Soldiers from the U.S. Army First Battalion, 26th Infantry take defensive positions at firebase Restrepo after receiving fire from Taliban positions in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan's Kunar Province on Monday May 11, 2009. Spc. Zachery Boyd of Fort Worth, TX, far left was wearing 'I love NY' boxer shorts after rushing from his sleeping quarters to join his fellow platoon members. From far right is Spc. Cecil Montgomery of Many, LA and Jordan Custer of Spokan, WA, center.(AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday praised an Army soldier in eastern Afghanistan who drew media attention this month after rushing to defend his post from attack while wearing pink boxer shorts and flip-flops.
In fact, Gates said he wants to meet the soldier and shake his hand the next time he visits Afghanistan.
"Any soldier who goes into battle against the Taliban in pink boxers and flip-flops has a special kind of courage," Gates said in remarks prepared for a speech in New York.
"I can only wonder about the impact on the Taliban. Just imagine seeing that: a guy in pink boxers and flip-flops has you in his cross-hairs. What an incredible innovation in psychological warfare," he said.
Army Specialist Zachary Boyd, 19, of Fort Worth, Texas, rushed from his sleeping quarters on May 11 to join fellow platoon members at a base in Afghanistan's Kunar Province after the unit came under fire from Taliban positions.
A news photographer was on hand to record the image of Boyd standing at a makeshift rampart in helmet, body armor, red T-shirt and boxers emblazoned with the message: "I love NY."
When the image wound up on the front page of the New York Times, Boyd told his parents he might lose his job if President Barack Obama saw him out of uniform.
"I can assure you that Specialist Boyd's job is very safe indeed," Gates said in the speech.
The U.S. defense chief was scheduled to deliver the speech at New York's annual Salute to Freedom dinner in Manhattan.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Will Dunham)