A Real American Hero

Eight Purple Hearts. Ten Silver Stars. Twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. And now a virtual shoe-in for the Medal of Honor.

You name the honor, Colonel David Hackworth (search) got it.

And Monday, his buddies, his soldiers and his admirers gathered in an Arlington Cemetery chapel to pay homage and remember this most decorated of American soldiers.

Even though he passed away more than three weeks ago, "Hack" wanted to formally leave this world today — the real Memorial Day, as he put it in something called "The Big Drop," his final long list of wishes left in his loving wife Eilhys' hands.

I guess I was part of that "Big Drop," among those asked to eulogize him. I was honored more to be in the company of those who fought beside him.

Heroes all — men and women for whom honor meant something and doing the right thing was the only thing, even when it ticked people off.

I can remember well how Hackworth managed to alienate liberals when he said they wanted to gut the military and then this very administration when he said it was going about this Iraq (search) war the wrong way.

When I once asked him if he was afraid he was running out of friends, I remember him saying, "I have the friends that count. I have my men." The soldiers he led in life and today, the soldiers he led out a small chapel in Arlington National Cemetery to say good work, good life, goodbye.

Colonel Hackworth, we honor you. And we miss you.

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