Thursday, March 15, 2012

TFH 3/15: 1LT Ruppert L. Sargent, USA

Ruppert Leon Sargent was born on January 6, 1938 in Hampton, VA. He entered the United States Army in 1958 or 1959, and received an officer's commission through Army Officer Candidates' School in 1966.

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):


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. 

Prior to the reexamination of World War II Distinguished Service Cross records based on possible racial discrimination affecting Medal of Honor awards, Lieutenant Sargent was the first African-American officer to receive the Medal. His name is inscribed on Panel 16E, Line 86 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC and he rests in peace in his hometown at Hampton National Cemetery.

On October 5, 2002 the city of Hampton, VA dedicated their new administration building, named for Ruppert Leon Sargent, the only Medal of Honor recipient from the city.

Today, the 25th Infantry Division continues as a front-line unit of our Army and is a key presence in the Pacific region from their home base of Schofield Barracks, Hawai'i. Sargent's battalion, 4th Battalion/9th Infantry, is active with and part of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

1 comment:

  1. I went through OCS with 1LT Sargent. 50th Company. He was in the 6th Platoon, I was in 2nd Platoon. He was an excellent candidate and leader. I find it ironic that our Battalion Commander was also a MOH recipient from WWII. that was LTC Nett. 1LT Sargent was one of 12 candidates from that company that graduated from OCS on the same day who later gave their lives in Viet Nam. May God bless them! Richard L. Montgomery, LTC, US Army, retired.



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