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Because everyone matters

This past week marked an unfortunate milestone in American history: Two years ago the Biden administration fecklessly abandoned hundreds of U.S. citizens and thousands of U.S. legal permanent residents in the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan. It is a stain on American foreign and military policy.

Loyalty means something. It must. And as we watch the corporate world continue to capitulate to woke madness, I have to wonder if there are still brands out there that will get their people’s backs. Does loyalty to one’s own still exist in governance or in corporate America?

There was a time in America when working for someone meant as much about loyalty and teamwork as it did the work itself. Is it still that way? I hope so. I hope there are still government leaders and corporate CEOs who inspire their employees with care and concern for them as people, not just as cogs in a wheel.

Electronic Data Systems (EDS), owned by the late Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, is an example of one of these. At the two-year anniversary of the Biden administration’s abandonment of people in Afghanistan, we would do well to recall when Perot decided to hire a legendary retired soldier to launch a rescue mission for just two employees trapped in the Middle East.

In 1978, the Iranian Revolution turned Iran upside down as the fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini was swept into power in a populist uprising. Madness was the order of the day, and Perot had two employees who were seized and held in an Iranian jail with ransom set at $13 million. But this was Ross Perot; those were his people, and no expense would be spared to get just those few out.

The Biden administration should take notes on what it means to be loyal, for Perot told his corporate lawyers to figure out how to pay the ransom. Simultaneously, he contacted a legend named Bull Simons.

Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons was a titan in U.S. Army Special Operations. Serving with the 6th Ranger Battalion in WWII, he earned a Silver Star on the famous Cabanatuan Raid that rescued 500 American POWs. As a Green Beret in Vietnam, he served with MACV-SOG and led the famous Son Tay raid in an effort to rescue POWs held by North Vietnam, for which he earned the Distinguished Service Cross. Simons retired in 1971 but went to rescue a few more when Perot called in 1978.

Iran was on fire, Americans were the sworn enemy, and two of Perot’s people, Bill Gaylord and Paul Chiapparone, were held in an Iranian prison. Simons took seven volunteer EDS employees and began training at Ross Perot’s house outside of Dallas.

What kind of company and what kind of boss inspire such loyalty that employees volunteer to go into harm’s way on the far side of the world to bring their coworkers home? A boss who not only pays for it but has them train at his own home?

The team inserted themselves into Iran and began making their way to Tehran. Perot went with them, believing it was important his folks knew he was willing to be on the ground with them the whole way.

There’s an old axiom: no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Everything changed on the ground. Gaylord and Chiapporone were transferred to a maximum-security prison. Simons got word to the two Americans about their safehouse location, and then the streets of Tehran erupted with shouting and rioting people.

Masses of people, shouting and rioting, thronged the streets. That’s when a young Iranian employee of EDS came up with a plan to incite a riot at the prison, which opened all the cells, including the cell holding Gaylord and Chiapparone. Disguising themselves, they escaped to the safe house.

Then the trick became how to get everyone out of the country. Perot headed to Turkey to work out details. Simons divided the group, and some made it out on a flight from the Tehran airport. But six Americans and their Iranian friend spent two days escaping and evading their pursuers over 450 miles to the Turkish border where they made it across using forged documents obtained by Perot.

Two and a half months, countless dangers, and an untold amount of expense – all because Perot was determined that he would not leave two men behind.

The story of Perot, Simons, and the rescue mission of ‘78-‘79 was recorded in the bestseller, “On Wings of Eagles,” by Ken Follett. Developed into a miniseries starring Burt Lancaster, the story was viewed by an estimated 25 million.

Juxtapose those events with what happened two years ago this week. In one story, no expense was spared, while great risk was incurred to rescue two men by a loyal boss. In the other story, the current U.S. president chose to abandon thousands of American citizens and allies in the Afghanistan pullout. One is a case example of loyalty, respect, and strong leadership. The other of indifference, recklessness, and feckless leadership. It is a stark contrast.

I would like to believe there are still loyal leaders like Ross Perot and dangerous good men like Bull Simons – that there are solid people like the seven EDS employees who volunteered to go into harm’s way for their coworkers. The Afghanistan pullout is not the version of how to handle a crisis for which Americans want to be known. There is no honor in abandonment. There is no pride in leaving people behind.

The model for loyalty was trashed two years ago last week by the current administration. The real role models are Ross Perot, Bull Simons, and the employees of EDS 45 years ago this year.

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