Current and former Army Rangers gathered Wednesday at the Ranger Memorial on Fort Benning to commemorate Medal of Honor recipient COL(R) Robert L. Howard.
Howard, who was born in Opelika, Ala., in 1939, died of natural causes Dec. 23 at his home in San Antonio, Texas.
His son, SGT Robert Howard Jr., who is currently in the Special Forces Assessment and Selection course at Fort Bragg, helped lay the wreath at the memorial.
The younger Howard said he initially resisted joining the military but later enlisted because, like his father, wanted to contribute to the country. He said his father inspired him to be patriotic and care for others.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Ledger-Enquirer
“Everyone talks about his military accolades and all he accomplished, which was incredible, but just as a regular person, he was also a great man,” he said.
The elder Howard enlisted in the Army in 1956 and served 36 years. He served five tours in Vietnam and received the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon for his actions during the Vietnam War. Howard received a direct commission from master sergeant to first lieutenant in 1969 while assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group. He was medically retired in 1992.
75th Ranger Regiment commander, COL Michael Kurilla said he was humbled and honored to speak during the ceremony.
“COL Howard was one of our nation’s greatest heroes — the only American to be nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor three times, a recipient of our nation’s four highest awards for valor and wounded on eight separate occasions in combat,” Kurilla said.
He said Howard lived the words of the Ranger creed — ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy’ — before they were even written when he retrieved a fellow Soldier from live fire in Vietnam.
“When others would not go, Robert Howard raised his hand and said ‘Here I am. Send me,’” Kurilla said. “Let us not ask God (why) when men such as Robert Howard died, but let us thank God that men such as Robert Howard lived.”
A second military memorial will be held at Fort Bragg before Howard is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.