Skip to comments.Vietnam War hero from S.A. is buried
Posted on 02/23/2010 11:10:23 AM PST by BradtotheBone
WASHINGTON Col. Robert L. Howard, an Army veteran from San Antonio and one of the Vietnam war's most highly decorated soldiers, was laid to rest Monday at Arlington National Cemetery as friends and family looked on.
A survivor of five tours in Vietnam, he received the Medal of Honor for directing a counterattack when 250 enemy troops almost overwhelmed his platoon in December 1968 when he was a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Wounded by grenades and unable to walk, he continued to command and was the last to board a helicopter that took his troops out of harm's way.
Howard, 70, a retired Army colonel, died of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 23 in a Waco hospice.
Despite the medals and recognition, he downplayed such accolades.
He was very humble, said friend Benito Guerrero of San Antonio, a retired Army sergeant major. He was one of a kind. He will be greatly missed.
Howard was buried under an overcast sky in a section of the national cemetery near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a fitting tribute for a leader who won respect from those who served under him, his friends said.
In 2009, in one of his final official acts as a decorated veteran, Howard and other Medal of Honor recipients accompanied President Barack Obama to the tomb to lay a wreath.
Born in Alabama, Howard enlisted in the Army at age 17 in 1956. He retired at Fort Sam Houston in 1992 and decided to stay in San Antonio.
Deputy U.S. Marshal James Benjamin, a neighbor, said Howard was a professional soldier until the day he died.
He was inspirational to all military people in San Antonio. He always had time to talk, Benjamin said after the service.
Guerrero, Benjamin and other friends traveled from Texas to attend the ceremony and burial. Their mood was solemn as three rifle volleys were fired. The U.S. Army Band played America.
Howard's son, Army Sgt. Robert L. Howard Jr., was presented with a folded flag at the gravesite and passed it to his sister Melissa Gentsch.
Another memorial is planned for Dodd Field Chapel at Fort Sam Houston at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Howard received eight Purple Hearts for battle wounds, though he was injured 14 times. He liked to say that six of them didn't count and did not accept any more, Guerrero said.
Still, Howard took part in many Purple Heart ceremonies at Fort Sam Houston for wounded soldiers.
After retiring from the military, Howard worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He spent his time giving back to the military, visiting troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and Germany.
He not only served America proudly in the military, he served after he retired, helping veterans and their families, said Larry Romo of San Antonio, the U.S. Selective Service director.
Howard served 58 months of combat duty in Vietnam, and his battlefield exploits resulted in three nominations for the Medal of Honor. He finally received it for the 1968 battle from President Richard M. Nixon on March 2, 1971.
Howard also received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star.
Guerrero said Howard never wanted people to talk about the medals or his heroic deeds.
He used to say: I just do what I'm supposed to do,' Guerrero said.
this fella was a badass trooper! RIP !
As someone else said on another thread regarding Col. Howard, the difference in public awareness about his death, compared to someone like, say, Michael Jackson, tells you everything you need to know about what’s gone wrong in our country.
Rest In Peace Brother
25th INF DIV
Though I wouldn't be surprised if quite a few of our active duty heroes are approaching that number.
RIP, Col. Howard.