John Abizaid: Back home again | RecordCourier.com

John Abizaid: Back home again

Retired Gen. John P. Abizaid, former U.S. CENTCOM commander, addresses an audience Sunday night during the Douglas County Republicans' "We the People" Lincoln-Reagan Dinner Celebration at the Carson Valley Inn.

It is an understatement to say John Abizaid has traveled far since his graduation from Coleville High School in 1969.

Abizaid spoke to Douglas County Republicans Sunday night at the Carson Valley Inn about his experiences during a 34-year military career that began with his appointment to West Point out of high school. He led an Army Ranger rifle company during the 1983 invasion of Grenada, later led the 82nd Airborne Division's elite 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the Gulf War, served as assistant division commander of the 1st Armored Division in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and ultimately the four-star general served as U.S. Central Command commander before retiring in 2007.

After traveling the world, Abizaid and his wife, Kathy (a Bridgeport native and fellow 1969 Coleville graduate), never forgot about their roots.

"We left here back in 1969 and we came back here seven years ago," Abizaid said. "Why did we come back here? It's the greatest place on earth. Our lives have taken us all over the world and Douglas County is the place to stay."

There's a ton of memories, too, and Abizaid, who graduated as class salutatorian and as a three-sport athlete from Coleville, used some of those memories to take a jab at one audience member, Sen. Dean Heller, a Carson High School graduate who now lives in nearby Smith Valley.

"Senator Heller is a Smith Valley guy and we used to play them. The Coleville Wolves played the Smith Valley Bulldogs and we always won," Abizaid said, drawing a round of laughter from the crowd.

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He wasn't kidding, either. Coleville, with its enrollment of less than 100 students, won five Nevada small schools football championships from 1965-71.

Abizaid received more laughs when he shared a story about retired Gen. James Mattis, now the Secretary of Defense.

"I know him very well; he used to work for me," Abizaid said. "We were talking the other day and Secretary Mattis said, 'Are you still living up there in that area (Nevada) that reminds everybody of Afghanistan? And I said, 'What are you talking about? You're from Eastern Washington. In fact, that reminds me of Kazakhstan."

Abizaid admitted he sometimes gets tired of being asked why he decided to live in Nevada.

"So finally, I said, 'Look, it reminds me of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border," he said. "Everybody's heavily armed. You have people who, deep down, really don't like the federal government. And there's a certain amount of drugs that go back and forth across the California border. But after all, if you're going to be a retired general and you're going to lead a militia, why not Nevada?'"