We were still in the air over the Caribbean island of Grenada, and the battle was raging down below us as U.S. forces invaded the island to rescue a group of American medical students and to liberate the small nation. The date was Oct. 24, 1983. The small island was in the hands of an illegitimate government as a result of a Cuban-sponsored coup d'état. The Cuban objective, acting as Soviet surrogates, was to build an airfield that would accommodate the largest Soviet bombers, thereby giving the Soviets a base from which they could strike elsewhere in North and South America.
President Ronald Reagan, a staunch anti-communist, refused to allow the USSR to gain that kind of foothold in the Western Hemisphere. He ordered the U.S. Atlantic Command into action, with a directive to invade the island and return it to its rightful leaders, those who had been elected by the people of Grenada. U.S. special operations forces were to spearhead the operation.
So there I was in the lead Black Hawk, with two gaping holes in me, watching the battle unfold. I knew I might die before I could get to a safe location and receive medical treatment. A .50-caliber bullet makes a big hole—and I knew how serious my injury was.
My thoughts turned to a simple question: "Is this worth it? If I die here, is it worth dying for? Are we doing the right thing by invading this postage-stamp piece of soil in the Caribbean?" I needed to know that my life would be sacrificed for a just cause.
Then I considered the obvious. Ronald Reagan obviously thought that committing American lives to this fight was justifiable, and that was good enough for me. Reagan was an honorable patriot, and he believed in what we were doing. After all, he sent us here. The people in Grenada had been robbed of their freedom and were being brutalized by their occupiers. The American medical students there were confined to their campus with none of the basic freedoms of a democracy. The Soviets were a known threat. We would reduce that threat, restore those liberties through our sacrifices and free these people in a foreign land.
Yes, this was a just cause.
OK, that was resolved in my mind. Next question: "How do I stay alive?"
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