Sunday, April 02, 2006

To Always Remember

Fort Benning unveils statue of Sept. 11, Vietnam hero
4/2/2006, 12:52 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — More than 500 people attended the unveiling of a statue honoring Rick Rescorla, the decorated Vietnam veteran who, as security chief for Morgan Stanley, led hundreds of people to safety from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The statue was put up Saturday at Fort Benning, in west-central Georgia, where Rescorla attended Officer Candidate School, though it was sent back to storage after the ceremony while a permanent pedestal is being built. Fort Benning's National Infantry Museum already has a portrait of the former Army Colonel.

"There was never any question as where to put the statue of Rick," said his widow, Susan Rescorla. "It was here he went to OCS and from here that he left for Vietnam."

Rescorla died on Sept. 11 after helping evacuate 2,700 employees from the World Trade Center. The 62-year-old was last seen going up stairs of the south tower, looking for stragglers in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.

"If he hadn't done his job the way he did, the death toll at the Trade Center would probably be twice what it is today," said author Joe Galloway, who met Rescorla at the 1965 battle at Ia Drang in Vietnam and wrote about it the best-selling book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," which was made into a movie starring Mel Gibson.

A young Rescorla carrying a rifle at Ia Drang, pictured on the book's cover, was the inspiration for the bronze statue.

Rescorla was awarded both the Silver and Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam. Retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, who co-authored the book with Galloway and attended the unveiling, called Rescorla "the best combat platoon leader I ever served with."

Rescorla's widow said the lessons he learned in Vietnam made the difference on Sept. 11.

"He made one last sweep, as he'd learned at Ia Drang, and was determined not to leave a single soldier behind," she said.

Rescorla was born in England. After Vietnam, where he served with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, he became a U.S. citizen.