Snake Eaters

De Oppresso Liber

The term “Snake Eater” originated after the U. S. Army Special Forces (also known as the Green Berets) served members of the press and visiting dignitaries a meal of snake meat following a public relations demonstration at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Sadly, the meal was fit for human consumption, and no journalist or politician died from ingesting snake venom.  Since then, members and former members of the Green Berets are sometimes referred to as snake eaters.

The Green Berets have nine distinctive missions: unconventional warfare, direct action, counter-insurgency operations, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, psychological operations, counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, security force assistance, and foreign internal defensive operations.  As part of the U. S. Special Operations Command, Green Berets have consistently distinguished themselves in combat arms since their establishment in 1952.  Modeled on the First Special Service Force and the covert missions of the Office of Strategic Services in World War II, its founding members included Colonel Wendell Fertig, Colonel Aaron Bank, and Lieutenant Colonel Russ Volckmann.  Since 1952, Green Berets have participated in combat operations in South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Philippines, Syria, Yemen, Niger, and the so-called Gulf Wars in the Middle East.

Currently, there are around 4,000 Green Berets performing missions around the world, from the Middle East to Africa and Asia.  Most people never hear about these “quiet professionals,” and that’s the way the Green Berets prefer it.

“These guys [Green Berets] are never going to quit, they’re never going to accept defeat, and they’ll fight to the end. And it’s always been that way.  So, the American people should be proud of that.”  — Master Sergeant Matthew Williams (Awarded the Medal of Honor in 2019).

As a case in point, on 2 May 1968, Master Sergeant Raul “Roy” Perez Benavidez (1935-1998), while risking his life to save eight of his comrades, received 37 wounds, including being shot several times, shrapnel from two grenades, and a bayonet wound, but he survived and — more to the point, he completed his mission.  Benavides was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 after the Army delayed recommending him for the medal for ten years.  Freaking bureaucrats.

And now, we turn to Captain Richard J. Flaherty (1945-2015), whose short stature required a waiver for acceptance for service in the U. S. Army.  Standing 4’9” tall, Flaherty became known as the “Giant Killer” for his service to the United States.  Captain Flaherty struggled throughout his life, from the moment of his birth when he was stunted in his growth from the infusion of his mother with the wrong blood type during his birth.  From his sensitivity to being called a “shrimp” in school, Flaherty began a life-long, intensive physical fitness regimen that transformed him into acquiring a robust physique.  To put an edge on his physical strength, he became an expert in martial arts.  Richard Flaherty received his Army commission to Second Lieutenant in August 1967.

In 1968, Flaherty was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, where he served as a platoon commander, with later service as a Reconnaissance Platoon Leader.  During his tour in Vietnam, he participated in fierce combat outside of Hue City during the Tet Offensive.  His tenacity and tactical superiority in combat resulted in the award of the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Heart Medals.

Upon returning to the United States, Flaherty attended the Special Forces Officer’s Course at Fort Brag, North Carolina, with subsequent service with the Third Special Forces Group (Airborne), where he served in one of the Army’s “A” Teams.  Captain Flaherty was discharged from active duty service when the Army reduced its manpower in 1971.  Freaking bureaucrats.

After his separation from the Army, Flaherty did private and military contract work in Rhodesia (present-day Republic of Zimbabwe) and Angola.  The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited Flaherty in the late 1970s, which involved him in the CIA’s scheme of supplying arms and munitions to the Contra forces in Nicaragua.  The CIA dismissed Flaherty when found in possession of “silencers,” which today are legal in 42 states.

After leaving the CIA, Flaherty helped the Army uncover a smuggling ring at Fort Bragg.  He also worked as an undercover informant with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Captain Flaherty was the victim of a hit-and-run incident in 2015 that cost him his life.  At the time of his death, the 69-year-old Captain Flaherty, recipient of five medals for extraordinary courage under fire, was living as a homeless man in Miami, Florida.

Homelessness among military veterans isn’t a new phenomenon.  We’ve had military veterans without proper accommodations since the post-Civil War period.  Between 1865-1880, homeless veterans made up the majority of America’s homeless population. Americans didn’t wake up to this situation until after the Vietnam War.  At present, the Veterans Administration estimates the number of homeless veterans at around 40,000 (mostly) men on any given night.  The leading causes of homelessness among veterans are post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain disorder, social isolation, unemployment, and substance abuse.  The state of California has the highest number of homeless veterans in the United States.

It’s enough to make one wonder, “What in the hell is the matter with this country?”  The answer, of course, is “Freaking bureaucrats.”

Hat tip:  Major Paul Chapman, USMC (Retired)

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Mustang

Retired Marine, historian, writer.

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