By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - A sad day today for the Fort Benning and Columbus communities. Army legend Command Sergeant Major Basil Plumley loses his fight with cancer at age 92.
In the 2002 film "We Were Soldiers," actor Sam Elliot plays Command Sergeant Major Plumley leading troops in the 1965 battle of Ia Drang during the Vietnam War.
But in 1965, Plumley wasn't reading off a script, he was living it.
"Some soldiers referred to it as the Valley of Death because they knew they were going to be in for a fire fight when they went in there," Frank Hanner, Director of the National Infantry Museum, says.
Plumley's bravery in the Vietnam War was just the last chapter of his 32-year military career. He passed away early Wednesday morning at Columbus Hospice, but his spirit lives on inside the National Infantry Museum.
"It would be such a sad museum if we didn't honor someone of his stature in the museum, he did so much for our country," Hanner says.
West Virginia native Plumley traveled to Fort Benning after he was drafted to train as one of the first army paratroopers in the 1940's.
"He found out he could get $50 extra a month to be on jump status so he joined the 82nd Airborne Division," Hanner says.
He would fight with the 82nd Airborne Division throughout WWII, making four combat jumps.
And when the Korean War began in 1950, Plumely was ready to fight again.
"The Army asked soldiers who had combat experience to volunteer to go over to Korea, and he was one of the first to volunteer," Hanner says.
In Korea, Plumley fought with the 187th Regimental Combat Airborne Team, where he completed his fifth combat jump.
Plumely was awarded dozens of awards for his service, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He is also one of only 325 men to receive the Combat Infantryman Badge Third Award since 1943. It is the army's most prestigious and least given award, reserved for soldiers who served in WWII and more than 30 days of combat in Korea and Vietnam.
After retiring from the Army, Plumely worked at the Martin Army Community Hospital on Fort Benning for 15 years.
Funeral arrangements are still pending.
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