24 June 2002
Special Forces ‘father’ returns home after celebration
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey C. Lambert watched the Lear jet taxi onto the runway at Fayetteville Regional Airport Sunday morning.
Maj. General Geoffrey C. Lambert, left, watches on Sunday morning as retired Col. Aaron Bank walks toward the Lear jet that will take him home.
His eyes told the story.
Staff photo by Ethan Hyman
Onboard was retired Col. Aaron Bank, the “Father of Special Forces.”
Lambert, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Forces Command, took a moment to watch the plane depart.
“I’m sad that this might be his last visit, so we did our very best to make it a great one,” Lambert said, his face breaking into a smile.
Bank, who is 99, activated and commanded the first Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg. Bank, with his wife, Catherine, and his daughter, Sandy Elliott, returned home to Mission Viejo, Calif., Sunday morning. The family was in Fayetteville to attend a celebration honoring the 50th anniversary of the Special Forces.
“Everyone was so nice, and everything was so well-organized,” Catherine Bank said before boarding the plane.
“It was a very emotional trip.”
There was little fanfare at the Piedmont-Hawthorne building Sunday morning. Bank and his family arrived in a green minivan; the driver pulled onto the tarmac and to the plane.
Bank, who was riding in the front seat, was greeted by escorts from the 10th Special Forces Unit in Colorado.
Lambert spoke to Bank, then shook his hand. Bank wore a white baseball cap that carried a “Special Forces 50th Anniversary” monogram.
“This is one of those moments in a career that you have to treasure,” Lambert said before Bank arrived. “He got to the 50th, and we got to honor him.”
Lambert said Bank attended the 50th anniversary celebration of the 10th Special Forces unit in Colorado last week.
One more mission
Bank had said he had one more mission to complete -- celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Special Forces.
Bank, who entered the Army in 1939, volunteered for the Office of Strategic Services in 1943. After World War II, Bank began working to create the special unit.
Bank became commander of the unit, composed of eight hand-picked men, June 19, 1952, at Fort Bragg.
“He had the vision, when they took OSS and took it apart after World War II ... to realize they needed to bring it back to the Army,” Lambert said.
“He’s been an advocate, a proponent of unconventional warfare. He never really left us. He’s an icon,” Lambert said.
By Nancy McCleary, The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer
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