By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – If you’re old enough to remember the early 1990’s, then you probably understand why the passing of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Thursday at age 78 is worth special notice.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Schwarzkopf, as his New York Times obituary notes, was our country’s “most acclaimed military hero” since the days of Eisenhower and MacArthur, lionized for his handling of the 1991 Gulf War where coalition troops drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Schwartkopf was also in control of the 1983 rescue of American medical students from a threatening situation in Grenada.

Those were arguably the two most popular U.S. military operations since Vietnam, an era when our military was in disrepair and military intervention was in disrepute. And Schwarzkopf was the larger-than-life hero of both of them.

But Schwarzkopf’s military career was nearly derailed years before that by his own doubts about Vietnam.

From the Times obit:

“He came home [from Vietnam] dismayed at the Army’s leadership and convinced that the peace movement and the news media were prolonging the war…. He later concluded that politicians had lost the war, and the failure, at a cost of 58,000 American lives, left him devastated. For a time, he considered resigning his commission.”

But Schwarzkopf stuck with it, and became a national figure, admired after his military career was over for his outspoken criticism of bad policies and his refusal to run for office.

In later life, he gave his time and name to promoting prostate-cancer awareness and helping charities for chronically ill kids raise money.

“I may have made my reputation as a general in the Army and I’m very proud of that,” he told a reporter once. “But I’ve always felt that I was more than one-dimensional. I’d like to think I’m a caring human being. … It’s nice to feel that you have a purpose.”

Dynamic…persistent…questioning….human. That sounds like the ingredients of a great American to me.

Rest in peace, General Schwarzkopf. I hope there are others like you in the pipeline.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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