The Journey Continues: Sergeant Luster

My journey this week isMoving towards Veterans Day, I want to share with you Sergeant Luster’s journey, a very special combat story. He deployed to Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii in January 1966, and remained in the same rifle company until he rotated to the United States one year later.

Luster was a solid squad leader in my platoon. I was surprised when he was suddenly summoned with urgency by the battalion commander to the company command post. I went with him. A life-force story unfolded. The battalion commander explained to Luster that his mother in Chicago had been erroneously notified of his death in combat (KIA) by an official SAO (Survivor Assistance Officer). Details were scant, but it appeared that another serviceman from Chicago with the same name, rank, and only one-digit difference in their service numbers was the actual casualty.

To make up for the mistake, the commander offered an immediate one-month free leave to the U.S.A.! There was a long pause, then Sergeant Luster replied, “No thanks, I will stay here with my rifle squad, they need me.” Small-unit leadership at its best. Imagine how the members of his squad felt upon hearing of their importance.

Why do men fight and endure combat conditions? This subject has been studied for years by historians and sociologists. Brig. General SLA Marshall’s statement in “Men Against Fire” said: “I hold it to be one of the simplest truths of war that the thing which enables an infantry soldier to keep going with his weapons is the near presence or the presumed presence of a comrade.”

Luster just could not stand the thought of his squad members risking their lives without him. He did this because of a special kind of love. John 15:13 says “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The NIV Life Application Bible’s commentary footnote says “We are to love each other as Jesus loved us, and he loved us enough to give his life for us. We may not have to die for someone, but there are other ways to practice sacrificial love: listening, helping, encouraging, giving. Think of someone who needs this kind of love today. Give all the love you can, and then try to give a little more.”

This memory is very important to my journey because the rifle squad members consisted of primarily Anglo-Americans and Sergeant Luster was an African-American.

San Marcos Daily Record

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