Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tribute to CSM Lonnie Bagwell

In just a few lines his life is summarized:
Lonnie M. Bagwell
CSM U.S. Army
Aug. 16, 1951
Jun.16, 2006
Loving Husband
Beloved Father
Dear Grandpa
Proud Veteran
Until We Meet Again

There are notable achievements recorded on this piece of stone, especially in this day of quickie divorces and fathers who abandon their kids. This man did neither, and that alone makes him great.

But, what those few lines don’t tell is the story of how he positively affected a group of soldiers, some young and impressionable and some older and in need of focus.

I was a young man in the Army in 1986 stationed at Ft. Bliss serving with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. I was certainly in need of guidance at a time when, as happens in the military, a large group of our leaders left and some new ones came in. Included in that group was the new First Sergeant, Lonnie Bagwell.

A few of us were a bit concerned about this particular change. Bagwell had a reputation of being tough, mean and ugly. For a group Military Intelligence “weenies” this was hardly the type of leader we thought we needed. For my part, I was completely wrong about what kind of leader we needed – First Sergeant Bagwell was exactly the kind of leader our company (and I in particular) needed.

He came in and cleaned house. He was tough, expecting a lot from those in his charge. But, he was also fair, publicly praising those who deserved praise and privately correcting those who needed correcting. He pushed us to achieve more than we thought we could.

As I watched his example, I learned many important things helped me along as I progressed through my own Army career. Among these were taking care of soldiers, accomplishing the mission, doing the right thing even when no one is looking, working on and with a team to get things done. To be sure, I already knew these things in my head, but his example was a huge encouragement to follow through and start doing them.

Even now, over 20 years after my experience serving with him, I still remember those lessons. Many of those who served with me at the time also hold this man in high esteem. That also shows the tremendous positive impact he had on so many of us even though our time of working together was relatively short. I have no doubt he affected many more soldiers the way he did us through the rest of his career; eventually retiring as a Command Sergeant Major.
Recently, while on a trip to the Midwest, I was able to take a short detour and stop at the cemetery where this man's body now rests. It was an honor to place a small flag on his grave as a small gesture of my respect for the man.

Yes, being a loving husband, father and grandfather make a man great. Achieving the rank of Command Sergeant Major can also show greatness. In this man's case, the inscription on the stone only tells a very small part of the story. I'm sure are hundreds of people this man touched in a positive way which will make this world just that much a better place.


  1. This tribute says so much. As Soldier who served under CSM Bagwell, while he was my Platoon Sgt then 1SG from 1985 - 1987, Lonnie taught me a lot, both in public praise and the privacy of his office while I "lost a few pounds". As I became a Warrant Officer, he was there to Salute me (Receiving a nice shiny Eisenhauer Silver Dollar), as he knew he had taught me the ways I have live and treated soldiers who work for me. As I get set to retire, it is Lonnie Bagwell that I credit my successes in the US Army.
    CW3 Roger Lowe
    I can hear him calling me...."Hero, what are you doing?"

  2. Great comments. What cemetary/address is he buried. Of my 22 years in service, he was by far the best NCO I ever met. I was in his GSR PLT before he became 1SG.


  3. Roger - I thought I replied to you way back when you posted your comment, but I guess I didn't. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

    Backe - Thank you, too, for dropping in. CSM Bagwell was laid to rest in the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West in Hopkinsville, KY (just north of Fort Campbell). The link below is to a Google Map showing the exact location:


  4. good by old friend ssg monwell harmon

  5. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, Even after I read this four years after I wrote it I still remember those valuable lessons learned.

  6. He was my SM at the 102nd MI when I made Sgt. I always respected him and am sorry to hear of his loss.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.