Thursday, December 24, 2009

Colonel Robert L. Howard MOH

Capt. Robert Howard is awarded the Medal of Honor by Pres. Richard Nixon at the White House - 2 March 1971

Col. Robert Lewis Howard, Retired US Army
Wednesday, December 23, 2009, in in Waco

Col. Robert L. Howard, Retired US Army, 70, of Waco and formerly of San Antonio, and who at the time of his death was the most decorated American soldier, passed away Wednesday, December 23, 2009 in Waco.

Full military honors are pending and will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and will be announced by OakCrest Funeral Home of Waco. His flag draped casket will be in state from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, December 30 and Thursday, December 31 at the funeral home.

Col. Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama and enlisted in the US Army in 1956 at the age of 17. He retired as a full Colonel in 1992 after 36 years of service.

During Vietnam, he served in the US Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and spent most of his five tours in the super-secret MACV-SOG.

Col. Howard was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor, his first nomination being downgraded to the DSC.

His second and third nominations were simultaneous for two separate actions and the Medal of Honor was awarded for the first of them and was presented to him by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1971.

The other nomination was downgraded to the Silver Star.

Col. Howard was wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam and was awarded 8 Purple Hearts.

Col. Howard is survived by his children, Denicia Howard of Florida, Melissa Gentsch and husband, Asst. Chief of Police Frank Gentsch of Waco, Rosslyn Howard of California and Robert Howard, Jr. and wife, Tori of California; and his grandchildren, Victoria Batey and husband, Luke of Denton, Holley Gentsch of Waco, Trey Howard of California, Isabella Gentsch of Waco and George Harris of Florida.

This site is dedicated to Robert L. Howard, one of America's most decorated soldiers. He served five tours 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 within a thirteen month period. Although it can only be awarded once to an individual, men who served with him said he deserved all three. He received a direct appointment from Master Sergeant to 1st Lieutenant in 1969, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in 1971. His other awards for valor include the Distinguished Service Cross - our nation's second highest award, the Silver Star - the third highest award, and numerous lesser decorations including eight Purple Hearts. He received his decorations for valor for actions while serving as an NCO (Sergeant First Class).

Robert L. Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 at age seventeen. He retired as a full Colonel in 1992 after 36 years service. During Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and spent most of his five tours in the super-secret MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group) also known as Special Operations Group, which ran classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. These men carried out some of the most daring and dangerous missions ever conducted by the U.S. military. The understrength sixty-man recon company at Kontum in which he served was the Vietnam War's most highly decorated unit of its size with five Medals of Honor. It was for his actions while serving on a mission to rescue a fellow soldier in Cambodia, that he was submitted for the Medal of Honor the third time for his extraordinary heroism.

Robert L. Howard is said to be our nation's most decorated soldier from the Vietnam War. He was the last Vietnam Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient still on active duty when he retired on Sept. 29, 1992. His story is told in John Plaster's excellent book, SOG The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam.

It is important for future generations that we remember our military heroes and the great sacrifices they have made for us in the name of Freedom.

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Service Schedule 

Visitation Date: 
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Visitation Time: 
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Visitation Location: 
OakCrest Funeral Home  [Map]

Visitation Date: 
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Visitation Time: 
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Visitation Location: 
OakCrest Funeral Home  [Map]

Service Date: 
Monday, February 22, 2010
Service Time: 
11:00 a.m.
Service Location: 

Burial Date: 
Monday, February 22, 2010
Burial Location: 
Arlington National Cemetery 


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 30 December 1968. Entered service at: Montgomery, Ala. Born: 11 July 1939, Opelika, Ala. 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.

Hero didn't forget the GIs of today

By Scott Huddleston - Express-News

Retired Army Col. Robert L. Howard, a Medal of Honor recipient who retired in San Antonio and was one of the most highly decorated soldiers from the Vietnam War, died Wednesday.

Howard, 70, died about noon at a hospice in Waco, where he'd been for about three weeks, suffering from pancreatic cancer, said Benito Guerrero, a close friend, Vietnam veteran and retired sergeant major.

Howard, a larger-than-life figure on the national military scene, appeared at many patriotic events in San Antonio and helped honor the wounded by attending Purple Heart ceremonies.

At his suggestion, the local Blue Star Mothers of America chapter began holding an annual ceremony in late December to remember the troops serving overseas.

“He said, ‘Don't forget the troops at Christmas.' He was very adamant about that,” said Chris Peche, who in 2004 helped organize the annual event, now held each year at the Alamo.

In April, Howard traveled, as he often did, to Iraq and Afghanistan to talk to U.S. troops about service. Just two months ago, he visited troops in Germany, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Howard, born July 11, 1939, grew up in Opelika, Ala., and served in the Army from 1956 to 1992. After retiring at Fort Sam Houston, he decided to stay in San Antonio.

Howard, who served five tours of Vietnam, was a sergeant first class in the Army's Special Forces on Dec. 30, 1968, when he rallied a badly shot-up platoon against an estimated 250 enemy troops in Vietnam.

Despite being unable to walk because of injuries from grenade blasts, he coordinated a strong counterattack while aiding the wounded and was the last man to board a helicopter, according to military records.

He was nominated for the Medal of Honor, the highest honor for valor, three times during a 13-month period. His long list of awards also included the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star and eight Purple Hearts.

At an annual convention for Medal of Honor recipients in Chicago in September, Howard said he and others wore the medal not to honor themselves, but for all U.S. troops past and present, including “those who stood beside us and for those who did not come home,” according to the Associated Press.

He also had been an advocate for troops missing in action. He told a Senate panel in 1986 that he believed there still were Americans, possibly more than 100, living in captivity in Southeast Asia.

Guerrero said Howard told him Sunday that military recruiters should give more waivers to young men “who've gone astray,” because they would “do better if given a second chance.”

“He cared about people, especially soldiers, and he loved his country,” Guerrero said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Alfred Valenzuela said he's been asked by the Pentagon and White House to coordinate funeral arrangements with Howard's family. He said he wasn't aware of any service-related connection to Howard's death.

While Howard's military record speaks for itself, Valenzuela said San Antonians need to know he served others while he lived here, whether working as a caseworker with the Veterans Affairs Department or speaking to teenagers about staying away from gangs.

“His forte was giving back. To him, it was never about Bob Howard. It was about helping others,” Valenzuela said.

Howard is survived by three grown children, including a daughter living in Waco, Valenzuela said. A memorial service in San Antonio and burial at Arlington National Cemetery are planned.

Peche said she feels a loss that's not only local and national, but also deeply personal.

“He was an extraordinary soul that I was blessed to know, not only because of our common support of our deployed troops, but also as a friend,” she said.


Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star
Bronze Star for Valor, 3d Oak Leaf Cluster
Purple Heart, 8th Award, 7th Oak Leaf Cluster
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit, 3d Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze Star for Meritorious Achievement
Air Medal for Valor, 2d Oak Leaf Cluster
Army Commendation Medal for Valor, 3d Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Medal for Aerial Flights
Army Meritorious Service Medal, 2d Oak Leaf Cluster
Army Commendation Medal for Meritorious Achievement, 2d Oak Leaf Cluster
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Joint Service Achievement Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Good Conduct Medal 4th Award
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
PNCO Ribbon W/2 device
Army Overseas Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon
Expeditionary Medal, 2d Oak Leaf Cluster
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal with 60 device
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star
Vietnam Honor Medal 2d Award
Vietnamese Wound Medal
Vietnamese Civil Action Medal 2d Award
Army Presidential Unit Citation, 1st Oak Leaf Cluster
Navy Valorous Unit Citation
Army Meritorious Unit Citation
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, 1st Oak Leaf Cluster
Republic of Korea Samil Medal
Combat Infantryman's Badge
Aircraft Crewman's Badge
MForces Qualification Tab
Thai Master Parachute Wings
Vietnamese Master Parachute Badge
French Parachutist Badge
Korean Master Parachute Badge
Thai Balloonist Badge
aster Parachute Badge
Pathfinder Badge
Air Assault Badge
Expert Infantryman's Badge
Vietnamese Ranger Badge
Army Ranger Tab

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