Tuesday, March 16, 2010


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.  Only 3,448 Americans have been awarded Medals of Honor.  Today only 91 of them survive.

Wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam, Robert Howard was awarded 8 Purple Hearts and was believed to be the most decorated living American.  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 13-month period. Although it can only be awarded once to an individual, men who served with him said he deserved all three. 

President Richard M. Nixon awarded him the Medal of Honor at the White House in 1971.  Other awards included the Distinguished Service Cross - our nation's second highest award, and the Silver Star - the third highest award. 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 under-strength 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. 

In later years, as a larger-than-life figure on the national military scene, he appeared at many patriotic events, encouraging people to remember our troops.  He was also an advocate for troops missing in action and believed there were more than 100 troops living in captivity in south east Asia.  He died in 2009 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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.  

Excerpt from John Plaster's recent book SECRET COMMANDOS Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG - pg. 303:
"The day that President Nixon draped the Medal of Honor's pale blue ribbon around Howard's neck, I sat before the TV in my parents' living room watching the evening news. Coming on top of his previous decorations - the Distinguished Service Cross and multiple Silver and Bronze Stars, plus eight Purple Hearts - Howard's combat awards exceeded those of Audie Murphy, America's legendary World War II hero, until then our most highly decorated serviceman. At last, Howard would get his due. I flipped station to station, but not one of the networks - not CBS or NBC or ABC - could find ten seconds to mention Captain Robert Howard or his indomitable courage. I found nothing about him in the newspapers. Twisted by the antiwar politics of that era, many in the media believed that to recognize a heroic act was to glorify war. They simply chose not to cover the ceremony. It might as well not have happened." 
Let's pass these stories of valor, bravery and dedication to the United States of America on to our children and grandchildren. 

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