View Full Version : Forrest Earl Todd

06-12-2010, 08:58
RIP Forrest.

A long salute for this highly decorated vet

"You just had to be there," is often used when words won't properly tell the story. And that's how it is to say "Earl Todd." You just had to be there.

Forrest Earl Todd, 74 - probably one of the highest decorated soldiers ever to come out of North Carolina - died Monday, June 7, 2010. Actually, it was an hour or so just past D-Day, the Sixth of June.

As in other things in his life, Earl was either a bit ahead of or a bit behind schedules.

He was a Charlotte native and a Harding High student (and a football force to be reckoned with) until April 1950. He was ahead of schedule when, at the age of 14, he joined the N.C. National Guard as an air policeman until he was found out and discharged six months later.

On the next day - Oct. 10, 1950 - he joined the Federal Air National Guard as an air policeman. Found out again, he was discharged in April 1951, and went back to Harding High.

In December 1952, now 17 years old and still a bit ahead of schedule, he again joined the N.C. National Guard air police and was discharged in 1953 to enlist in the regular army.

He had served active duty for 18 months before his 18th birthday. He wound up in the 82nd Airborne as a military policeman and served a year in the Korean War.

Earl transferred to the Special Forces, the Green Berets, where he served almost 13 years. He fought the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong from 1964 to 1971 with the Special Operations Group. He conducted many hazardous border crossings into Cambodia and Laos, and fought along the Ho Chi Min trail.

These and other feats earned him a long list of medals that include the Silver Star, our third-highest award for valor, many Oak Leaf Clusters signifying more of the same medals (as in three Purple Hearts) plus the usual Combat Infantry, Master Parachute and Expert Infantry badges.

Retired Lt. Col. Chuck Darnell said that when he saw his old buddy approach a new base, Earl had time only to drop his duffel bag and board a helicopter for a mission. Chuck knew the quality of solder he was getting and wasted no time using him.

Earl left the service in June 1971 after serving 17 years, eight months and came home to Charlotte. He tried with some success to form the Carolina Chargers and the Carolina Storm football teams. He may have been a bit ahead of schedule on this one, as the NFL Panthers didn't arrive until 1995. Earl also dabbled in real estate and in many other entrepreneurial areas.

He met Betty Yandle when her bowling team stopped by the old Winston's lounge on West Boulevard sometime in 1967. Earl was there at his handsome best, in full dress with a chest full of medals, when he spied Betty. "He was awesome," she said. They spent the next 42 years together.

Earl found time in 1989 to write "The Pawns," a book about his wartime experiences. Although published as a work of fiction, thinly disguised names were used as characters and Earl himself could have been the central hero. You don't go through all that Earl did and write total fiction.

He suffered a stroke in November 2005 that paralyzed his right arm and leg and left him speechless.

Some of his staunchest friends visited him the day before he died and as they left, Earl gave them the "long salute" - which most military men know that, unlike the "snap salute," the saluting hand is lowered slowly and respectfully as a final goodbye.

How fitting that Earl Todd died just hours after the anniversary of such a noted military combat day: World War II's D-Day - the Sixth of June.

Earl would have loved being on time for that one. He will also take pride in his final resting place: Arlington National Cemetery.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/06/10/1489655/a-long-salute-for-this-highly.html#ixzz0qeQIkaJG