Wednesday, April 18, 2018

RIP - Legendary Green Beret Iron Mike Healy has crossed over

Maj. Gen. Michael D. Healy, 91, died Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida, according to officials. The general served in the military for 35 years, spending much of his career at Fort Bragg. A native of Chicago, Healy enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 at the end of World War II.

When he retired in 1981, Maj. Gen. Healy was the nation’s most senior Special Forces soldier. He was a veteran of wars in Korea and Vietnam, with his service in the latter spanning a decade and ending with him overseeing the withdrawal of troops from the country. And he was the inspiration for John Wayne’s character, “Col. Iron Mike Kirby,” in the 1968 film “The Green Berets.”

Maj. Gen. Healy is also a former commander of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg. On Tuesday, the current commanding general of SWCS said Maj. Gen. Healy left an indelible mark on the organization. “Maj. Gen. Mike Healy is a true Special Forces legend, not only for his actions during war, but for his leadership and vision during a pivotal time in the Regiment’s history,” said Maj. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag. “As the commander of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, then called the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Center for Military Assistance, he streamlined training, and aligned it to deal with modern threats. During his tenure, he solidified the role and value of Army Special Operations to the Army and the Nation.” “We owe a debt of gratitude to him for his vision, leadership, and for the professionalism he brought to the force,” Maj. Gen. Sonntag added. “His passing is truly a loss that we all feel, and we’re keeping his loved ones are in our thoughts.”

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Cliff Newman, executive director of the Special Forces Association headquartered in Fayetteville, said Maj. Gen. Healy’s legacy would not be forgotten in the close-knit Special Forces community. “He was one of the first Americans to go into Vietnam and one of the last to leave,” he said. Newman said he was fortunate to meet Maj. Gen. Healy - “He just did some amazing things,” he said. “He was just an icon in Special Forces. Everyone knew who he was and he was just a presence — you knew you were talking to somebody who was somebody.”

Maj. Gen. Healy earned the nickname “Iron Mike” while serving as a young officer leading Army Rangers on combat patrols deep behind enemy lines in Korea in the early 1950s. According to the SWCS, then-Lt. Healy was commander of the 4th Airborne Ranger Company during an airborne operation at Munsan-Ni in South Korea. When a platoon under his command was pinned down and under heavy fire, he and four others weaved their way through trenches to hold the high ground until reinforcements arrived.

The nickname would follow Maj. Gen. Healy throughout his career, including during five tours — nearly eight years in all — in Vietnam.

Maj. Gen. Healy's numerous awards and decorations include: Combat Infantry Badge (two awards), Distinguished Service Medal (2 OLC), Silver Star (1 OLC), Legion of Merit (2 OLC), Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with "V" (Valor) Device (5 OLC), Air Medal with "V" Device (4 OLC), Army Commendation Medal (1 OLC), Navy Commendation Medal with "V" Device, Purple Heart Medal (1 OLC), twelve Decorations of Republic of Vietnam. He received Parachute badges from Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Korea, Iran and Pakistan, as well as a Master Parachutist Badge from the U.S. Army. He is also a member of the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame. Special Forces Association Chapter 37 in Chicago is named in Maj. Gen. Healy’s honor.

Maj. Gen. Healy is survived by his wife of 67 years, Jacklyn, and their sons Michael Jr., Daniel, Timothy, Sean, Kirk and Patrick. He also has 10 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. His son, Sean, told the Florida Times-Union that he enjoyed hearing others speak of his father. “I would talk to people, and especially if they brought something up about the military, I would ask them if they had heard of Iron Mike,” Mr. Sean Healy said. “If they knew who that was I would let them go on for a while, and then I would say ‘that’s my dad.’”

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