Cogito (Ergo) Vivo – You haven’t lived ‘til you’ve almost died. For those who have fought for it, life has a flavor the protected will never know.

This observation, which is embraced by every combat veteran I know, has been adopted as the motto of the Special Operations Association. The very first time I heard it, back during my inaugural tour of duty with SOG, it resonated deep within me. I could sense the profound truth it expressed. All I had to do was look around at the men I served with. It would be impossible to find a livelier, more fun-loving, crazy, generous or supportive group anywhere, or at any time. To this day these men continue to be the best of friends, the finest of comrades.

The casualty rates for SOG recon teams were the highest for any unit in Vietnam. We all had our close calls. Thus, each of us was given ample opportunity for the truth of this observation to be incised on his soul. None perhaps, more so than the young, hard-charging One-Zero of RT Michigan, Sergeant Eldon Bargewell. By the Spring of 1969, Bargewell had earned the full respect of his fellow recon men. No one who ever met him doubted his professionalism or determination.

He was not only meticulous when preparing his team for a mission, and a fearless leader when on the ground, but he also possessed a biting wit and an absolute and abiding intolerance when it came to fools and REMFs, fools and REMFs being a redundancy to his way of thinking. As for me personally, I had an additional, but oddly special reason for admiring him: I not only liked the cut of his jib, I liked the way he parted his hair. Like me, he wore his hair longer than was the norm and parted it on the right.