101st Airborne’s Sergeant Major Stan Parker tells a great story about meeting the smallest soldier, Green Beret Captain Richard Flaherty.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting then 2nd Lt Richard J. Flaherty back in early to mid-October 1967 at Ft Campbell, KY. I would like to provide to you the info of what a remarkable man that Lt Flaherty was and my highly regarded first impression that he made on me, not just once but also on several occasions thereafter.
That particular early morning of my first encounter with 2nd Lt Flaherty in Oct 1967 while myself and another 600 plus paratroopers of the 1st Bn (Abn) 501st Inf (101st Abn Div) were all rigged up ready to make a parachute jump on one of the many DZ’s (Drop Zone’s) located on Ft Campbell.
I was a young PFC (Private First Class) assigned to Recon plt of Echo Company, 1/501. Recon platoon was already at the paratroop loading area of Ft Campbell Army Airfield within Ft Campbell proper. All of the jumpers/sticks in Echo Company were rigged and sitting waiting to board one of the half dozen C-141 Starlifter jet aircraft parked nearby. Shortly after Recon arrival more sticks of endless lines of jumpers came walking penguin style from being loaded down with 150 to 200lbs of parachute and equipment. Penguin walking in parachute harness and equipment was the only mode of movement toward one or more of the various C-141 aircraft sitting already prepped for jumpers close by.
One of the jumpers (Lt Flaherty) waddling by Recon plt immediately caught the eyes of all those who did not know of his existence within the battalion due to his tiny size. My immediate thought was that he must be the son of an NCO mixed in to make an unapproved, unauthorized jump with us.
Immediately the one loudmouth within the ranks of Recon plt started to heckle, insult, belittle the small boy’ish figure. I immediately told the arrogant Recon individual to shut his loud insulting mouth or I would shout it for him as I slowly trudged to my feet and sluggishly penguin walked in full jump gear toward the discourteous Recon individual. Suddenly from out of nowhere a stern, authoritative, commanding male voice appeared to come from the extremely small waddling jumper directed toward me.
The soon to be identified, Lt Flaherty yelled! “PFC, jumper moving to address the out of line despicable jumper stand fast” as he extended his left arm out into my path to block my movement and stated! “I will handle this unruly, unprofessional military situation.” The boy’ish figure stopped his penguin waddle directly above the sitting distasteful Recon trooper. The totally self-composed little individual pulled his right collar from beneath his parachute harness, exposing a surprisingly butter bar rank of a 2nd Lt. The youthful, but commanding voice then instructed the obnoxious Recon individual to get to his feet and assume the position of attention. With eyes of piercing authority and a well-regulated voice of controlled demeanor for all ears within a 25ft radius to hear.
2nd Lt Flaherty ripped the insubordinate Recon individual a new butthole, never once using a curse word or improper personal insulting word toward the soldier. Then Lt Flaherty in a very professional officer attitude ordered the obnoxious trooper to stay at the position of attention until time to board his jump aircraft then directed his attention toward me and stated. “PFC,” with a pause. I quickly said Parker, sir, PFC Parker. Lt Flaherty then said, “PFC Parker, you should be a buck sergeant not a PFC, objecting and attempting to stop the insulting unethical situation from escalating into a UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) situation. Lt Flaherty then thanked me, I saluted him, he returned the salute turned and waddled over to his nearby stick of jumpers. All of whom were smiling ear to ear in total approval of the short boy’ish Lieutenant of being “their” platoon leader. -Stan Parker.
To learn more about the smallest man to ever serve in the US military 4′ 9″ 97lb Green Beret Captain Richard J. Flaherty – Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars, & 2 Purple Hearts please check out, “The Giant Killer” book available as a Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook on Amazon.