by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Lake Worth, Fla.
September 19, 2001
STEVE LONG WAS BIN LADEN'S WORST NIGHTMARE
LAKE WORTH, Fla., Sept. 19, 2001 -- Regrettably and ironically, Osama bin Laden and I now have something in common: Neither one of us will ever get to meet U.S. Army Maj. Stephen V. Long.
In the case of suspected mass-murderer Bin Laden, Steve Long would have represented his worst nightmare: an enemy with a face and the will to destroy him. In my case, although I missed the opportunity to embrace him and thank him for serving his nation, he now puts a name on the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks for me. Knowing about Steve seems to give a tiny bit of focus to the massive and unpredictable sobs which still sweep over me a week after the attack on America.
Maj. Long died at the Pentagon, at age 39, murdered by the suicide pilots as he worked.
I'd love to give you the poignant vignette of what he was doingjust before he died. Years of training yearn for the mandatory journalistic information about where he grew up, what sports he liked, what schools he attended. That can't happen. At least not yet.
Responding to my e-mail inquiry, today I learned from U.S. Army Col. Greg Mason (Ret.), deputy director of finance, of the Army Emergency Relief Fund, that the Pentagon has a full time job simply identifying those who were killed, and " Regrettably, at this time, we do not have addresses for the next of kin for any of the victims. Hopefully we will receive that information in the near future."
What we do know about Long, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C., is filtering in from some old comrades. One old buddy said Steve Long was a young enlistee from Georgia,who worked his way up through the ranks, had a wry, warped sense of humor, and was well-known and well liked by fellow paratroopers. Sort of the kind of guy I'd be proud to know.
The friend added:
"Steve jumped into combat in Grenada with the Rangers in 1983. He received an Army Commendation with a V for valor he personally destroyed a Cuban armored vehicle with a bazooka. He was later injured when his helicopter was shot down in Grenada. He later became an officer and served with the 82nd in the Gulf War. He was a fast track officer in his field. He had a wife and a step-son. It's a shame that this hero was murdered by cowards. Steve was well known, well liked, and will be greatly missed."
While I write this, NBC-TV is airing a report from Ft. Bragg, saying the 82nd will be among the first units to be used to fight Islamic radicals and Bin Laden, and final preparations are underway for utilizing Steve's old Airborne pals.
A decorated hero, surviving dangerous jumps, a chopper crash, and dodging bullets, felled by those who indeed are cowards.
One wonders whether it's President Bush's folksy ad-lib Texas style, or scripted rehearsals - but either way, I seem to hear that word "coward" or phrases such as "cowardly attack" in almost every conversation Mr. Bush has had with the press this week.
That's good. It's important that anyone holding up Bin Laden's twisted, perverted, heretical interpretations of Moslem teachings, hear the leader of the Free World calling his lackeys "cowards." Come to think of it, VOA broadcasts to predominantly fundamentalist Islamic states should also include the news reports that Bin Laden's "faithful" spent their pre-kamikaze days boozing it up in strip clubs. I guess I missed that chapter of the Koran.
Maj. Steve Long didn't work at a fancy investment company on Wall Street, doesn't have relatives walking the streets with his picture, and to the best of my knowledge never appeared on a panel with Larry King or Don Imus. He was simply a patriot doing his daily work, stolen from his family and nation in an instant.
In the miniscule percentage of Steve Long's biography that I know, I share one morsel for you to treasure, and remember, for your kids and grandkids, since Maj. Long won't be able to do the same.
U. S. Army Ranger School (along with Navy SEAL camp) is probably the toughest military training on earth. For Steve Long it wasn't enough, earning the Ranger badge - he had to help others along the way.
During and after the Gulf War the Ranger School "phases" of sleep deprivation, mountain climbing and jungle training included a grueling extra "desert phase" in New Mexico and Texas. The toughest training on earth was made even tougher. (A few weeks after this incident, four Ranger candidates died from exposure in swamp training in the Florida Panhandle.)
One would-be Ranger known to Steve Long was a totally stubborn kid who was attempting an almost unheard-of third try through Ranger School. With injuries, illness, and assorted false starts, the worn-out kid would eventually earn that coveted badge on the third try, after repeating not three or four, but a total of 11 "phases" of training during the three attempts.
No one quite knows from where they were scrounged, or how they were smuggled, but noticing the soldier's ragged, torn and rotted boots, Steve Long slipped the determined paratrooper a fresh pair. No one asked him. No one told him. It was just done.
The kid was my oldest son.
Former UPI newsman Mark Scheinbaum is chief investment strategist for Kaplan & Co., members Boston Stock Exchange.