There are several different types of pride: pride in accomplishments, personal pride, and pride derived from expending maximum effort. When one accomplishes feats or endures hardships seemingly impossible for a human being, he carries himself with a pride that to others may resemble conceit. Take all the pride you can imagine, couple it with professional skill, boundless fortitude and benevolence in actions, and combining these traits, bestow them on one individual. You have before you the American Paratrooper.
A Paratrooper is many things and you have to be one to know one thoroughly, but you when meet him, you will like him. The majority of Paratroopers are basically good, but there is bad in the best of us, just as there is good in the worst of us. He may be tall and slender or short and powerful. He is at once average and uncommon: average in that he puts his trousers on one leg at a time like every other man, yet, uncommon in his courage, ability and determination to defend his beliefs.
A Paratrooper may have anything from a fourth grade education, to a high school ring, to a Master's Degree: he may wear two stars, new bars, faded stripes, slick sleeves or imprints where rank once proudly shone. His appearance is always sharp whether in spit-shined jump boots and whitewall haircut; pegged pants; tailored AG's; starched fatigues or civvies. You'll know him by his faded blocked field cap, overseas cap with a chute and glider patch or dirty steel pot. Yet, while you admire his appearance, beware of his fierce loyalty. He may at times curse his outfit, but should you unwittingly do the same, be ready to defend yourself. For an outsider to attack a paratrooper's unit is equivalent to insulting his mother, wife or sweetheart and brings swift corrective action.
He may serve as Division Commander or ammo bearer. He proudly salutes his senior officers and that mutual respect for professional ability is returned with their acknowledgement. He wears a ranger tab, a CIB or EIB, four rows of ribbons . . . or sometimes just crossed rifles and a bolo badge. In any case, his wings signify that he belongs to a select organization of combat men. Whether he trained in parachuting at Fort Benning or Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell, or Okinawa, he will long remember the swift boot of the jump school instructors and the agony of the suspended harness. He's jumped everywhere from Korea, Leyte, Okinawa, Corregidor, and Mindoro in the Pacific, to Normandy, Holland, and the Wesel River in Europe; and from Sicily and North Africa to military reservations throughout the world.
A Paratrooper may call himself a Rock, an Eagle, a Bulldog, a Rakassan, a Panther, a Sneaky Pete, or even a Devil, but most of all he is an Angel, although his halo may be a little crooked at times. Whether Negro or Caucasian, of German or Mexican descent, a Catholic or Jew, a Christian or Atheist . . . he is always an American.
He lives everywhere, from the East side of New York to the South side of San Antonio. He has been part of every party from the Mardi Gras in New Orleans to the October fest in Munich. He has swum on every beach from Florida to California, Lebanon to Italy, Kentucky to Okinawa. He might have been a truck driver, bookkeeper, farmer, merchant, school teacher, or student, but now he is the finest fighting man alive.
A Paratrooper has been more places, done more things, known more people, had more fights, spent more money, loved more women, and told more lies than any three people alive. He would fight over anything, yet give you the shirt off his back for nothing. He might be an Ivy League graduate headed for study at Oxford, or a hometown nobody selected for Soldier of the Month.
A Paratrooper speaks with the slow drawl of the South, the clipped words of a Yankee or the accent of a foreigner. He may be a member of Boston Society, yet proudly associates with a swamp rat from Louisiana. He is a thrill seeker, a show-off, but the best man you could choose to have by your side when the going gets tough and you need a friend.
Yes, a Paratrooper is many things. Some troopers, knowing they are better than other men, say so. Others modestly keep this knowledge to themselves. But they have all done what not everyone can - they have met a fear that choked their throats and despite that fear, done everything that was asked of them . . . and more! Each of them made the same runs, overcame the same fear and took the same mental and physical punishment before they were qualified to stand before their comrades and receive the same "Silver Badge of Courage." Most of them became Airborne to prove something, either to themselves or to someone else. They all succeeded!
It is impossible to perfectly describe the American Paratrooper. Although he is similar to other men, you can't cut a Paratrooper and another man in half lengthwise, combining the two dissimilar halves to create a composite person, because that Paratrooper will always stand thirteen inches taller than any "Leg" you select. One famous Airborne General is reputed to have replied to the question "Why are you a Paratrooper?" by saying: "Not so much because I like to jump out of planes, but because I like to be with men who like to jump out of planes!"