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Remembering Ben ‘Buster’ Taylor




To the Editor:

On January 4, 2008, it was my privilege and honor to witness the burial of CSM (R) Ben “Buster” Taylor in plot 64 of Arlington National Cemetery. It was clear, cold, windy day unable to shake or quiver the professionalism of the soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry (the Old Guard) and the Masons that helped to lay to rest Ben Buster.

As I stood there, I wondered if the citizens of Letcher County realized what a tremendous loss to our nation the passing of Ben Taylor was.

Around me were men Ben had served with in the fields of Vietnam. I wondered what stories they could tell about the experience of serving with “Jake”. Ben told me the first time I met him in the old Whitesburg Post Office (former site of the Letcher County Veterans Museum) that his nickname when he was a soldier was “Jake.”

Ben was in the first U.S. Army unit designated as a Special Forces unit. Special Forces are often the first in and last out. They operate in 12-man teams working with indigenous forces trying to mold and shape U.S. foreign policy. Their tasks are thankless and their motto is “de oppresso liber” – free from oppression. They are the silent warriors that protect our nation and its way of life. Ben was one of the founding members of this elite group of warriors that today serve across the world helping to liberate from oppression.

As many folks in Letcher County know, Ben was selected to be the Army Special Forces representative to help escort President Kennedy’s caisson from the U.S. Capitol building to its interment. In the visitor center of Arlington National Cemetery is a picture of President Kennedy’s casket (on the caisson) with members of the Department of Defense escorting it. If you look real close, you can see a Green Beret (Ben “Buster” Taylor). In an organization of so many special people (all volunteers), what kind of man is selected to represent a unique breed of warrior? What kind of soldier represents those silent professionals is arguably one of the greatest moments of grief in our nation’s history – the funeral of President John F. Kennedy? The answer is Ben “Buster” Taylor.

Ben went on to achieve the rank of command sergeant major (CSM), the highest enlisted rank a soldier can achieve. In order to achieve that rank he was promoted nine times. In order for an officer to be promoted nine times he/she would have to achieve the rank of lieutenant general. How many people get promoted nine times in their job? Ben “Buster” was a silent war- rior and his career as a soldier epitomized those special and unique abilities required for success as a Special Forces professional.

I only met Ben twice (both times in Whitesburg). He was older and did not move as fast as he once did, but his eyes were intense and focused. He was a soldier that served four tours in Vietnam and one in Korea. Five years away from his beloved eastern Kentucky in a 22-year career.

I have served in four wars (Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom) and I know what a soldier looks and acts like. I have led men into combat and seen what men must do in war. I was humbled to be in his presence. Only time and cancer could do what no man was able to do to this silent warrior – defeat his body.

Our nation is lesser because of his loss. I only hope there is some young man or woman in the hills of eastern Kentucky that will pick up the torch of freedom that Ben “Buster” so courageously carried.

My greatest fear is when my day of reckoning comes and I meet my maker, I see CSM Ben “Buster” Taylor guarding the pearly gates. Before I can get to see God and stand before the book of life, I must pass through Ben “Buster”. I only hope my life as a soldier and a man can stand up to the scrutiny of a Special Forces soldier that lived, loved and served our nation as honorably and courageously as he did.

Ben “Buster”, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

G.D. GUTHRIE Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Army


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