Schwarzkopf Weeps as He Relinquishes His Command
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf cried Friday as he relinquished command of the forces he led to war, telling his troops, “I shall always love you and will never, ever, ever forget you.”
Schwarzkopf handed over the reins of the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base amid the pomp of a 19-gun salute, a final troop inspection and the jangled strains of “Auld Lang Syne.”
“Old war horses like me look behind me and see the magnificent leaders ready to move up and take his place,” said the 56-year-old Schwarzkopf, who wiped tears from his eyes several times. “He leaves thankful that he has had the honor and privilege of serving his country.”
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined dozens of Persian Gulf princes, sheiks and ambassadors, some in Arab headdresses, who flew in for the flag-waving tribute in a line of sleek white jets.
“In a crisis, just one man can make a difference. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was such a man,” said Cheney, who pinned Distinguished Service Medals from the military branches on a general whom few civilians had heard of before the war.
“The whole world knows you now,” Powell added. “They know you because of the story of victory and courage you have written in the sand, skies and sea of the Persian Gulf. They are now secure because of your determination and your sacrifice.”
Schwarzkopf, clad in desert camouflage fatigues, praised the more than 100 Central Command staff members who stood at attention on the sweltering Tarmac before him. Some wavered and were overcome by the 91-degree heat.
“A lot has been made of what Schwarzkopf has done, but Schwarzkopf didn’t do it,” Schwarzkopf said. “Many are stepping forward today taking credit for what you did, but you know what you did--you made history.”
The band from the 24th Infantry Division of Ft. Stewart, Ga., a unit that Schwarzkopf once commanded, ended the tribute with the general’s favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace,” and a familiar Gen. Douglas MacArthur theme--"Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”
It marked only the latest tribute for the Gulf War hero since his return in April. He has been showered by a New York ticker tape parade, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, pinned with the Medal of Freedom, honored by a joint session of Congress and signed to a reported $5-million book deal.
The four-star general has hired an agent to sort out the job offers and possible political opportunities that await him when he retires at the end of the month.
It will close an Army career that began at West Point and ranged from battalion commander in Vietnam to architect of the 100-hour lightning ground assault that vanquished Iraq. His public profile grew during his televised briefings from Saudi Arabia, where his combination of wit and will to win was beamed to millions.
Taking over as Central Command commander in chief is Lt. Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, the deputy chief of staff for plans, policies and operations for the Marine Corps.