Today we sit down with two-time Purple Heart recipient Doug Greenlaw, a decorated Vietnam veteran who is commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. It’s an organization exclusively made up of Purple Heart recipients that supports veterans and their families across America.
We explore Doug’s personal story, how he got his Purple Hearts, the history of the Purple Heart medal, stories of valor, the realities of war, the draft, and post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.
Jan Jekielek: It’s particularly appropriate that you’re here. It’s actually our Memorial Day show today. And you are the commander of the Military Order of the Purple Hearts.
Doug Greenlaw: That’s correct.
Mr. Jekielek: And that’s a large number of people in this country that are members, right?
Mr. Greenlaw: Well, there are 500,000 combat wounded Purple Heart recipients in America. We have about 10 percent in the actual order itself. So it’d be about 50,000. But we were the lead advocate for everybody, for all of the combat wounded veterans. I didn’t want to mislead you to think that we had a 500,000 base. We don’t, it’s 50 [thousand], but we are the lead advocate.
Mr. Jekielek: So tell me a little bit more about the Purple Heart. That’s basically anyone who’s been combat wounded by the enemy receives a Purple Heart.
Mr. Greenlaw: Yes. It has to be proven. There’s a release form when you leave the military called the DD Form 214–every soldier has one. Every veteran has one. And if you can prove that you have a Purple Heart, you can join. So we’re 100 percent full of Purple Heart combat wounded veterans. And the Purple Heart medal itself, which this is my actual Purple Hearts–
Mr. Jekielek: I’m going to have to ask you about how you got that at one point, but please continue.
Mr. Greenlaw: I’d be happy to share that with you. We encourage combat vets to talk about it. It’s cathartic, and it’s good for them to get it out. This is a Purple Heart medal. I have a gold leaf cluster on it which means two–one, two. So I’ve got two of them. I was wounded twice in the Vietnam War in 1967, 1968. And the medal itself is the oldest medal in U.S. history, and I think is one of the most beautiful. It’s a beautiful medal. People comment on it even if they don’t know what it is. So it was founded by and created by General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. That’s how far back it goes. It started out for heroism in combat, and it’s evolved over the years to be a killed or combat wounded. So nobody aspires to get a Purple Heart. You don’t get up in the morning and say: Boy, I hope I get a Purple Heart today because you could be killed and get one too.
And so it’s a very serious, honorable medal and beautiful medal. No one wants one and I hope we never give out another one in our country’s history. But history follows, you know, so we probably will, unfortunately.
Mr. Jekielek: So you came to my attention, actually, you were here for Fleet Week last week. And can you tell me a little bit about why you were here?
Mr. Greenlaw: Yeah, Fleet Week … We have a nonprofit here called the Dolphin Fund. And they had the idea of supporting the military order, the Purple Heart by having this event. It was actually yesterday as the ships turn into New York Harbor–the parade of ships–I expected a parade of ships, you know, like the elephants, one right after another.
I didn’t realize these big ships need one mile between themselves just to give them room for maneuvering or whatever they have to do. So we were down there yesterday morning at the Battery Point at a venue where the ships passed us by and we had executives from the banks around the city and individuals and Purple Heart recipients there. It was quite an event, especially if you’re a navy veteran. They really loved it, and we did too. And now, tonight, I guess Jimmy Fallon is going to have the whole audience packed on The Tonight Show with sailors in white. So it’ll be quite an event.
Mr. Jekielek: Fantastic. And so I was reading that the Dolphin Fund is part of the Wealth and Values Initiative?
Mr. Greenlaw: Wealth and Values Initiative is a money management company–basically manages high net worth individuals and high net worth families to do something, to take their fortunes, pivot and do something good with it. And it’s a very, very solid organization, and I’m very happy to be associated with them. The Dolphin Fund is one of their nonprofit companies where they do these nonprofit fundraisers or speaking for the nonprofit world for the families.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, fantastic. I’m glad they were able to bring you here to New York to have this conversation.
Mr. Greenlaw: I’m happy to be here.
Mr. Jekielek: So tell me how did you get the Purple Heart? What happened? It’s been a few years.
Mr. Greenlaw: It has, it has, but you know, our wars never end in our heads. There’s a thing called PTSD. And I think every combat wounded veteran ever since the cavemen fought in the in the fields outside the cave till today through Afghanistan, we all have some type of PTSD. I have a very little bit, I mean, practically nothing. I grew up in a solid family. I was raised in the steel mill areas of East Chicago and Gary, Indiana, where the steel mills line like Michigan. And so we have a great sense for the combat wounded vets and their needs. And my PTSD coming from that solid environment is very small. I’ve seen people with PTSD so intense, they can’t even stand up. They fall over like a pillar frozen. And different, you know, drugs, alcohol, I mean, you can get into a lot of things with PTSD. … So we are out, our organization, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, we’re all out into every state in the union with service officers and local chapters where the rubber meets the road. And the service officers deal directly with the with the vets and any way that they have a need. For instance, if they need help with the venturing into the bureaucracy of the VA, our people know exactly how to do that smoothly. We have the highest percentage of return rate of any of the other service organizations. In 90 percent of the cases we take, we solve and return benefits to that individual. The others average about 60 percent. Now, maybe we’re a little easier, I don’t know, because we’re combat wounded, and we do get a little more attention. So, that’s what we do.
Mr. Jekielek: So that’s the purpose of the, you know, you said you have about one-tenth of the combat wounded.
Mr. Greenlaw: Ten percent. In 500,000 we’ve got about 50 [thousand]. So we’re a smaller organization. We’re not as big, but we’re a 100 percent combat wounded vets with Purple Heart recipients. We carry extra weight in legislative issues and on the Hill in D.C., and win the hearts and souls of America and everybody. My uncle has a Purple Heart, my grandfather has one, you know, my son just got back from Afghanistan, he has a Purple Heart. So we’re loved by the far left. We’re loved by the far right. Everybody loves the combat vets–maybe for different reasons. You know, the far left considers us victims of the war machine, but we’re not accountable for war. We were just the ones that are fighting. The far right thinks we’re warriors, you know, go. So in reality, we’re all somewhere in between.
Mr. Jekielek: And you exist, and I don’t know if all 50,000 members work for this purpose, but basically to support the rest, right?
Mr. Greenlaw: Yes. And there is a true blood brotherhood here. It’s real. It’s as real as PTSD. If I meet a combat wounded vet in the airport in Los Angeles within 30 seconds, and we don’t normally wear the medal, but there’s a little lapel pen, a purple lapel pin, tiny bar you can wear on your lapel, and if I spot one of those, I’ll walk right over to them. And they do the same with me. And there’s an instant bond. So we have a strong bond among our ourselves and with each other.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you feel, you know, there’s only some small percentage of people that have actually been, that even know people directly in their families and so forth that have been in combat or even been in the military. Do you feel there’s some kind of a disconnect with the rest of the country at all, people not understanding?
Mr. Greenlaw: Yeah, there is. It’s more of a … I wouldn’t say a moral disconnect. Like I said, everybody loves … how could you not like a guy that got wounded or a woman that got wounded–women get wounded too. So it’s not a moral issue. It’s more of just an informational issue. They don’t know what it really means and what happened. And there’s really a big curiosity factor there. And so we encourage our veterans to talk about their wounds. Not necessarily graphically, depending on who you’re talking to. If you and I are having a beer or something, I might get a little more graphic just to explain it to you. But in a general situation, like today or when I’m giving a speech, I evaluate the audience, and I sort of adjust to that because it’s extremely graphic when you … I can get as graphic as anybody wants to hear.
So I tend to sort of clean it up a little bit when I’m talking about general wounds because some of these wounds are very traumatic. You read in the New York Times, Afghanistan, there’s a roadside bomb, three were killed and 14 wounded. Well, you say, well, you know, it’s too bad for the three, but at least 14 lived and 14 are fine. Well, they’re not fine. They’re not fine at all. Some of them face the worst lives you can imagine with their, you know, their faces burned off from the explosion and missing arms and legs, but they’re still alive and they’re thankful for that. Their families are, too. But, still, sometimes it’s not much of a life. It’s a life, but it’s a different life. From one second to the next it changes, you know, 180 degrees. So it’s something we deal with on a daily basis.
Mr. Jekielek: Wow. So do tell me about your particular story of the Purple Heart, but let’s do the intermediate version, you know.
Mr. Greenlaw: OK. I will do that. My first wound cannot be graphic. I mean, I was a infantry platoon leader, first lieutenant. I had 50 men in my platoon. And we ran a good platoon. And I used to go out with my men, and I wouldn’t ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do or haven’t done. I’d go out on patrols with them or ambushes or whatever we decided to do there or whatever I decided to do that night, always at night. But during the day we patrolled as a platoon. At night we would send out, you know, squads or teams. So we had a situation where we flew around in helicopters. So we do combat assaults in helicopters. Instead of airborne, we were just in these helicopters.
You can’t jump into the jungle. So we would fly in. And my platoon was the first platoon in the lead. And my job was with our platoon was to secure the area for the other helicopters that come in, and we would pop green smoke if it was secure and safe, we’d pop red smoke if it wasn’t secure. Well, they made a mistake. The helicopter pilots … we had seven helicopters carrying my platoon, but, you know, five to seven combat guys in each helicopter. Flew in. They made a mistake and landed us about a thousand yards farther than they were supposed to. They landed us in the middle of a North Vietnamese battalion of about 400. So we are immediately target practice and overrun by a North Vietnamese regular troops, which are not Viet Cong. Viet Cong are the little farmers that go out at night and set booby traps or whatever.
This was an organized fighting force. So it took them five hours to get to us. So we had to survive for five hours. And my platoon … I don’t remember exactly how many were wounded, but just about everybody was killed or wounded when getting off the helicopters. And I jumped off and immediately was shot in the leg. Now, it wasn’t a serious wound. I mean at time I thought it was serious. It turned out to be not so serious, but it was behind my, behind my leg and the hamstring area. And so we fought for five hours, and I ended up bringing in four jets, phantom jets, to drop bombs on our own position, which it drove them away. And as they drove away another round of napalm came in. It was very ugly.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s just completely difficult to imagine for someone that hasn’t faced something like that.
Mr. Greenlaw: And I was the old man. I was 22 at that time … old man at 22. So that was my first wound. And I went back to the rear area and had some minor surgery and fix my leg and it healed in country. So when it healed I got a brigade-level promotion. In that first effort I got a Silver Star a Purple Heart. And then I got a brigade-level promotion to company commander. So there I was a 23-year-old now, I had birthday. A 23-year-old infantry company commander commanding 158 men and responsible for their lives. And it was a transformational experience. I had no idea what I was doing, but we learned fast. We ended up having a good company.
And, I, again, like I did as a platoon leader, I would go out on occasion on a, you know, on an ambush or a patrol. And I went out on a patrol one night, and we were in a bamboo forest. And I didn’t realize that, you know, bamboo trees get this big around, you know, ancient forest. We’re used to the fishing pole bamboo tree. So there was an artillery shell booby trapped with a trip wire, and it was about head high and it tripped it, you know, three in front of me were killed and one behind me. And I was wounded in the neck, the face, a compound fracture in my right leg, lost my left kneecap, and I had a piece of bamboo that nailed my left arm to my chest. I was a mess. They stopped the bleeding in my neck. When people die on the battlefield they usually don’t get shot dead. They bleed out.
Mr. Jekielek: They hit an artery or something like that.
Mr. Greenlaw: They just bleed out. Or even internally, it will bleed out. And you can’t save them fast enough. They actually got a good grip on my veins and arteries in my neck and kept me alive on the helicopter. It just happened to be a resupply helicopter coming in that evening. They threw me on a helicopter, sent me to a mass unit where they gave me the last race. I wasn’t gonna make it. So this Catholic priest gave me the last rites.
Mr. Jekielek: Unbelievable.
Mr. Greenlaw: And the ironic thing is–this is an interesting thing–my Officer Candidate School (OCS) roommate walked into the MASH tent to identify some bodies. He walked over to me–it’s a guy I knew intimately well, a great guy. He looked right at me and he said, “Boy, what happened to this guy? He didn’t even [recognize] …. it was all messy. So that retired me from, not only from Vietnam, but the army. So they sent me to Yokohama in Japan for plastic surgery on the face and the neck–
Mr. Jekielek: He did a fantastic job. I would never have guessed.
Mr. Greenlaw: Well, they give you a book. You can pick who you want. You want Rock Hudson? No, not really. They do an amazing job. And a general in the military operated on me, and he was doing some experimental things, you know, they learn a lot in wartime. They learn a lot about how to .. all these–
Mr. Jekielek: Put things back together.
Mr. Greenlaw: Complex cases they faced, you know. So, they gave me the last rites, and then finally a young doctor about my age, I thought, he said: I think this guy’s gonna make it. And that was nice to hear because I was totally aware of what was going on. Although they didn’t know it.
Mr. Jekielek:I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when you hear this kind of thing, right?
Mr. Greenlaw: Laugh, laugh. It’s almost like a dream, but except it was actually me. So they took me to the hospital, and the MASH unit just sort of ties you up and stops the bleeding. Put me on another helicopter to a hospital in Danang, a fairly good sized military hospital where they fixed my leg, reset my leg. They found my kneecap, they reattached that, and sort of put me together in a better sense. And they crated me up just like you would, you know, a FedEx. And they sent me to Yokohama, Japan, where I had additional plastic surgery and rehabilitation and I recovered there. And then the last three months, they ask where you’re from. And I said, I’m from the Chicago area. So they sent me to Fort Sheridan Hospital in the Chicago area, so I can be near my family to recuperate and finish my rehabilitation. So that’s it. And I’ve been happy and healthy ever since. I work out five days a week. I’m in good shape, I’m happy, and I’m doing the right thing with the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, so how is it that you ended up working with this group?
Mr. Greenlaw: Well, I was introduced to it in 1996. The Military Order was founded by Congress, actually chartered by Congress in 1932 to give recognition to World War I veterans. And then it evolved over the years to be for, you know, for combat wounded. And I think FDR came up with this modern design for World War II. And I was introduced by the Order by Senator Bob Dole who I helped during his … during his election run in 1996. He didn’t win, but, he introduced me to the Order. One day I was around him and I had my lapel pin in, not this, but the lapel pin.
And he said, “Hey, you a Purple Heart recipient?” I said, “Yes, sir.” And he said, “You should join the Military Order of the Purple Heart.” And I said, “What’s that?” And he explained it to me, and I joined, and I’ve been there together with them since ’96. I founded a chapter. So I know all about the chapter level is really important. And then I ran for state commander of South Carolina and got elected to that and served my term there. And then I ran for national commander last year in ’18 and won. So my tour, it’s only a one-year tour. It’ll be up this July.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s an elected position. That’s very interesting.
Mr. Greenlaw: It is. The body of the Order elects … caucuses, it’s like real politics. You caucus, you vote. And so, but we don’t get nasty like they do in Washington, D.C. We just talk about our ethics and our ability to do the job, and hopefully they pick the right guy every time, every year.
Mr. Jekielek: So, Doug, you were mentioning how a big part of what the Military Order of the Purple Heart does is work with the VA. And so, you know, we’ve known for years the VA was in big need of reform, veterans weren’t getting the service they needed. How are things today?
Mr. Greenlaw: I’m not an expert on VA, but I do know it from the grassroots level. The vets get excellent treatment. Excellent. My residence is in the northern part of South Carolina called the Upstate. We have a brand new 78,000-square-foot clinic there that covers everything–audiology to pharmacy to … they assign you a doctor and they’re easy to get to, very responsive and do excellent work. And it doesn’t cost a vet a penny and they run 850 to 900 veterans a day through that clinic. They crank them in. Yeah. And every age you can imagine from Afghan vets to Korea vets, there aren’t many World War II vets left. So I think it’s sort of like the Military Order of the Purple Heart. You can find problems with the leadership and politics and all that.
When you get down to our service officer programs, it’s really well run. And it’s the same with the VA in my opinion. I don’t have a lot of experience. Charles Eagleson does–the fellow we’re going to talk about in a minute. He has got a lot of experience with the VA hospital system, and they’ve treated him fine. I will say combat wounded vets, Purple Heart recipients get a little, special attention. I don’t know that we should, but we do. And so maybe I’m a little prejudice, but, and I’m sure a big organization like that has many problems they deal with on a daily basis. But I’d say that, overall, they’re doing a pretty doggone good job. That’s what I would say.
Mr. Jekielek: So, Doug, you mentioned PTSD and how basically anyone wounded in combat will suffer some element of it, maybe light to extremely heavy. What are some cases that you’re aware of?
Mr. Greenlaw: Let’s take my case to start with. A very small part of me has PTSD. I might have a sweaty dream once in awhile. I don’t have any flashbacks. I don’t have any nerve issues. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I might have a beer with you or something. That’s about all I do. And I’ll nurse the same beer all night. So I don’t have any bad habits. I work out … so I would be on one end of the extreme. OK? I’m the one that you would never even know I had anything. My wife knows because I sweat in the bed, and it’s uncomfortable for her and me, but that’s very rare. On the other end of the spectrum, you have people that have, you know, alcohol problems, drug problems, severe mental issues, and sometimes traumatic brain injury (TBI).
And you combine all of this and just have a hard time with life. I’ll tell you why–this is my opinion–that we were all so young. I was the old man at 23. I mean, literally the old man. I wrote letters for people, you know, to send home. And I’ll give you an example. I know, and it’s not just Vietnam. I know a man from–it was in the Korean War. He was wounded, and the Chinese captured him. And as they were dragging them back to their camp, they said: When we get there, we’re going to interrogate you, and we’re going to get all the information we can get, and then we’re going to kill you. Well, he thought to himself: If they’re going to kill me, they’re going to kill me escaping.
So sure enough that night, in the middle of the night, he had two guards on him. He’s a big strong kid from Alabama. He killed both of the guards, and he escaped wounded. He escaped weakened, found his way back somehow to his unit. And the shocking thing is he had just turned 18 years old, right out of high school. So, and that’s the Korean War. I spoke to a … I have a trivia winner for you. You’re not a betting person, I bet. I’m not either. But this is a cute betting. If you want to bet someone, a gentleman’s bet. Ask them how long it took on the storming of Normandy. How long did it get from the beach–I’m going to ask you this question–how long do you think it took from the beach, when it hit the beach, to go up the beach and up the cliff to top of the cliff?
How long do you think that took?
Mr. Jekielek: Under fire?
Mr. Greenlaw: Oh yeah, it was total under fire, 100 percent under fire.
Mr. Jekielek: Oh my gosh. I can’t even imagine. A really really long time.
Mr. Greenlaw: You know, mortars, they had these machine guns. They had these big cement billets up there with machine guns in it. How long do you think it took? Take a guess.
Mr. Jekielek: I don’t know. I mean I–
Mr. Greenlaw: Take a guess, a wild guess.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, OK. A day.
Mr. Greenlaw: A day? Twenty minutes. You know why? Why? Because they were 19 years old, 18, 17. A lot of them lied to get in at 16. The youngest they had was 13. Here’s what happened. They hit the beach. They’re 19 years old. They run like crazy. There’s a gallon of adrenaline pouring directly on their heart. So they flew up the beach, when they hit the ground–and I got this from a vet that did it, so this is a firsthand account, because I meet them from all wars–he raced across the beach. His friends were falling all around him. And they start off with 173 men from their company hit the beach at once. They got to the cliff with 70, so they lost a hundred on the beach. They had 70 at the base of the cliff. They got to the top of the cliff with 12. He was one of the 12 that made it to the top, and they held the ground there until more could come behind them.
Mr. Jekielek: This is just so hard to imagine, actually. It just goes to show someone who hasn’t been in combat, or anywhere close to it, doesn’t have an idea of the reality.
Mr. Greenlaw: No. Adrenaline plays a big part. In Vietnam we would be trudging across a rice patty, sinking up to your shins and slogging and one foot out, you know, and another foot out and just could barely move, right? The first sniper shot that comes through, they ran like Carl Lewis, you know, like a sprinter, a world class sprinter to get out of that rice patty because of the adrenaline. And you get to the other side and it’s like there was no mud at all. Their complaining turned into, you know, adrenaline rage to get to the other side. Some of these rice paddies, you know, are half a mile square, you know, they’re huge. And when you get in the middle of one that’s when the snipers start shooting. So, again, this is youth factor. You don’t see 40-year-old Harvard MBAs out there fighting wars or MIT Ph.D. grads.
No, you see 18-, 19-year-old warriors right out of high school. And the leaders are second and first lieutenants. I was a first lieutenant, and we were just a couple of years older, you know, I was, like I said I was 23. And, so, ask any vet you see, an older vet, somebody my age or if you can get a Korean vet: How old were you when you fought? And he’ll say 18, 19, 17, or I lied to get in. So I was 16. So that’s who fights the wars. And the reason is that they’re supermen. They think the bullets are going to glance right off of them, and they don’t think that–everybody here can be killed, including me. Everybody here is going to get killed. I’ll make it. That’s just human nature. So you combine the youth plus being big and strong.
We’re all strong as oxes in those days. And it’s just the way it. We’re Americans. We’re big, tough people. And made by the Poles and the Jews and the Europeans that came here, the Italians, the Irish, that’s who we are. And so we have a tough group to begin with. Nobody’s tougher than the Poles. I’m from Chicago area. They’ve got more Poles in Chicago than they do in one of the big cities. So that’s who we are.
Mr. Jekielek: And the African Americans, right?
Mr. Greenlaw: The African Americans, yeah, absolutely. There’s no racism in war. If the percentage of African Americans in America here is but 12 percent or something like that. In the military, it’s more like 25 or even, you know, between 25 and 30 percent.
Right. So we had a lot of our black brothers we were fighting with, and there was no racism. We’d huddle up at night and we’d take our, you and I would take our rubber poncho during a monsoon rainstorm. We’d get together under the Poncho so we can warm it up because anything under 80 degrees is cold at night when you’re soaking wet. And we’d huddle together. I didn’t care who it was and neither did he. So it’s a brotherhood. It really is. So it’s … and young people.
Mr. Jekielek: You know, something that just struck me though is that, you know, the opioid crisis here has been wreaking havoc on the civilian population. When I’m hearing about a lot of folks suffering from PTSD at different levels I’d imagine it’s a significant issue in the military as well.
Mr. Greenlaw: It is, and it’s easy to get. And a lot of times it was started in Vietnam, during my era, because there was a lot of marijuana over there. But they would lace it with heroin. So guys would get addicted without even knowing it. And so fortunately I didn’t touch any of that stuff and none of my men did either. I made sure that didn’t happen. But it’s the low-level leaders, you know, the sergeants and the lieutenants and the captains that are down on the ground that make it safer for the soldiers because that’s our job is to save their lives–win and save their lives. And so we were very conscious of that.But other loose leadership, I was on my people everyday. Clean your rifle because if it doesn’t go off, you’re going to be killed. I had them clean their rifle every day. I had them keep clean. We took, we’d get a stream, we’d put guards up, we’d take baths in a stream, stay clean, clean your uniform. And, first thing you do is get rid of your underwear and your socks because they go bad right away. Get rid of them. You don’t need them. Your feet get strong and tough and need discipline. And so when you come out of that situation, if you ever want to hire a good solid person, hire a vet. They come to you disciplined, they show up on time, they work hard, they’re good under adversarial circumstances, and they’ll defend the place if they need to.
So, we’re a good bet. And that’s why we’re as popular as we are–the combat wounded vet version of us. Is that, you know, we get things done, and we try to do the right thing. We’ve seen the ugly part, you know, stared death down or we wouldn’t be here.
Mr. Jekielek: So we were talking about your friend Charles who you met–
Mr. Greenlaw: Yeah. Charles Eggleston. He’s a very good friend of mine, and he’s an African American, and he is a piece of work. I love him. He’s a great guy. And he was wounded gravely. Remember I said I thought I had a bad. Charles was a special-ops team leader. And he was attacked in Iraq by gunfire and also by mortar and rocket attacks.
And they were moving forward, and he was attacked from behind. He was the only survivor of his team. They were all killed, and he was almost killed. He was very, very lucky to be alive. He was wounded so seriously that they were taking human bones out of his back from his men behind him. Today he walks around with shards of bone from others inside of his body. Now you try to say he does not have PTSD. He does, but boy, he controls it. He’s a solid citizen. He’s a great person and he went to the, they like they did me. They put him back together and then shipped him. They actually crated me in a cast. I came back crated so I couldn’t move around. And he, the same, they would crate you up in a body cast and send you back to the U.S. for surgery. He had 60 surgeries, I think 61. He had 60 surgeries. And his face, his head, steel, titanium down both sides. And he’s alive and well today. And you look at him, he’s handsome. All of our scars are underneath. I’ve got some here, but you can’t really notice them with plastic surgery and you’d never know there’s anything wrong with him. But the truth comes out. Charles was hit very, very hard. He was in Walter Reed Hospital for three-and-a-half years.
Mr. Jekielek: And he’s now working with you.
Mr. Greenlaw: Yes, he’s our, he’s the region … we have six big regions across the country–the Order does. And Region 1 is the East Coast, Region 6 is the West Coast. And you’ve got them divvied up along the way. He’s commander of Region 1, and he’s a good strong commander. I’m very lucky to have him.
Mr. Jekielek: Fantastic.
Mr. Greenlaw: I know a man in Atlanta–woke up in a zipped up body bag in the cooler. Yeah. I mean, you know, and he’s semi-normal.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s something from the movies.
Mr. Greenlaw: Yeah. He, and he had a religious experience in the bag. He woke up and he said, “God visited me in that bag.” And I said, “Really?” He said, “Yes.” And he said, “God told me that Jesus never died. Jesus woke up in a tomb, just like I did, showed everybody has wounds, married Mary Magdalene, had kids, lived a life. And my pastor tells me it’s called the swoon theory. It’s fairly common. But it’s not a theory to this guy in a bag. I asked him “What’s God look like?” And he said, he, I don’t think he’d ever been asked that question. “Because he was in the bag with you, right?” “Yeah, he was.” But I said, “What’d he look like?” “Sort of like Tom Hanks I think” He did, he said he looked sort of like Tom Hanks. Well, whether it’s a dream or out-of-body experience or it really happened, who am I to judge?
Right? So I just took it as it was, that’s his belief. Maybe it’s PTSD. I don’t know. Maybe it actually happen. I don’t know. Who knows? So there I am. So I’ve got stories like that, that go on and on and stories like John Kerry, Senator John Kerry, the former secretary of state. You know, he faked a Purple Heart. John, if you’re watching this, I’m going to say it. He faked his first Purple Heart. If you shoot yourself in the foot, you don’t get a Purple Heart. If somebody else shoots you in the foot, you get a Purple Heart. Well, he shot a M79 grenade launcher. It’s like a big shotgun. You put a grenade, big bullet in the back, snap it shut. He shot it against, I guess, a rock. He was a riverboat captain, a rock along the river, and it blew the rock up in a piece of granite or whatever the rock was. Stuck in his arm, about the size of a grain of sand. He pinched it out and applied for a Purple Heart and didn’t get it. And he reapplied through his battalion commander and got his Purple Heart. So, and I looked him up on the Internet and I couldn’t find anything about it. He got three Purple Hearts. I couldn’t find anything about his other two Purple Hearts. Now maybe they were real, I don’t know. But so you have one extreme, pinched the grain of sand out. And then the other extreme is Charles Eggleston, he gets blown to bits. And, so that’s, that’s the story of the Purple Heart.
Mr. Jekielek: So, you know, something, another thing just struck me, you know, the vast majority of the population of this country has not experienced combat, has not been in a military setting. There’s other places say Israel, you know, where everybody has, there’s just a mandatory draft. Everyone has to serve there. So a few years. Do you think that’s something that would help in America for people to understand the realities, [inaudible] have a draft?
Mr. Greenlaw: Yeah. Yes, I actually do, I do, I think the draft is a good thing. The volunteer military is suffering right now because people don’t want to join. So now they are offering benefits to join. For instance, if you’re a high school senior, at least in South Carolina, and I know many states are like this. In South Carolina if you’re a high school senior, a junior going into your senior year, if you sign up for one of the militaries, any of them, you will get a signing bonus. No. In your first senior year, you’ll get $500 a month your whole senior year. That’s a lot of money for a high school kid.
Mr. Jekielek: Certainly would’ve been for me.
Mr. Greenlaw: Oh, me too. You don’t get the money until you join and go through basic training and you’re in. But then you get the check. And once you sign up after you graduate and you literally sign the documents and give the, you know, the Honor Code, you get a check from between something, depending on your MOS and your job, whatever your job is. Some pay more than others. They will give you a signing bonus for $20,000 to $40,000 for a kid right out of high school because they’re trying to compete with Google and Amazon and, you know, all the jobs out there, or going to college or whatever. So, yeah, it’s a competitive environment. So I think the draft is a good idea because, you know, World War II and not so much Vietnam, but World War II the Rockefellers were in there. You know, you’d be next to the senator’s son, you know, and maybe they can pull a few strings, but you still were in. You know, good Al Gore is a good example. Al Gore, everybody complains about him. He went to Vietnam but he was a photographer. He was a journalist. He really wasn’t in the … hey, tell you what, you put your foot down on the ground in Vietnam you’ve got my respect because you could get killed. And, it’s Al Gore, you know, I think he was drafted, I think. … But so, yeah, I think the draft is a good idea. I really do. Let everybody go.
Mr. Jekielek: So, you know, today, it’s Memorial Day. It’s our Memorial Day show. Do you have anything you’d like to share with the American people and maybe internationally on Memorial Day?
Mr. Greenlaw: Memorial Day is a special day. It really is. We’re memorializing those that were killed in combat and God bless them. You know, a lot of them had Purple Hearts, maybe most of them, depending on how they were killed. So, yeah, I’m all for memorializing our dead from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, you know, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq. We all deserve respect for those that were killed. And so I have a full day planned on Monday, today, on this Memorial Day to pay my respects in Washington, D.C. And it’s well deserved. It’s an honor to have them, you know, in our history.
Mr. Jekielek: So you just mentioned how people aren’t so interested in joining the military or maybe less interested. How does patriotism fit into this? So that’s what struck me.
Mr. Greenlaw: Well, I’m not saying that people that don’t want to be in the military, first of all, they’re not all needed. You know, like Vietnam, you know, some of my best friends didn’t go, it’s fine. We didn’t need every person over there. We’d have, you know, 25 million soldiers. We don’t need that many. So I have, I think there … the vast majority of Americans on both sides–the liberals, the conservatives, those of us in the middle are patriots. They love this country. If you travel at all, which I know you probably have, you realize what a great country this is.
The developed countries aren’t America. I’ve been around the world. I’ve been to China, I’ve been to Russia, I’ve been all over Europe. I’ve climbed mountains in South America and I’ve seen many, many countries, probably more than most. None of them are like America. None of them. And that’s why people want to come to America. You can, you can come here with nothing. And I know you’re from an immigrant family. I’m sure they started out at the bottom and work their way up to the top. And I’m proud of you for that. And that’s what America is all about. You don’t have to be a veteran. You don’t have to be a combat wounded veteran. You just have to be an American, I think, to understand that.
Mr. Greenlaw: I’m a high-altitude mountain climber. I climbed Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua in Argentina. I’ve been in Russia, backpacking China. I backpacked the Great Wall. I’ve been all over Europe. I’ve been everywhere.
Mr. Jekielek: Still do that?
Mr. Greenlaw: Yeah, I do.
So I’ve seen it all. And I can say for a fact, there is no country like America, United States of America.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.