Medal of Honor Recipient Robert L. Howard

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military award in the United States, and in this lesson we will explore the life and career of one of its recipients, Col. Robert L. Howard.

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.

The Medal of Honor for the US Army

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.

Col. Robert L. Howard

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.

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