The Mel Gibson movie, We Were
, is one of my favourite movies of all-time, with strong themes of
leadership and courage. An example is Colonel Hal Moore’s stunning speech just before the
young soldiers ship out under his command?
I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home
alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go
into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the
last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all
come home together. So help me, God.[1]
Then there is his prayer with a soldier who is a new dad and is questioning
how he can be a soldier and a father at the same time.
Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: Our Father in Heaven, before we go into
battle, every soldier among us will approach you each in his own way. Our
enemies too, according to their own understanding, will ask for protection and
for victory. And so, we bow before your infinite wisdom. We offer our prayers
as best we can. I pray you watch over the young men, like Jack Geoghegan, that
I lead into battle. You use me as your instrument in this awful hell of war to
watch over them. Especially if they’re men like this one beside me, deserving
of a future in your blessing and goodwill. Amen.
2nd Lieutenant Jack Geoghegan:
Lt. Colonel Hal Moore:
Oh, yes, and one more thing, dear Lord, about our enemies, ignore their heathen
prayers and help us blow those little bastards straight to Hell. Amen.[2]
Yet, some of the most touching scenes, that continue to bring tears to my
eyes, are delivered by Madeline Stowe who plays Hal Moore’s wife, Julie. The scenes give insight into the method of delivery of news of the
deaths of soldiers and the impact on the wives who live on the army base. Mrs. Moore is both
critical of how the army communicates the news and sympathetic to those who
must do this task. Regarding the preparation of the bureaucrats, for the sheer
volume of death telegrams that had to be delivered, she says, “Nobody expected
this. The Army was as stunned as everybody.”
In one of the scenes we see Moore’s
wife at the Fort Benning base watching a Yellow Taxi arrive at the home of her
neighbour. She finds the new widow sobbing and angry that the news had been
delivered by taxi – no chaplain, no officer – just a cab driver who didn’t want
to be there, but had to do his job.[3] Next, Julie Moore sees a taxi arrive at her own door, and fears that it is news
of her own husband’s death, only to learn that the driver is lost and needs an
address. The following dialogue recounts the emotion of the moment.
Driver[removes his hat] Mrs.
Moore? Colonel Moore’s wife?
: Yes.
Driver: I need help finding an address. I’m looking
for —
Julie: You JACKASS! Do you know what this is?! Do
you know what you just did to me?!
driver sheepishly walks toward his cab, but stops at the curb.]
Driver: I-I don’t like this job, Ma’am. I’m just
trying to do it. [continues toward cab]
Julie: Wait. Wait! [runs to the cab] I’ll
take it to her. [she takes the telegram] And tell the cab
company if there are any others, just bring them to me.[4]
Following this, many
more telegrams arrive and Moore and another soldier’s wife walk each one to the
designated wife. With tears in their eyes and arms that shakily reach out to
console, the two do the best they can to remain strong and help the women
understand their losses.
The movie pulls no
punches as it shows the horror of the battle that occurred at Ia Drang, Central
Highlands, Vietnam on November 14 and 18, 1965. For several terrifying
hours the U.S. Helicopter Cavalry was seriously outgunned and over-run by the
enemy. At least 559 Americans were killed and more than 1000 Vietnamese
soldiers died. The movie tells the story in a way that is gripping and at
points humorous.
There is a touching and
comedic scene in which Colonel Hal Moore is encouraging his children to say a liturgical,
Catholic prayer while one of his little charges resists the familiar prayer in
preference for “praying whatever she wants to pray.” She tells her father, “I
don’t wanna be Catholic. I wanna be nefodist (Methodist) like Mommy so I can
pray whatever I want.” Moore responds by telling her “that’s alright, that
just means that God made you hard-headed.”
If anyone is
“hard-headed” it is certainly Colonel Moore. He is true to his word and, as he
promised, he is the “first to set foot
on the field, and . . . the last to step off.” May God grant us real leaders
who live up to this larger than life soldier and commander.


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