27 June 2002
Banquet salutes 50 years of Special Forces
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Lambert
raise a glass for a toast during the
50th Anniversary Banquet.
Staff photo by Ethan Hyman
The Special Forces banquet Saturday at the Crown Expo Center celebrated the unit’s 50th anniversary.
It also was a family reunion.
About 2,000 Special Forces members, current and retired, and their guests attended the event.
Members of the Special Forces paid tribute to retired Col. Aaron Bank, who activated and commanded the first Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg in 1952.
Bank, who is 99, began the Special Forces with seven men, said Jimmy Dean, a member of the Special Forces Association, which is composed of retired members of the unit.
“He had everything he wanted to instruct the training course in the trunk of his car,” Dean said. “And what a legacy this man has left.”
The group honored Bank with a video titled “Giant Oaks from Tiny Acorns Grow.” The video documents the formation of the Special Forces.
Catherine Bank said her husband had to fight for the special unit. It was a completely new concept, she said.
“It was not well received by the traditional Army authority,” she said. “Finally, they were able to make it possible to start the Special Forces. It’s now 50 years old and is going stronger than ever.”
President Bush, who addressed the group via video, commended members of the Special Forces for their heroism and congratulated the unit on its anniversary.
Actress Bo Derek, who attended Saturday’s celebration, was honored with a green beret for her volunteer work helping disabled veterans.
“It’s obviously the most meaningful award I will ever receive,” she said.
Godfrey Godfrey of Sanford served 12 years with the 7th Group Special Forces. Godfrey was honored to be among some of the unit’s original members.
“It’s great to finally meet these guys,” Godfrey said. “They are the guys that started this thing, which has evolved to what is here today. They are heroes.”
He described Special Forces as a “family business.”
“This is a big old family gathering,” he said.
It was truly a family affair for Jim Santos, a retired command sergeant major for the 10th Group Special Forces. He attended the event with his son and grandson, both active members in the association.
“We have already gotten a lead on the fact that my great grandson is also planning to join the Army and the Special Forces, so in years to come we will have four generations of Special Forces,” he said.
Santos, who is 76, couldn’t imagine missing the event. He traveled from Hawaii.
“This was something that was only going to come once in my lifetime,” he said.
Santos served 27 years with the Special Forces. He was looking for challenge, he said.
“I didn’t like the idea of jumping out of airplanes, but after a few times it became second nature,” he said. “Special Forces was the next best thing to sex and white bread.”
By Venita Jenkins, The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer
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