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SGT Biddle

December 13th, 2011 by skippy

SGT Biddle was not my friend.  He had in fact stated that expressly on more than one occasion.  He felt we were “buddies” which is to say people the Army forced together whether they liked each other or not, but who were entitled to the same type of loyalty and decency as a friend.

SGT Biddle did not always appreciate my sense of humor, but he liked it enough to encourage me when I wasn’t interfering with anything pressing, and even suggested that comedy might be a good career choice for when I got out.

SGT Biddle was never my supervisor. In fact, when we first met I technically outranked him, due to a mishap that occurred just before he finished Special Forces Medical Sergeant training.  But he did teach me how to field strip an M-60, how to operate it properly, and pretty much every useful skill I needed to learn as I transitioned from a Mutli-Media Illustrator who worked in an air conditioned office  to a soldier who could be depended upon on a Tactical PSYOP team.

SGT Biddle didn’t spend a lot of time bragging, but he was quite frankly the sort of bad-ass that is the basis for video games and actions movies.  He could swap between operating a vehicle, teaching firearms, applying emergency medicine, learning Arabic, or opening up a can of hand to hand whoop-ass without batting an eye.  He had on more than one occasion demonstrated his ability to swap to such a degree that it could be uncomfortable to be around him.

SGT Biddle wasn’t a bureaucrat, but he could do things to a bureaucracy that that would make an experienced Parisian whore blush with shame, shudder with revulsion, and probably take notes.

SGT Biddle wasn’t a screw up, or the unit clown, but he was the perpetrator behind several of the 213 things.

SGT Biddle was never directly responsible for me, or a lot of the other soldiers while we served together.  But he took responsibility.  He made sure we had things we needed, even if we didn’t know what they were, or the best ways to do things, or even the reasons why.  He knew when to push, and when someone had reached the breaking point, and he knew how to back off if that’s what one of his guys genuinely needed.

SGT Biddle wasn’t a violent man, but he would kick your ass under the right circumstances.  He is the only person I have ever been beaten up by who has turned an ass beating into a lesson on hand-to-hand combat.  Twice.  I think I actually have a photo of him laying the smack down on me, taken by a quick witted teammate of mine.

SGT Biddle wasn’t a particularly sentimental person, but he did give an old Yugoslavian flag he “acquired” to another soldier whose inexperience precluded him from participating in the “let’s check out the destroyed Serbian stronghold” activities.  Just to make the guy feel better.

SGT Biddle didn’t feel overly beholden to rules for rules’ sake, but he still wouldn’t let me sign out early when I started my terminal leave. In his words, “Because, fuck you Schwarz, that’s why.”  He was the last person from my Company, hell from that whole chapter of my life, that I saw as I drove South on I-95.

SGT Biddle wasn’t the sort of man that you would think would take his own life.  But last week he did.  And the world really seems a lesser place for it.

SGT Biddle was not my friend. But he was a good man, and the epitome of what I think of when I hear the words “professional soldier”.  He had a tremendous influence over a long and difficult time in my life.   And I really wish that he was still around.

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45 Responses to “SGT Biddle”

  1. Catbunny Says:

    Shit. That sucks.


  2. Squab Says:

    That… wow… I’m not sure what to say. That really sucks. Here I am, chuckling as I read that, and then… bam.


  3. Rob Says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, Skippy.

    He sounds like one hell of a guy, and one the world will be less for not having him around anymore.


  4. Shadowydreamer Says:

    I raise a glass to SGT Biddle.


  5. SPC Hyle Says:

    Helmly was a friend of mine. Fun to be around, and one of the more intelligent people in my unit. Given that I was a cannon cocker, that was quite a relief, having someone I could talk to at a higher level than most of my comrades.

    He was in my platoon for a while in Afghanistan, but in a different section. He got put into my platoon after his whole platoon pissed hot at Wilderness. As in “every junior enlisted soldier got caught smoking hash”.

    When we got back, we went up to Raleigh together for a Scientology protest. We ended up picking up someone randomly on the street, and we had simultaneous relations with her. The rest of the barracks were told a different story.

    He ended up getting outprocessed for drug use–I heard he had started doing heroin. That was in 2008 or early 2009.

    We reconnected on Facebook, and talked a bit. A few months ago, we were talking online. He mentioned that he had done a gram of cocaine, and asked if that was a lot. I have no idea to this day. I assume that it is, because I found out a day and half later that they found him, OD’d in his room.

    In my deployment to Afghanistan, no one from my battalion died–not a one. To my knowledge, he’s the only person who was in my battery who has died since then.

    That girl we double-teamed? She didn’t have a complete hand. It was more of a half-claw, and we made a gesture to each other to signal it, as our own private joke.

    But now, he’s gone. And while he was kind of a screw up, he wasn’t a bad guy. He wasn’t a stupid shithead like some of the other fuckheads I was with, and he wasn’t an asshole to be an asshole. I hadn’t seen him since August of 2008, and I know I’ll miss him.

    Sorry for Sgt Biddle.


  6. Jaymo Says:

    Man, I’m so sorry for your loss, and for his. Sometimes people just lose their way, or find they don’t have or no longer have the right tools in their toolbox to deal with the things that need dealing with. I wish him peace.


  7. Matthew Says:

    Thats the way it is among men of the sword, weather we like it or not. He Left his mark, and no doubt is smirking in his grave at this little memorial in his name.


  8. Cyn Says:

    I got to the end, and just … no… He sounds like he was a great person to serve with. I’m sorry for your loss. :(


  9. kat Says:

    I’m sorry. Unfortunately there are many more soldiers who need mental health help than will ever get it. It seems that nearly every soldier I know knows at least one other soldier or ex-soldier who has taken their own life. It’s such a tragic and senseless waste. I wish there was a way to get help to everyone who needed it, regardless of whether or not they ask for it, or think they need it.
    Remember the man that you knew and keep that memory alive.


  10. Jane Says:

    So sorry for your loss, Skippy. It sounds like he’ll be missed by a lot of people.


  11. A friend of Al's Says:

    You have described Al exactly as I remember him. The consummate, quiet professional who stood his moral ground regardless of the consequences. He will be missed by many.


  12. Bruce Leahy Says:

    Well said Skippy, thanks.


  13. Carl Lingenfelser Says:

    Damn. So sorry to hear.

    RIP Al.


  14. Eric Haislett Says:

    Well said, thanks for sharing


  15. Ivy Mata Sherrard Says:

    Schwarz, I can remember AIT back in 1999. Al was a SPC back then. I can remember him literally doing a combat roll trying to take a pic of me because I had tried some Levi Garrett chew for the first time. Well, I ended up swallowing a piece of tobacco and I instantly started running away from the group cause I was going to vomit. But no, my good ol’ battle buddy Al, who had been my battle buddy througout AIT wouldn’t let me live it down. He comes running and comes out of nowhere clicking away on his disposable cameras ( cause that was how we rolled back then ). I remember painting that pine tree pink from whatever drink I had drank prior. I remember him showing me copies of his proud pics of me from that moment in time. I love and miss you, Al. You were an AWESOME friend, battle buddy and Brother. You will never be forgotten. I will have to find our AIT pics. When I do I will post them. May you RIP, Brother. Vaya con Dios! <3


  16. TheShadowCat Says:

    Fuck. You have no idea how hard that just hit me. Studies are showing that there’s an increasing number of military men and women who are taking their own lives.

    Last August my husband succumbed to his depression caused by an asshole of a boss and took his own life leaving me to raise our 2 sons (ages 9 and now 12). He thought we’d be better off without him. He was wrong.

    Suicide is never the answer.


  17. Heather May Says:

    I remember SPC Biddle when he first showed up at B/9. I know of the mishap, which was also a shame because it was clear within 5 minutes of meeting him that he could do any job you gave him and do it well. The news makes me very sad.

    I’m sorry you lost a buddy, Skippy, and that the Army lost a great Soldier. My day today, unrelated to this, has been filled with talk of death and grieving. My take on it, before learning about SGT Biddle, was that knowing about tragedy is important to helping those of us left behind prevent it in the future. It still is, I suppose.

    RIP SGT Biddle


  18. Dan Ruppert Says:

    Well damn….I remember just like Heather when he arrived at B/9. I too remember the mishap and he wsa a damn good soldier and a good dude to talk to. I am sorry to hear about his passing and he will be missed.

    RIP SGT Biddle


  19. SSG Hay Says:

    Never met SGT Biddle, but it’s never easy hearing this about any troop. RIP, brother, your struggle is done, lay your burden down.


  20. David Lane Says:

    I grieve with you, and for us all. Such men have protected us for generations and exemplify what a “soldier” is. My father was also such a man, a career “top”. In my teen rebellious years,I used to tease him, calling him “your E9-ness”. I wish everyday I could take it back. RIP Sarge


  21. Kate Says:

    There is an important lesson to be learned here… make sure people who have made an impact on your life know about it. Never leave anything unsaid.


  22. Tremorwolf Says:

    this country needs more men/women like that.. it is a lose to this society that he is no longer around. :( sorry man.


  23. NekoSniper Says:

    May he rest in peace.


  24. John Rhoads Says:

    I thank you for letting those out there know about a man that I got to know as a kid. He was my best friend in high school and yes when he got back from boot camp he showed me what they taught those in the Army. You have described him almost perfectly. Thank you!


  25. Gary Says:

    One of the best eulogies I’ve ever read.
    SGT Biddle would have either appreciated it, or kicked your ass for writing it.
    Maybe both.
    Condolences, Skippy.


  26. Ziggy Says:

    I occasionally ran into guys I knew from the service the first couple of years after I got out. One was a guy who was one of the most impressive Marines I ever worked with. He became a cop for the same city where I worked as a medic. For a long time he was the only person I knew who still called me Doc. He took the same way out as your buddy, Al.
    And I never have understood why. Most of the time he seemed to be one of the most together guys I knew. He had to have given someone a clue. I’m sure of it. But I never saw it. One day someone just said “Hey. Did you hear?” That’s a long time ago. But your story made me think of it all again. RIP Ed.


  27. Angus Mcfarland Says:

    Great eulogy, man. Never knew Sgt Biddle, but he sounds like a lot of guys I’ve known over the years. It just comes to a time when it all seems so pointless that you wonder if it’s worth going on for another day. I’ve been to that point a lot, just never gone past.
    But the reasons to keep on, just seem to be growing less important…and this life seems to be a lot less interesting than it used to be. My main reason for hanging on right now is pure cussedness. Too many people I don’t like would be pleased if I checked myself out. So…I’m not going to.


  28. Dorf Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, Skippy. Losing a friend like that is a hard experience to go through. I think I can speak for all of your fans when I say, “We’re right here with you if you need to talk about it further.” May you still find peace this holiday season, even without your buddy. We’re all here for you, Skippy.


  29. Texan Says:

    PLEASE, if you find yourself in a similar situation, GET HELP. Here are resources that can help you, but you have to make that first step. You are not alone and there are people that want to help you get over anything and everything you are dealing with.

    National Suicide Prevention Hotline, Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255. Press 1 and you will immediately get a trained responder. Free and confidential

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America- support group of people who are going through every single thing you are. People to talk to who do get it: http://iava.org/

    USO: http://www.uso.org/

    Returning Veterans Project- resources for free healthcare and support for returning veterans and their families: http://www.returningveterans.org/providers/find

    Get help. It doesn’t make you less of a man or less of a service member. These are free, confidential people who want to help you any way they you need.

    And if you aren’t in this boat, please donate your time or money. These guys do good work and need your support. Make support the troops more than just a soundbyte for political points.


  30. jmireles Says:

    We had a medic in our unit who commited suicide. Her name was SPC. Tiffany Ebrecht. She was a mother of three who was going through a divorce. None of us really knows the whole story, nor will we ever. She didn’t give any hints. There wasn’t really a change in her behavior. One day she was there, the next she was gone. Since then, on the one-year anniversary of her death, our unit pitches in and sends flowers to Ebrecht’s mother. It’s pretty much the least we can do. She was loved.


  31. ChefBoy Hardy Says:

    Sorry for your loss, Skippy. Sounds like he was an outstanding soldier. RIP SGT Biddle


  32. AFP Says:

    Skippy, as others have said, sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was a hell of a guy.


  33. Steve p Says:

    That is a seriously beautiful eullogy (sp?) – you made me care about a man id never met , A credit to both of you , thank you


  34. Tom Allmendinger Says:

    I also wish to raise my glass to his memory, and pass on my condolences to all those affected


  35. MarkHB Says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    All I can do is echo everyone else here.


  36. BOBK Says:

    Skippy – I think we all knew lifers like Sgt Biddle. They earned our respect and made life more tolerable.

    What you had to say about him was great. I think he would liked it.


  37. Die Fletermaus Says:

    That was deep, Skippy. We all have a SGT Biddle in our lives. It’s amazing how we think on people when we’re around them, and then when they aren’t around us, then, when they’re just not around.


  38. Dinga Says:

    You said it all brother. Al was a great dude, and a great friend, he will be greatly missed.

    RIP Thomas A. Biddle


  39. T Says:

    One year later and it still hasn’t quite come to reality. I still haven’t removed your number from my cell phone or deleted your Facebook page. I’m not sure that I ever will, though each time I inadvertantly scroll across it, a moment takes me back. And regretfully, you’re not the only distant friend, and Soldier, who calls from the great beyond. But here is the place that I remain, where your memory still roams. A place too small to hold on and too big to let go! Today I remember the irony of life, not just for you but for all, that we’re born to live and we’re born to die. Only time separates both! And so I make this prayer for your birthday, and your opposite day, that your soul has found a world of peace and love. Your place is there; the search is over. Mine is here for now and that ever-searching time goes on. Always, RIP, Al.


  40. John Rhoads Says:

    T, thank you! Dec 6 would have been his birthday. I too went to his Facebook page, his mom posted yesterday. They say that time helps us deal with a loss like this. It hurts just as bad today as it did last year.

    RIP Thomas Allen Biddle..


  41. Girlnbdus Says:

    I heard this was possibly not a suicide but a homicide… Has anyone else heard of such? Is his facebook page still active? I was very close with Al for a few years. We went on numerous stareside TDY’s together. Then our lives took separate paths. I ran into him at SWC before he graduated SF. I lost track of him and was incredibly saddened last Christmas when I found out…. This just doesnt seem like him.



  42. John Says:

    May I ask your possible source? As this would be horribly upsetting to the family. Please, please don’t start something with out proof. Al was just as honorable in high school as when most of you met him in your lives.


  43. Girlnbdus Says:

    No… It was just a rumor that I had heard here at Fort Bragg by a couple of his old psyop friends. I think we were all just grasping for why he would have done this… It is/was just so out of character for the Al that I knew… He was one of my best friends when tragedy happened in my life. He and I had been through many similar things in out personal lives. This was all before he moved to Florida and before becoming a Green Beret. Still hurts today knowing that he is gone. He is someone that I will mever forget. He helped me heal many personal wounds and helped my military knowledge as well.


  44. John Says:

    Oh I now where you are coming from in questioning the why factor. From the day I met Al our sophomore year, this loss will never make any sense.


  45. ???? Says:

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