by Al Lock
In 1982 I was a Lieutenant at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, while serving as an Infantry Platoon Leader in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. One evening while relaxing in my room, I received a call from the Staff Duty NCO in my company. Soldiers from our company had gone to a bar off- post, and one had called to find a ride back. Though they weren’t from my platoon, I said I’d go. I climbed into my Jeep, drove to the bar, and got the private who needed a ride.
Driving back on a dark state highway, we came upon an unmarked turn with downed wires across it. The jeep overturned and we were thrown out. Civilians in a nearby house called an ambulance, which took us to Ft. Campbell Army hospital. The duty NCO was informed. The private had minor injuries, but I had skidded down the road and my upper body, face and arms were covered by extensive friction burns.
In the emergency room, an army nurse cleaned an open wound I had over one eye. As she worked, Sergeant First Class Booker T. Dailey stuck his head in. Sergeant Dailey was Platoon Sergeant for the private I’d driven. As we spoke, a doctor came in, gave me a brief exam, then told the nurse: “Don’t worry about him, he’ll die of shock,” and left the room.
Never had I seen SFC Dailey so angry. He asked the nurse where he could find the hospital commander, stormed off and returned with a Colonel. The Colonel spoke with the nurse and me, then left. He quickly returned with several people, and gave rapid orders for care of my burns.
Many people worry about their career, their own responsibilities, about not rocking the boat. SFC Dailey took action to correct a wrong, without a thought to the consequences for himself. He likely saved my life. My Company Commander didn’t visit that night (he came the next day), and my Battalion Commander never showed up. Yet a man who had no official obligation to me did his duty — and beyond. SFC Dailey returned several times to visit, and even called my parents.
I learned a lot that day about being a human being and a soldier. I learned to do the right thing when other people need help without worrying about what people think, or if it will affect me. I learned to be willing to stand up for what I think is right. SFC Dailey wasn’t intimidated by that Captain, or by seeking out a Colonel. Never again will I let myself be intimidated.
I learned that anyone can help anyone else, regardless of status or the other ways we use to differentiate people. SFC Dailey was a professional soldier, but more importantly, an ethical and concerned person. It is people like him that we need in our Armed Forces, our country, and our lives. Booker T. Dailey is the kind of person we need to strive to be.