December 24th, 2009

MOH Winner, Most-Decorated Soldier Passes

Col. Robert HowardMedal of Honor winner Col. Robert L. Howard passed away yesterday in Waco, Texas. Prior to his death, historians believed Howard was the most highly-decorated then-living American soldier. He was part of the Army Special Forces and ran cross-border operations in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam. He was wounded 14 times in Vietnam and was awarded eight Purple Hearts.

He was nominated three separate times for the Medal of Honor, finally receiving the nation’s highest award in 1971. President Richard M. Nixon presented him with the honor for his bravery in Vietnam during a mission to rescue a missing soldier in enemy territory.

In addition to the MOH, Col. Howard held the following major decorations: Distinguished Service Cross (with one oak leaf cluster); Silver Star; Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit (with three oak leaf clusters); Bronze Star (with three oak leaf clusters and “V” device); Purple Heart (multiple with a silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters); Meritorious Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters); Air Medal (with “V” Device and numeral 3. One award for heroism and two for aerial achievement); Joint Service Commendation; Army Commendation Medal (with “V” device and one each silver and bronze oak leaf clusters. 4 awards for valor and 3 for achievement); Presidential Unit Citation (for Studies and Observations Group–SOG).

Howard also held many other U.S. service medals and Foreign Decorations, including the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (with Gold, Silver, and Bronze citations).

After retiring from the Army, Col. Howard spent much of his free time working with veterans. He also took periodic trips to Iraq to visit active duty troops. Howard died of pancreatic cancer at a hospice in Waco, Texas on December 23, 2009.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Col. Howard and to read his Medal of Honor citation. As a staff sergeant of the highly-classified Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), Howard was recommended for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions during thirteen months spanning 1967–1968. The first two nominations were downgraded to the award of the Distinguished Service Cross due to the covert nature of the operations in which Howard participated.

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