Sgt. Major conveys values learned in Special Forces to MCHS students
November 12, 2011
Robbie, a 23-year-old Green Beret, was serving in eastern Afganistan during the snowy month of January. He was the lead man on patrol with Special Forces A-Team.
As Robbie and his team walked through a valley, Taliban terrorists suddenly opened fire on three sides.
Robbie's captain was immediately hit in the chest. His lungs collapsed and he was unable to direct orders over his radio.
Robbie, realizing his team was about to be surrounded, pressed forward and engaged the enemy. Robbie was shot, but he kept fighting. He was shot again before running out of ammunition for his rifle.
Robbie fell to his knees, pulled out his 9 mm pistol and continued to fire until his clip was empty. He was shot two more times.
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Robbie began to throw grenade after grenade at the terrorists until their will to fight was broken and they retreated.
After the fight, Robbie slumped over and passed away.
He was surrounded by 32 dead Taliban soldiers, yet everyone in Robbie's unit survived, including his wounded captain.
Sgt. Major Dwight Utley, the featured speaker during a Veterans Day commemoration event hosted by Moffat County High School, told students stories like Robbie's as examples of how to be a better person by knowing who you are and, more importantly, whose you are.
"You see, Robbie knew who he was and knew whose he was," Utley said. "Who Robbie was, he was a Green Beret, a devout Catholic and a steady teammate. Whose he was, he was a valued member of that team."
Although values like the ones portrayed in Robbie's story aren't solely taught in the military, Utley believes it was because of his decision to serve that he found himself on a similar path.
"Today I'd like to share with you a few simple thoughts that I believe embody those values," Utley said. "I think they will help you in your journey to identify your strengths and your weaknesses, to become a better person and God willing, maybe become a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine."
Utley told MCHS students the road to being a good person and enjoying life begins with knowing who you are.
"This is my challenge to you, the Class of 2012, 2013 and 2014, evaluate yourself mentally, physically and spiritually," Utley said. "Start with the easy stuff. If you use tobacco, quit. If you don't exercise, start. If you eat more potato chips than you do fresh fruits and vegetables, then go on a diet.
"And by the way, Skittles are not fruit."
Part of evaluating yourself physically, Utley said, means assessing your appearance as well.
"Gentlemen, if your underwear is showing while you're wearing your pants, guess what? Your pants don't fit," Utley said. "You might think it's trendy or fashionable to wear pants that don't fit, but all you're telling the world is you don't know how to buy pants."
Utley said, however important, evaluating yourself mentally goes beyond grades.
"If you're sitting at home playing 'Grand Theft Auto,' but you've never read 'The Grapes of Wrath' or 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' turn off the Xbox," Utley said. "Read some classics.
"Broaden your horizons. If you're a male, learn how to sew and cook. If you're a female, learn how to change a tire."
After you've defined who you are, it's time to identify whose you are, Utley said. That means identifying the people in your life you depend on and those who depend on you.
"If you are a mother or a father, are you creating an environment at home that is loving, caring and nurturing," Utley said. "If you're a boyfriend, are you treating your girlfriend with the dignity and respect she deserves and if you're a girlfriend, would your family be proud of the way you conduct yourself."
Utley said these are the questions he has asked himself and some of the values he has learned through service. Robbie, Utley said, was a man who embraced those same values.
A couple of years after the battle in the mountains of Afganistan, Robbie received the country's highest military distinction for his sacrifice and selfless dedication to the people he depended on and those who depended on him, Utley said.
"Robbie was (posthumously) awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor two years later," Utley said. "He continues to be a tremendous source of pride for his family and seven younger brothers because of his selfless dedication to his team and his country."