefully examined and edited letters. (The chilling video posted recently in BigPeace of the British soldier taking a round in the face provides a graphic illustration of my claim and an example of images few back home in WW2 ever were privy to so readily.)
Consider, after releasing a film of the brutal four-day struggle for Tarawa Atoll in which 1,000 Americans were slain, complete with images of war never before seen by the American public–bloated corpses of Marines rotting in the sun or bobbing in the surf, people literally shot to pieces, burned out equipment, wounded soldiers in rows on the bloody beach–Marine recruitment plummeted for a time. Maybe a measure of greatness then should be as much about who volunteers AFTER seeing such images. Soldiers like the Zambardas, who went into service with their eyes wide open, are worthy of any generation. Even the greatest.