There were no head-shavings, no laughing about early career missteps, not even any celebrity sing-offs with 80s-era rockers: Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, was light on laughs during his Monday appearance on “The Late Show,” but he did field some tough questions … and make one heroic airman’s night.
Grass, who is in charge of 760,000 Army and Air National Guard members, met host David Letterman at the Indianapolis 500 in May — the guard sponsors the race team co-owned by the talk-show legend. Grass thanked Letterman for speaking to recruiters and potential enlistees at the speedway, a move that, if successful, would give the Indy sponsorship a pretty good lead over the much-maligned NASCAR program.
That particular advertising effort didn’t come up Monday night, instead, the men talked about Iraq, with Letterman discussing his encounter with two injured guardsmen during a war-zone visit, saying it was the first time he’d realized members of the guard participated in combat.
That led to the host asking Grass about plans for the guard returning to Iraq amid the ongoing chaos. “We’ll do whatever missions the nation needs us,” Grass said. “This is a very dangerous world, and we have to make sure our National Guard is in a higher state of readiness than ever before.”
Proof of that danger came later in the interview, when Grass asked Air Force Master Sgt. Mike Sears, a member of the New Jersey National Guard, to stand up in the audience. He told the crowd that Sears had deployed twice to Afghanistan as an explosive ordnance disposal expert and would be receiving the Silver Star over the weekend for his actions. The crowd erupted before Grass could say much else — Sears earned the award in a 2012 incident, reportedly risking his life to save a wounded Polish soldier and a medic.