Monday, January 22, 2001

Local Army Rangers join protest


Elite soldiers want to keep beret for themselves

By Patrick Stack and Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Area residents Jeff Wayne (center) and Ken Johnson (right) show support for David Scott.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
        HEBRON — Former Army Rangers who plan to march from Fort Benning, Ga., to Washington, D.C., to protest the elite black beret becoming standard Army gear will carry a dead Cincinnati Ranger's beret during their trek.

        David Scott, 42, who came through Greater Cincinnati last weekend, and David Nielsen, another former Ranger, are marching the 750 miles in an effort to persuade President George Bush to issue an executive order making the black beret exclusive to the Rangers.

        The Army chief of staff in October announced that the black beret — a badge of honor for the Rangers — would become standard headgear for the general Army.

        On their march, the two men will carry the black beret of Pfc. James Markwell, a Cincinnati native and Ranger medic killed in Panama in 1989.

markwell
Markwell
        Mr. Scott, who left the Army 12 years ago, was greeted Saturday evening by supporters during a short layover at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky In ternational Airport. Mr. Scott was en route from Salt Lake City to Fort Bragg, N.C.

        “I'm not walking alone,” Mr. Scott told a handful of people gathered in the airport terminal to meet the former Ranger. “I'm being carried on the shoulders of so many great people who support the cause.”

        His supporters, like former Ranger Jeff Wayne, had heard about his crusade through fellow veterans, enlisted men and their families.

ON THE WEB
www.rangerblackberet.com
        “We support what he is doing,” Mr. Wayne, 32, of Lebanon said while waiting for Mr. Scott's plane to arrive. “He is not out there alone. We want him to know that.”

        Mr. Wayne, who left the Army in 1993, thinks issuing black berets to the entire Army is a cosmetic attempt at improving the morale at the expense of special forces such as the Rangers.

Elite no longer

        In announcing that the black beret would be worn by all soldiers beginning June 14 — the Army's birthday — Army Gen. Eric Shinseki called it a “symbol of unity” and said: “When we wear the black beret it will say that we, the soldiers of the world's best army, are committed to making ourselves even better.”

        The decision generated immediate controversy among current and former Rangers, who go through what some think is the Army's most rigorous training and who undertake some of its most difficult assignments.

        The Rangers trace their history to the French and Indian War, and have worn black berets since the Korean War.

        At the airport Saturday, former Ranger Ken Johnson compared making black berets standard issue to giving a degree to someone who didn't attend college.

        Mr. Johnson, 32, of Batavia, left the Army in 1991.

        Mr. Scott, an unassuming man at 5-foot-4 and about 150 pounds, said the issue has the potential to distract active duty personnel from giving their job 100 percent focus.

        “Being a Ranger is a deadly serious job,” he said. “The goal is to keep any potential negatives out of it.”

        He said a gag order has been placed on active duty military personnel concerning the black beret debate.

        “You don't suspend your constitutional rights when you join the Army,” Mr. Scott said. “This has put doubt in their hearts.”

Soldier's family involved

        “We're behind (Mr. Scott) 100 percent,” said Mr. Markwell's mother, Sandee Rouse, who lives in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

        She and her family are lending her son's black beret to the two men during their march. Mrs. Rouse serves as volunteer coordinator for www.rangerblackberet.com, a Web site that supports it as a Ranger symbol.

        The family formerly lived in Springdale and Sharonville, where Mr. Markwell was raised, Mrs. Rouse said. Mr. Markwell graduated from Princeton High School in 1986 and attended the University of Findlay for two years. He enlisted and began basic Army training in February 1989.

        He became a medic with the 1/75 Army Rangers and was part of the U.S. invasion of Panama, where he was killed Dec. 20, 1989, at age 21.

        The family spoke with then-President Bush in January 1990 when he came to Cincinnati. The family gave Mr. Bush a copy of Mr. Markwell's “death letter,” written before he went into battle. The president quoted the letter in his 1990 State of the Union address.

        Mrs. Rouse said when she heard about the beret order she felt obligated to join the campaign to make the black beret exclusive.

        “This beret was one of the most important things to Jim, and there was no way I couldn't support (the campaign),” she said.

        After Mr. Scott and Mr. Nielsen meet at Ft. Bragg, they will then go to Fort Benning to begin their march. On Feb. 10, Mrs. Rouse, her husband, Bill Rouse, and her daughter, Dawn Markwell, will present the two men with Mr. Markwell's beret.

        The Rouse family also plan to meet the men in Washington, D.C. at the conclusion of their march.

        The beret campaign has a broad base of support, Mrs. Rouse said. She coordinates more than 200 volunteers nationwide who have written letters and contacted veterans' groups and politicians.

        A petition on the site posted last week already has more than 4,000 online signatures, Mrs. Rouse said.

       



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