"Above the Best"
Army Aviation Hall of Fame 2010 Induction - Fort Worth, TX
COL Robert L. Howard served five tours in Vietnam and is the only soldier in our nation's history to be nominated for the Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions. In addition to the Medal of Honor, his awards for valor include two Distinguished Service Crosses, the Silver Star, and numerous other decorations including eight Purple Hearts. He received his decorations for valor for actions while serving as a Non-Commissioned Officer and was also an Army Aircraft Crewman who earned three Air Medals, including one for valor.
Robert L. Howard grew up in Opelika, Alabama and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 at age seventeen. During his 54 months in 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.
COL Howard’s Medal of Honor Citation for action on December 30, 1968 reads in part:
… 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. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated two company force. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. SFC Howard saw that his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, SFC Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer's equipment, an enemy bullet struck one of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant's belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. SFC 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, SFC Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, SFC 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 three and a half hours SFC Howard's small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. SFC Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely.
COL Howard earned a BA and two Master of Arts degrees and retired as a full Colonel in 1992. COL Howard was then employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and retired from that position in January 2006 after almost 50 years of government service. COL Howard died December 23, 2009 and was buried with full honors at Arlington Cemetery on February 22, 2010. This Special Forces NCO, Aircraft Crewman, and later field grade officer, reflects the highest traditions of our Army and truly serves as a role model for all those who follow after.