Robert Lewis Howard was a real American hero. In 1956 when he was just 17 years old, he enlisted in the Army. He ended up serving 5 tours of duty in Viet Nam and was wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat. He received 8 Purple Hearts, a Distinguished Service Cross,[a] a Silver Star, and four Bronze Stars and of course, the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was nominated for the CMoH three times.
He would not have been the first multiple winner of the CMoH. That occurred during the Civil War by a man by the name of Custer. Thomas Custer to be exact. He was a brother to George and he won two medals for riding into the enemy camp and stealing their battle flags twice. That was a big deal back then. Thomas was with George at the Little Big Horn as was a third brother whose name was Boston.
Howard enlisted in the Army in 1956 at Montgomery, Alabama and retired as Colonel, Army Special Forces, in 1992.
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 for three individual actions during thirteen months spanning 1967–1968. The first two nominations were downgraded to a Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross due to the covert nature of the operations in which Howard participated.
As a Sergeant First Class of the same organization, he risked his life during a rescue mission in Cambodia on December 30, 1968, while second in command of a platoon-sized Hatchet Force that was searching for missing American soldier Robert Scherdin, and was finally awarded the Medal of Honor. He learned of the award over a two-way radio while under enemy fire, immediately after being wounded, resulting in one of his eight Purple Hearts.
Howard was wounded 14 times during a 54-month period in the Vietnam War.
He received two master’s degrees during his Army career which spanned 1956 to 1992.
Howard retired as a Colonel in 1992.
According to NBC News, Howard may have been the most highly decorated American soldier of the modern era.
His residence was in Texas and he spent much of his free time working with veterans until the time of his death. 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. He was survived by four children and five grandchildren.
His funeral was in Arlington National Cemetery on February 22, 2010.