Medal of Honor.
Special Forces Staff Sergeant Robert L. Howard was wounded, and on the battlefield when he got the news over a 2-way radio that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor.
That might have been astonishing in itself, except this was the third time in his military career that Howard had been recommended for the award.
Special-ops.org says it was during thirteen months of combat from 1967 to 1968 that Howard’s actions and bravery earned him unquestionable respect among his soldiers. But his first two nominations for Medal of Honor were downgraded to a Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross due to the covert nature of the secret operations in which he participated.
Howard was a staff sergeant in the highly-classified Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG).
It was during a rescue mission in December 30, 1968, when Sergeant First Class Howard was second in command of a platoon-sized Hornet Force searching for American soldiers missing behind enemy lines.
We Are The Mighty recounts, As they moved out onto their objective, they were attacked by what had to be two companies of enemy troops. 1st. Lt. Howard was wounded by an enemy grenade almost immediately. He lost his weapon to the explosion, and his platoon leader was down.
"We took casualties on the insert," Howard said. "I finally got with the platoon leader and said we need to secure this LZ... I got three men behind me, I remember being fired at and I fell backward and they killed three men behind me."
One of the helicopters had been shot down with troops still aboard it. The platoon began taking fire from the flanks, and Howard knew he had to tell his lieutenant the landing zone was hotter than they thought. Just as he got close to his officer, however, the unit was ambushed.
"When I come to, I was blown up in a clump on the ground," Howard recalled. "My weapon was blown out of my hand, I remember seeing red, and saying a prayer hoping I wasn't blind. I couldn't see and I was in a lot of pain."
When he got his vision back, he realized he was seeing blood. All he could see was flames, and all he could hear was people screaming. He realized the enemy was burning his friends with a flamethrower. His lieutenant was down. For reasons unknown, the flamethrower didn't burn Howard or his platoon leader, he just walked away.
His hands hurting and bleeding, Howard moved to help get his leader out of there. As he dragged his platoon leader out, a round struck his ammo pouch, detonating it. He was hit 15 to 20 times as he worked to get his lieutenant out. He fought off charging Vietnamese soldiers, dodging bullets and bayonets while protecting his leader.
For four hours, Howard kept his unit from being surrounded and killed. Out of 37 friendly troops, only six survived unharmed. But it was Howard’s actions that prevented total annihilation on that day.
Robert L. Howard’s military career spanned 36 years. During 54 months of the Vietnam War he was wounded 14 times. He earned eight Purple Hearts and four Bronze Stars and is arguably the most decorated American soldier in U.S. military history.
Out of the 40 million or so Americans who have served in the U.S. Military throughout its history, just over 3,400 have received the Medal of Honor.
The medal was first authorized in 1861 for Sailors and Marines, and the following year for Soldiers as well.
They are awarded sparingly and are bestowed only to the bravest of the brave. There can be no question Robert L. Howard is among them.