WACO (December 23, 2009)—Retired Army Col. Robert L. Howard, 70, who died Wednesday in Waco, was a Medal of Honor winner who at the time of his death was believed to be the most-decorated living American soldier.
Howard will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Services were pending Wednesday through OakCrest Funeral Home in Waco.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon in which he said Howard “was the bravest soldier I ever met.”
“His unshakeable commitment to freedom, displayed in countless episodes of battlefield gallantry, lives on in the actions of our military men and women who continue to serve in hostile conditions overseas,” he said.
Howard, who grew up in Opelika, Ala., enlisted in the Army in 1956 at the age of 17 and retired as a full colonel in 1992.
In Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces and spent most of his five tours in the secret Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group, or MACV-SOG, which was an unconventional force whose members were assigned to deep-penetration reconnaissance and interdiction missions.
He was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor, which he was awarded in 1971 for the rescue of a seriously wounded platoon leader who was under enemy fire.
During his 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam, Howard was wounded 14 times and was awarded eight Purple Heart Medals.
He leaves behind his children, Denicia Howard of Florida, Melissa Gentsch and husband, Waco Assistant Chief of Police Frank Gentsch of Waco, Rosslyn Howard of California and Robert Howard, Jr. and his wife, Tori of California.