America has lost a distinguished Soldier, a true Warrior and a respected Leader. Gen. Wayne A. Downing, who led the United States Military's Special Operations Command and was Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism prior to his retirement, died July 17, 2007.
Wayne A. Downing was born in Peoria, IL on May 10, 1940. His father served with the 9th Armored Division during WW2 and his young son was imbued with a love of the military.
Gen. Downing graduated from West Point in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He served two tours in Vietnam, the first with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the second as commander of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. During those tours he earned the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, a Purple Heart and the Combat Infantry Badge, among other awards & decorations. Personal note here: between trips to Vietnam Captain Downing was stationed at Ft. Benning, GA with the 1st Training Brigade. He was my Basic Training company commander.
After a number of command and staff assignments, Col. Downing served as CO, 75th Ranger Regiment from 1984-1985. He then headed the U.S. Army's Special Operations Command and the United States Special Operations Command - in charge of all U.S. special ops forces. During Operation Desert Storm, Gen. Downing headed the Joint Special Operations Task Force. After 34 years of Army service, he retired. That didn't last long. In 2001 he was named National Director & Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism. Two years later, he became the Distinguished Chair for West Point's Combating Terrorism Center. In 2006 his military alma mater conferred upon him their Distinguished Graduate Award.
Besides the awards & decorations cited above, Gen. Downing earned the Legion of Merit with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Defense Distinuished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He held the Ranger tab, Pathfinder's and Master Parachutist's Badge.
But these recitations cannot quantify the man himself as Warrior, Soldier and Leader, nor his long, distinguished, invaluable service to this country in and out of uniform. We pray for his family and mourn his loss. I for one will be standing at attention & saluting when Taps is sounded at his funeral.
More information on Gen. Downing's long and distinguished career can be found at the West Point Distinguished Graduate Award website.
We are attempting to determine the scheduled time of the funeral, for those who might wish to pay their respects. We understand the funeral will be held at West Point.
Update: There will be a Memorial Mass for General Dowling at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Peoria, IL, Saturday, July 21 at 10:00 a.m.. The General will be interred at West Point at a date that will coincide with his 45th Class Reunion in late September. When the exact date and time are set, we will notify our readers.
Update: Reader Mark E. Matula provides us with this link with more information on the funeral arrangments.
Update: Readers wishing to send condolences to Gen. Dowling's family may address them to:
General Wayne Downing Family
c/o Thomas the Apostle Church
904 East Lake
Peoria Heights, IL 61616