Thursday, January 7, 2010

Col. Robert Howard, Nation's Most Decorated Soldier, Falls to Cancer

July 11, 1939- December 23, 2009

"Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure"- Abraham Lincoln

Two days before Christmas the nation lost a hero. Medal of Honor recipient Col. Robert L. Howard succumbed to pancreatic cancer and died in a hospice located in Waco, Texas. He is survived by three children and four grandchildren.

Wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam, Robert Howard was awarded 8 Purple Hearts, a pair of Distinguished Service Crosses (the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army), a Silver Star, Multiple Bronze Stars, the list marches on and Bob Howard is described as the nation’s most decorated soldier.

It's not often you'll find me quoting Brian Williams of NBC, but there is no argument with his description of Col. Bob Howard, “the toughest American alive when he was among us.

Brian William's Tribute to Col. Bob Howard:

Robert L. Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 at age seventeen. He went on to rise above and beyond the call of duty in a manner that movies and video games are modeled after. There is no better inspiration than true-life heroes and Col. Howard fits that bill.

Col. Howard served 5-tours of duty in Vietnam and is the only soldier in our nation’s history to be nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions. The act of July 9, 1918, however, stipulates that no person could receive more than one MoH. In 1971, President Nixon awarded Col. Robert L. Howard the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Howard (then Sfc .), distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory in the Republic of Vietnam.
The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated 2-company force. During the initial engagement, 1st Lt. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion.
1st Lt. Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, 1st Lt. Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader.
As 1st Lt. Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer's equipment, an enemy bullet struck 1 of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant's belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition.
1st Lt. Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area.
Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, 1st Lt. Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy.
For 3 1/2 hours 1st Lt. Howard's small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. 1st Lt. Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely.
1st Lt. Howard's gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
On March 25, 2009, in commemoration of National Medal Day, Col. Bob Howard wrote an article for the guest column in Stars and Stripes. Click here to read the full article by Col. Howard.

"Today, we're fighting terrorism and the spread of tyranny. We're challenged by market upheaval, joblessness and perhaps hunger. But the human spirit is resilient and can withstand more than sometimes we are able to immediately comprehend."- Col. Robert L. Howard



Mike Hatz said...

Excellent post honoring a man whose name should be a household word. I hope this little delusional period we're experiencing in America will forge more men and women of honor like Col. Howard. May he rest in peace and his memory be one of honor!

Anonymous said...

Thats one amazing man....OMG...truly someone I will remember always....Thank u Col. Howard for keeping us safe and being a wonderful hero...RIP

Anonymous said...

A true credit to John Wayne high school. Go airborne!!!