Special Forces have a very tight select group of members and it isn’t often that an outsider is accepted as one of their own. Very few have been given the honor of becoming an honorary Green Beret.
A German woodcarver, who has been supporting the members of the 10th Special Forces Group in Europe for more than 50 years, will be the latest honorary Green Beret. Last week, a Stars and Stripes story related that according to USASOC spokesman, LTC Loren Bymer, Sebastian Demmel will be the first German to receive the honor.
Demmel has lived in the small village of Sachsenkam his entire life. One day, back in the early 1970s, a Green Beret stationed at Bad Tolz, about four miles away from Demmel’s village, stopped outside Demmel’s home to admire his woodcarvings. The two began talking, one thing led to another and soon Demmel carved a Trojan Horse badge that 10th SFG troops have long used as their own. Lieutenant General Francis Beaudette, the commander of USASOC said that the woodcarving he received as the Commander of the 10th SFG was “the best gift I’ve received in my 31-year career.”
After reading about the honor bestowed on Demmel, we decided to look at a few of the other honorary Green Berets. Thanks goes to the Special Forces Museum for the information. (Hopefully the Museum will survive the latest attempt to erase SF history, but this is a subject for another time.)
John Wayne: The “Duke” was made an honorary Special Forces member after his portrayal of Colonel Mike Kirby in the film “The Green Berets.”
Robin Moore: The author of the book that the film “The Green Berets” was based on. He was made a lifelong member of the 5th SFG in 2007.
Snoopy: Yes, the lovable Peanuts character drawn by Charles Shutlz was made an honorary Green Beret by soldiers of the 5th SFG in Vietnam. Snoopy can be seen wearing a beret on several different items. Perhaps the two most famous sketches of Snoopy donning the beret was one titled “Happiness is a Green Beret” and one flipping the bird stating “F**k Communism.” The PC world of today, wouldn’t look kindly on that… bad dog!
LTC Rolande “Frenchy” Colas de la Nouye Amundson: Frenchy worked with the French Army behind enemy lines in WWII until she was captured by Germans. She later served as an interpreter for General Eisenhower. She got married and moved to Vietnam. When her husband died, she returned to France working for the American Embassy in Paris. She met an American officer there and they married. She became an American citizen in 1958. She was given the honorary green beret by the 12th SFG(A) at a banquet in 1977. On the same occasion, she was also given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Chris Noel: Singer and actress who toured Vietnam. Her first husband was a 5th SFG(A) soldier whom she met in RVN. She then started the Vetsville Cease Fire House, a shelter for homeless vets in Florida.
James Garner: He has starred in dozens of movies, including “The Great Escape” with Steve McQueen and “Space Cowboys” with Clint Eastwood. He was given the honorary green beret by the 46th SF Co.(A) in Thailand after going through a prop blast.
Robert William Andrew “Bob” Feller: Feller was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. His honorary green beret was given by the 5th SFG(A) in Vietnam.
Lera Millard Thomas: Thomas was the wife of Congressman Albert Thomas and briefly succeeded her husband in Congress representing the Eighth District of Texas from 1966 to 1967. After her term in Congress, Mrs. Thomas served as a special liaison for the Houston Chronicle to members of the armed services in Vietnam. The honorary green beret was given by 5th SFG(A) in Vietnam.
Conrad Ben Baker: Baker was a DA Civilian working for the Counterinsurgency Support Office (CISO). He worked in Vietnam on and off for over 8 years. He was a liaison between the CIA and the Studies and Observation Group (SOG). He designed the field rations, rucksack and SOG knife. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for civilians on December 17, 1974.
Sylvester Stallone: The actor was awarded the honorary green beret by SF Association Headquarters after he portrayed John Rambo in the film “First Blood” in 1983.
Willie and Joe: The pair were the grubby unkempt cartoon characters created by Bill Mauldin in World War II. Willie and Joe were the infantry grunts at the tip of the spear who became beloved by the soldiers during the war. The honorary green beret was presented to them by SFA in 1985 after Bill Mauldin penned a drawing of Willie wearing a beret — and probably made some “Bone-clone” furious.
Larry Ludtke: Ludtke was the Texas sculptor who H. Ross Perot commissioned to sculpt Major Richard “Dick” Meadows’s statue in USASOC Headquarters and Colonel Arthur D. Bull Simons’s statue in the JFK Special Warfare Memorial Plaza. The honorary green beret was presented to him in 1999 at the dedication of Bull Simons’s statue.
Wayne Newton: Newton is a famous singer and Las Vegas, entertainer. He was presented an honorary green beret in 1999 by USAJFKSWCS and SF Command at the SF Expo and Ball.
Bo Derek: Derek is an actress famous for her role in “10.” She is a big supporter of the USO. She was presented the honorary green beret in 2002 by SF Command at the 50th Anniversary of SF banquet in 2002.
Alan Simpson: Simpson was a Republican politician who served from 1979 to 1997 as a United States senator from Wyoming. His honorary green beret was presented to him by the SFA Chapter 71in Cody, Wyoming in 2003.
Master Sergeant Roy Matsumoto: Matsumoto was honored with the the 1st Special Forces Brotherhood Certificate and the Department of the Army certificate naming, the latter naming him an honorary Green Beret. He was honored for his distinguished service in the Merrill’s Marauders in Burma and later with the Office of Strategic Services in China.
Dr. Michael Kussman: Under Secretary of the Veterans Health Administration.
Kenneth Fisher: Fisher has since May 2003, been the chairman and chief executive officer of Fisher House Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that builds homes for families of hospitalized military personnel and veterans. He served as vice-chairman of Fisher House Foundation from May 2001 to May 2003.
George W. Bush: 43rd President of the United States (2001-2009).
Doris Baker: Ms.Baker spent 39 years at a Defense Department school for Green Berets’ children in Bad Tolz in Germany, serving as a teacher and then principal.
General Slawomir Petelicki: General Petelicki was the Polish founder of GROM, Poland’s Special Operations Forces. He was made an honorary member of both the 5th and 10th Special Forces Groups.
LTC Martha “Maggie” Raye: No list of honorary Green Berets is complete without Maggie Raye. Raye was a film and television actress who began visiting troops overseas in WWII. That would continue in Korea and then in Vietnam. It was there that she developed a lasting relationship with the men of Special Forces.
From 1964 until 1973, Raye would visit, often at her own expense, the far-flung Special Forces A-camps and while she loved the Green Berets and adopted them as her own, the men perhaps loved her even more. Not only did she entertain the troops but she’d drink with the men in the team rooms and pitch in as a nurse for the wounded after they’d return from operations.
She was made an honorary Green Beret and President Lyndon Johnson also bestowed upon her the title of honorary Lieutenant Colonel. Colonel Maggie was an icon among the Vietnam era SF troops. She was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was buried, at her request, at the military cemetery at Ft. Bragg, NC with the SF troops she loved so much.