In 1966, a new song topped the billboard charts, The Ballad of the Green Berets. It would remain No. 1 for five weeks and went on to become the Billboard single of the year. The song, written and recorded by Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, honored a fellow Green Beret and Vietnam veteran, James Gabriel Jr. Gabriel was the first Hawaiian serviceman to be killed in Vietnam.
This song is still a respected tribute to the Army’s elite soldiers. Often played at events, memorials and funerals, the lyrics are a reminder of the sacrifice made by members of the Special Forces. The last verse is especially moving:
“Back home young wife waits
Her Green Beret has met his fate
He has died for those oppressed
Leaving her his last request.
Put silver wings upon my son’s chest.
Make him one of America’s best
He’ll be a man, they’ll test one day.
Have him win the Green Beret.”
These lyrics mirrored the sacrifice of James Gabriel Jr., who died while his wife was six months pregnant. His sister now honors his sacrifice by sharing his story and by honoring other native Hawaiian soldiers who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. She contributes to the Call for Photos project, which aims to put a photo and story to the 58,000-plus names engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Her work was to gather more than 276 photos of Hawaiian soldiers who died in the war. This dedication helped Hawaii become the eighth state to collect all of the photos for their section of the Call for Photos project. Her work was done in the memory of her brother.
For the families of our Green Berets, the sacrifice doesn’t end when their service is over. The memory of the time away or the loss of a loved one during service, never goes away. That’s why honoring their memories and helping their families is so important. We at the Special Forces Trust focus our efforts on three initiatives:
• Family and Community
• Education and Motivation
• Veterans and Heritage
Each of these areas is so important to the families of our Green Berets. When you donate to The Special Forces Charitable Trust, you are helping to keep the legacy of the Green Berets and the sacrifices they and their families have made — and continue to make — alive. Review our website and learn how you can help today.