Friday, September 01, 2006

Silver Star for SPC (E-5) Richard L. Smith
17 November 1965 – Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam

And the Lord Said,
“Whom shall I send?
Who will go for us?”
And I said,
“Here am I.
Send me!”
- Isaiah 6:8

Specialist Five Smith performed gallantry in action against the enemy on 17 November 1965 in Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam while serving as a crew chief of a UH-1D helicopter while assigned to Company B, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). On 17 November, Landing Zone (LZ) Albany was surrounded and engaged by enemy forces. Specialist Smith voluntarily departed from his crew chief’s position in his helicopter and ran out onto the open field while under fire, and at risk to his own life, dragged back onboard wounded Soldiers for evacuation. He performed this action twice after Medical Evacuation Unit crews repeatedly refused to land due to the hostile conditions at the LZ. The gallantry displayed by Specialist Smith was in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and the United States Army.

As you can see, his award was a long time in coming. To know what he did on a day like that and be patient for more than 40 years to see the recognition is just amazing to me and a testament to that breed of soldier that endured that war.

I shook his hand right after MG Rodriguez pinned his “Silver Star” on him and the look of pride on his face was indescribable. I spoke with him again at our inside reception for him and his humbleness was also very striking. To paraphrase him, it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. No, running back and forth under a hail of enemy fire repeatedly to save your fellow soldier is not a big deal; it’s a monumental deal. One I dare say that we all struggle to convince ourselves we are capable of in similar circumstances.


Thank you for letting me send this to you. This was a great day for a great American.