In Memoriam: Robert Lewis Howard

Posted on 01 March 2010


To the average American, the passing of Robert L. Howard went unnoticed but for the family and friends who survived him.  Yet, one of the most decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War compelled the news media to devote a brief commentary to him.  So, who was this man?


Born on July 11, 1939, at the age of 17, the Opelika, Alabama native enlisted in the U.S. Army, in Montgomery, Alabama.  The year was 1956.  By the time Howard had arrived in Vietnam, he had risen through the ranks, attaining status as a Staff Sergeant assigned to the highly classified Military Assistance Command-Studies and Observation Group.


During his brief tour of duty spanning 13 months between 1967 and 1968, he was nominated for the Medal of Honor on no less than three separate occasions.  The first two nominations had to be downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, due to the covert nature of the operations in which he was engaged.


On December 30, 1968 in Cambodia, Howard, who by then had become a Sergeant First Class, was second in command of a platoon-sized force.  While searching through the steaming jungle for a missing American soldier named Robert Scherdin, Howard put his life on the line. Outnumbered and wounded so badly by grenade blasts that was unable to walk, he crawled tenaciously through a hail of fire to drag his wounded platoon leader to safety.  Compounding this act of supreme bravery, he insisted upon being the last man to board the helicopter, which evacuated them to a medical facility.  For this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.


During those thirteen months in Vietnam, Howard was wounded no less than fourteen times.  Eight Purple Hearts as well as numerous other honors, including the Silver Star and other medals bearing Oak Leaf Clusters, distinguished his uncommon valor.


In 1971, in a private ceremony that took place in The White House, President Richard M. Nixon bestowed the Medal of Honor upon Lieutenant Howard and six other recipients.  Nixon’s motivation for the privacy was his wish that his policies concerning the Vietnam War not be misinterpreted as an attempt to garner sympathy among the general public for the conflict.  Indeed, it was Nixon who ultimately put an end to this very long and bloody battle.


Colonel Robert L. Howard retired after a 36-year career with the Army career.  Upon his retirement, he chose to continue to serve his country by working for The Department of Veteran Affairs. A constant supporter of veterans’ needs who always put his words into action, Howard made several tours of Iraq, to provide his insight on warfare to the men in the field.


On December 23, 2009, America lost another brave son.  Robert L. Howard is survived and remembered by his three children and four grandchildren.  While in Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, his son Robert Junior proclaimed, “I admire [my father] greatly for everything he has done.  My dad is a hero.”  Another family member allowed, “He was a soldier’s soldier, always looking out for his men.”


Colonel Robert L. Howard rests in Arlington National Cemetery, along with the many war heroes who preceded him. 





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11 Responses to “In Memoriam: Robert Lewis Howard”

  1. WW ll Vet says:

    Thank you for posting this story you wil not find it broadcasted in the media who must consider it unworthy of comment. The men who served with Robert L. Howard will never forget him for his gallantry and valor. The apathy that exists in America is shameful when it comes to honoring its heroes more people appear to honor the death of John Lennon than attending a cermony to honor America’s heroes on special days of the year.

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