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Flag Day and Special Forces
John Tobin 6/13/2021 2:04 PM

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On June 14th our flag’s birthday is celebrated, and on June 19th Special Forces celebrates another year of survival, not only from foreign enemies, but from folks at home who don’t understand our unique headgear is a hat, but that hat is worn by a special group of warriors, who spurn their conventional boxes, and strive only to complete their missions.

In 1969, three C-130s landed at the Nha Trang Air Force Base, four very dirty tired Americans, and two hundred and fifty Montangnard tribesmen had returned from IV Corps, 512 Company and 1st CRP were home, and headed to the B-55 Compound..

As the Americans attempted to get men and equipment on the trucks, a USAF SGT stopped his fork lift, got off faced toward HQ and saluted, we looked at him, and he said “they are playing our song.” We strained and realized that today as every other day, at 1800 they were playing the Star Spangled Banner, we all joined him and saluted, as I glanced to my right and left I realized that my eyes were not the only ones moist, guess we were looking into the sun.

While the flag is important to all in uniform, I believe that the men of Special Forces have a special relationship, for so many times we are deployed and our flag can only be flown in our minds. As all the Special Forces A Camps in Vietnam were technically under command of the Vietnamese, the Vietnamese flag flew over them, but you could not be in one more than a minute or two, and not see “Old Glory” peeking out of some hooch or corner. The twelve or so Americans wanting to fight under the colors they loved, always kept them close.

How many of us carried flags all over the world, in my case a small US flag, and NC flag went everywhere I went, those two pieces of cloth represented not only what we fought for, but what we loved. It is said now that “we fight not because we hate the enemy in front of us, but because we love those behind us.”

As kids we would go to Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day parades, back then the small town of Hatfield, Pennsylvania closed for both. We would see the men march by, some in ill-fitting uniforms (at our age we are much now more understanding of this phenomenon), some in wheelchairs, some with the limp of old injuries, but all ramrod straight. 

There was the Marine that won the Navy Cross on Guadalcanal, though blinded by grenade, shooting where his badly wounded man told him to. The twins that left their sixteen of their toes in the snow at the Frozen Chosen, the Little League coach who survived the hellholes in the Pacific only to fall on the last day of the war and spend months in the VA hospital as I grew up. In front of each contingent, no matter how small, battered or dirty, there would be the Stars and Stripes that one of them carried, hoping to bring it home, they knew that one day, rather than marching behind that a, they would be under one on the way to the “Last Formation.”

May the Star Spangled Banner and Special Forces each celebrate many more of these anniversaries.

God Bless America


Read more by COL(R) Tobin here.



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John Tobin
COL (R) John “Jack” Tobin graduated from the Special Forces Training Course in 1968, as a communications supervisor. He served with 7th SFGA, and then was fortunate to serve with A503, A504, B55 “Mike Force”, 5th SFGA, Republic of Vietnam. After commissioning, he commanded ODAs, was Team Chief for the FORSCOM Intelligence Center for DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, wrote new Tactics, Techniques and Protocols for Antiterrorism and Force Protection for J37, the Pentagon after the Khobar Towers event, and commanded the JRU, SOCJFCOM. He retired 1/1/2006, after serving as Chief of Plans, Combined Forces Command, Afghanistan, and Chief Military Liaison Team, US Embassy Kabul, 2004-2005. Between these assignments were there was a series of interesting posts in CONUS, Central and South America, Europe and Asia. Since retirement he served as the SF consultant on the conversion of nuclear submarines to SOF platforms, and was primary author of the ARSOF Future Operating Concepts 2016-2025. In 2012 he was named a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment, and served as the National President of the Special Forces Association. When his term as President, SFA ended, he happily returned to his duties as Deputy Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, of SFA Chapter VI, The Camp Mackall Chapter.

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