While watching some videos on YouTube yesterday, I stumbled across a video about Colonel Robert L. Howard. Sadly to say, I had never heard of the guy before. After learning more about him, I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know who he is. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE in America should know about Soldiers like Colonel Robert Howard. He is a true American hero. It’s gentlemen like him that make me very proud to be an American and a veteran.
What I’d like to do in the following paragraphs is tell you a little bit more about Colonel Robert Howard so you can see what makes him so special.
First and foremost, Colonel Howard was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor three different times, the only person ever to receive that honor. Two of those nominations were downgraded to a Silver Star and the third one was approved. All three nominations were for his efforts during the Vietnam War, with the U.S. Army Special Forces. The citation for his Medal of Honor reads as follows:
“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 31⁄2 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.”
In addition to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor, he was wounded FOURTEEN different times over 54 months of combat. Think about that for a moment. That’s four and a half years in a dangerous combat zone, doing Special Forces’ missions and putting his life on the line every day. Few people can ever say they gave so much for their country. Even though he kept getting wounded, he never stopped fighting.
In addition to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor, he also was awarded eight Purple Hearts, four Bronze Stars, four Legion of Merits, the Defense Superior Service Medal, one Silver Star, and two Distinguished Service Crosses. Some people call him the most decorated Soldier of the modern military era (post WW2).
He enlisted in the Army in 1956, working his way up through the ranks to Master Sergeant, whereupon he received a direct appointment to First Lieutenant in 1969. After retiring from the Army with 36 years of service in 1992 as a full Colonel, he went on to work with veterans and spent the rest of his life working with and helping veterans.
Sadly, he died of pancreatic cancer on December 23, 2009 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on February 22, 2010.
As Americans, we should do a better job remembering the heroes who protect and defend our freedom. Colonel Robert L. Howard was one of those heroes. I encourage you to read more about him, to visit his grave site in Arlington National Cemetery, to share his legacy with others and to give him a toast the next time you enjoy a nice beverage.
All I can say is that it would have been an honor to serve with him! He was a tremendous leader and warrior.
Before I close out this post, I thought I would share two few videos about Colonel Howard, so you can see for yourself.
In summary, Colonel Robert Howard is a true American hero. What he accomplished during his career is nothing short of fascinating. It’s because of Soldiers like him that we can continue to live in a free society. I hope you will take the time to study his career and learn from it.