Major General Eldon Bargewell was a legendary figure in the world of special operations, serving as a dedicated military leader and operator for nearly four decades. Born in Tacoma, Washington, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967, and his passion for service saw him complete the Special Forces Qualification Course just a year later. Throughout his illustrious career, Bargewell deployed to numerous countries and led special operations units in various capacities, earning him numerous accolades and the admiration of his fellow soldiers.
Bargewell’s journey began when he received his Green Beret and deployed to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. He volunteered for the elite Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), a covert unit that conducted cross-border operations in Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam. As conventional units struggled against the North Vietnamese and Vietcong, the SOG operators fought America’s secret war. Bargewell quickly gained a reputation as a steadfast operator who remained calm under fire.
During his time with the SOG, Bargewell demonstrated immense courage and determination. In one harrowing mission, despite being shot in the face, he provided cover fire for his team to exfiltrate as their perimeter was being overrun by North Vietnamese troops. His actions earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, an award second only to the Medal of Honor.
Following his commission as an officer in 1972, Bargewell held various positions in special operations units such as the Army’s Delta Force, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). He later served as the commander of the US European Special Operations Command (EUCOM).
Bargewell’s success was driven by his thirst for knowledge and his ability to push his colleagues to their limits, both in training and in the field. He was not only a great leader and operator but also a compassionate man with a high emotional intellect. This was evident when he took time out of his busy schedule to visit a fellow soldier’s wounded stepson in the hospital.
When Bargewell retired in 2006, he was the most decorated soldier on active duty, with a long list of awards, including three Bronze Stars with Valor, four Purple Hearts, and the Presidential Unit Citation from his time at SOG. His hometown in Hoquiam, Washington State, has not forgotten him, and the Major General Eldon Bargewell Foundation is raising funds to create a park in his memory.
Major General Eldon Bargewell’s legacy continues to serve as an inspiration for those who choose to dedicate their lives to service and the military. His exceptional leadership, unwavering courage, and commitment to his fellow soldiers will forever be remembered and honored.