By early 1967, Sargent had been promoted to First Lieutenant and was serving as a rifle platoon leader with 4th Battalion/9th Infantry Regiment, then part of the 25th Infantry Division and was fighting the Communist enemy in Vietnam. Forty-five years ago today, his platoon uncovered a Viet Cong weapons cache and tunnel complex. While they were trying to clear the area, an enemy tossed two grenades into the midst of Sargent's command group. He returned fire, and then sacrificed himself to save the lives of his soldiers. His courage was posthumously recognized with our Nation's highest honor.
From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (M-Z):
*SARGENT, RUPPERT L.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company B, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Hau Nghia Province, Republic of Vietnam, 15 March 1967. Entered service at: Richmond, Va. Born: 6 January 1938, Hampton, Va. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While leading a platoon of Company B, 1st Lt. Sargent was investigating a reported Viet Cong meeting house and weapons cache. A tunnel entrance which 1st Lt. Sargent observed was booby trapped. He tried to destroy the booby trap and blow the cover from the tunnel using hand grenades, but this attempt was not successful. He and his demolition man moved in to destroy the booby trap and cover which flushed a Viet Cong soldier from the tunnel, who was immediately killed by the nearby platoon sergeant. 1st Lt. Sargent, the platoon sergeant, and a forward observer moved toward the tunnel entrance. As they approached, another Viet Cong emerged and threw 2 hand grenades that landed in the midst of the group. 1st Lt. Sargent fired 3 shots at the enemy then turned and unhesitatingly threw himself over the 2 grenades. He was mortally wounded, and his 2 companions were lightly wounded when the grenades exploded. By his courageous and selfless act of exceptional heroism, he saved the lives of the platoon sergeant and forward observer and prevented the injury or death of several other nearby comrades. 1st Lt. Sargent's actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military services and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.