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Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, in USA Today:
Meet Master Sgt. William Calvin Markham, a combat controller from Waukesha, Wis., whom history will record as the first member of the Air Force to set foot on Afghan soil in the war on terror. Just one month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Markham, 37, part of a 12-member military team, was among the first U.S. special operations forces to enter Afghanistan.More here.
“The Taliban would unleash everything at us,” Markham recalls. “We took enormous amounts of fire: small arms fire, tank rounds, you name it. They also had ZSU 23s, an anti-aircraft weapon, and turned them on us, sending what looked like large, flaming footballs at our position.”
Asked how he and his team survived the enemy's wall of fire, the 6'1”, 250-pound Markham replies, “It was the grace of God. It was like we had a bubble over us.”
When the smoke cleared, Markham's Silver Star citation credited him with directing 175 sorties that resulted in the elimination of 450 enemy vehicles and the killing of more than 3,500 Taliban fighters in a little more than a month.
Today, however, his greatest source of pride is the golf tournament he hosts each year, the Whomper Stomper Open, to raise funds for the children of fallen U.S. special operations forces.
When asked whether barbs by the naysayers of the war bother him, Markham says, “When I hear that kind of thing, honestly, it makes me glad because it means those individuals have the freedom to think and say what they wish.”
Mr Weinberger is co-authoring the book Home of the Brave : Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror, with Wynton Hall. The book is scheduled for publication in summer 2006.