Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
The Medal of Honor
With a name like the Medal of Honor, you know this award has to be good. In fact, the Medal of Honor is the highest military honor awarded in the United States. Presented by the President of the United States and on behalf on the US Congress, it is awarded to soldiers in recognition of personal acts of valor that go above and beyond the call of duty. So, it's a big deal. Since its creation during the Civil War, the Medal of Honor has been the ultimate recognition of service in every American war. The United States was directly involved in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1973. Amongst the fighting forces was Robert L. Howard, an Army Green Beret who served five tours in Vietnam and would become one of the the most highly decorated American soldiers to fight. By the end of the war, Howard had been awarded the Silver Star, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Cross, four Legion of Merit awards, four Bronze Star Medals, eight Purple Hearts, and yes, the Medal of Honor.
Life of Robert L. Howard
Robert L. Howard was born in Alabama in 1939 in Alabama, enlisting in the US Army in 1956. During his very first tour in Vietnam, he was wounded by a bullet that grazed his face. While recovering, he was recruited to serve with the Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. It was with this division that Howard would receive most of his recognitions of service. After the war, Howard attended college, earning a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees in management and public administration. He remained actively connected to the military until 1992, when he retired with the rank of colonel. Even after retirement, Col. Howard continued working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and eventually served as president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society from 2007 to 2009. In 2009, Col. Howard passed away from pancreatic cancer at 70 years old, leaving behind a legacy of service still remembered in the Armed Forces to this day.
Medal of Honor Action
So what exactly earned Howard his Medal of Honor? In December of 1968, Howard was a sergeant 1st class on a search and rescue mission with his platoon to locate a missing fellow Green Beret. While he was leading the platoon, a land mine exploded, knocking Sgt. Howard unconscious and signaling a 250-man ambush by North Vietnamese troops. As he regained consciousness, he quickly became aware of a North Vietnamese soldier using a flamethrower with deadly effect. His hand wounded and rifle destroyed, Sgt. Howard lobbed a grenade at the North Vietnamese soldier, and set to bandaging his badly-wounded lieutenant. A bullet hit his ammo pack, detonating it and once again knocking him down. However, Sgt. Howard again regained his composure enough to drag his lieutenant towards the relative safety of their fellow soldiers, shooting at enemy forces as he did.
Once reconnected with the rest of the platoon, Sgt. Howard took control and rallied the American and South Vietnamese soldiers. Despite being desperately outnumbered, they managed to secure a defensive location along a ravine. Sgt. Howard continued directing the troops, crawling along the line of defense to resupply his men and trying to prevent the enemy from closing in. They were deep in enemy territory, and it would be several hours of fighting before US helicopters were able to reach them. According to those who gave testimonies of the battle, Sgt. Howard himself was the last one on the choppers, only leaving once his entire platoon was safe. For his composure, leadership, and valor at great personal risk, Howard was promoted to first lieutenant, granting him officer status. In 1971, he was formally awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon.
Colonel Robert L. Howard was an American Green Beret and one of the most highly decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War. Perhaps the most notable of his recognitions was the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States, given for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. Howard earned his medal as a sergeant 1st class in 1968 when his platoon was ambushed during a search and rescue mission in enemy territory. Despite being injured and knocked unconscious at least once, Howard risked his life to protect his own lieutenant, managed to regroup his platoon and secure them in a defensive position, and kept them supplied and focused until they could be evacuated by US helicopters. President Nixon decorated then-Lieutenant Howard with the Medal of Honor in 1971. Howard passed away in 2009, leaving behind a distinguished legacy of service that embodies the Green Beret passion to serve.
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