MILITARY MATTERS: Retired Generals Remember Former Fort Benning Commanding GEN Sam Wetzel
FORT BENNING, Ga. (WTVM) - A former Fort Benning commanding general who retired in Columbus will be laid to rest this week on the Army installation. Two other high ranking Army veterans told News Leader 9 some war stories of the 3 star general who passed away.
National Infantry Museum Foundation President Pete Jones said his family and this community and the U.S. Army lost a giant, retired 3 star Lt. General Sam Wetzel.
“I think they’d want him to be remembered by that leader that cared, that made a difference when called upon, not for just 1 war but 3 different wars, and lived by that motto of West Point: duty, honor, country,” BG (Ret) Pete Jones said.
On his way to becoming Fort Benning commanding general in the early 1980′s, Wetzel graduated from West Point in 1952 and served 34 years in the U.S. Army. He commanded companies during the Korean, Vietnam and Cold Wars.
“He identified himself as an infantry leader. He was a warrior. He was a mentor,” BG (Ret) Jones told us.
When he was top leader on Fort Benning, one of the leaders under him was Colonel-at-the-time Carmen Cavezza, who became commanding general himself. He talked about one time when General Wetzel came out to observe training in California and all the lighting went out.
“I ended up driving over in a jeep to get him and ended up, 2 1/2 hours, he had to sit in the dark, waiting for me to come and get him. He was great, not a problem from him, but i thought...Lord this is really going to be tough on my career, leaving my new boss stranded in the middle of nowhere, but like a good soldier, he took it the way it was,” LTG (Ret) Cavezza said.
Talking about his willingness to teach soldiers of all ranks, BG (Ret) Jones said, “He was always willing to come to any professional development event and train the next generation. He was always about getting your hands dirty, because he figured, if you got your hands dirty, your vehicles would be ready to go and your weapons would be clean, ready to fight.”
Wetzel - who retired from the Army in 1986 - was honored with many military awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal and Bronze Star. Retired Brigadier General Pete Jones, a family friend who now leads the National Infantry Museum Foundation, says this true officer and gentleman also became a fabric of the Columbus community.
“General Wetzel would say he loved being a Rotarian, he loved that. He loved being a hacker at the Green Island Country Club. He loved history and being part of the VFW,” he added.
“Great leader, he made 3 stars, probably could’ve gone further. He had some issues with cancer in his head and ear. He recovered from that,” LTG (Ret) Cavezza said.
Cavezza - who was Columbus city manager for many years - also told us, Wetzel had a sense of humor, but was all business when focusing on the mission.
BG (Ret) Jones also said, “His mantra was: Train as we fight and spend as much time as you can in the field doing that.”
Wetzel will be laid to rest this Friday January 28, starting with a 1 p.m. ceremony at St. Anne Catholic Church in Columbus, then military honors with burial at the Fort Benning cemetery, the first time for a 3 star general there in more than 4 years.
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