Act of valor led to medals, awards

Act of valor led to medals, awards

By Danielle McLean
Maynard —

Robert R. Lee, nicknamed the “The General,” served two tours in the Vietnam War as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army and part of the Army’s elite 11th Armored Calvary Regiment, known as the Black Horse Troopers, between 1968 and 1971. In his first tour he was part of the Army’s M-48 A3 Tank force and in the second, was a helicopter door gunner.

He has earned several prestigious medals including a Purple Heart, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with valor, an Army Accommodation Medal with valor, and numerous Air Medal Awards. He was a member of the Army Reserves for seven years after his time in Vietnam.
Lee has lived in Maynard for 40 years with his wife Angela Lee Cossette, working for the Digital Equipment Corporation for 20 years and then the U.S. Postal Service before retiring in 2008. He is still an active charter member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 116 out of Leominster.

What prompted you to enlist into the army?

 I originally got drafted. Then I was told I would stay home for another six months, so I changed my draft into an enlistment. That made it so for one extra year I could get specialty training instead of infantry training. Back in those days when you are 19 you are thinking, “I think I would rather be on a tank than an infantry soldier.” What did I know? Plus somebody mentioned going to Germany where all the girls are, so at 19 I enlisted for an extra year to make it three years and to get specialized training for armor.

What was the story behind your awards? What do they mean to you?

The Silver Star has always been something that has always meant a little extra to me, mainly because that day will always live in my memory as the day I probably should have got kicked in the butt instead of being pinned on a Silver Star.

Editor’s note: the Silver Star Medal is the third highest award for bravery in the U.S. military.

I did some things that I wasn’t sure I was capable of doing, but I knew I had to do and the outcome was the award. I was on an M-48 A3 tank and we were taking fire from both sides of us. Our tank got hit by a rocket propelled grenade and before I knew it the tank commander was down and severely wounded. Everyone was trying to communicate and we had our radios blown out by a rocket-propelled grenade.

I grabbed my personal weapon and I got help. While I was running to the next tank to let them know we’d been hit I stumbled onto an [enemy] bunker complex that was right in front of me. I decided to start shooting into it.

As the story goes, the guys in the helicopter were watching me with a set of binoculars saying, ‘who is that idiot playing John Wayne?’ For many years I tried to not play that in my mind because I know lots of people that got shot up and wounded that day, including myself. But then I came to the determination that it is something I should be proud of and I am proud of. So I decided to start talking about it and I found that talking about it brought me to a different place in my life.

We all love our country and we all love our brothers and each year around this time on Memorial Day we all remember the ones that didn’t come back.

Can you describe the bond you share with your fellow Vietnam veterans?

The bond is unbelievable. Yearly, we do a major reunion, last year in Orlando. We are all in our mid-60’s now and not a lot of them wanted to go to Orlando, but 1,200 of us showed up there to have dinner together and break bread and remember those that didn’t come back.

The reunion comes up once a year, this year it will be in Indianapolis. But we’ve been in all the major cities across the states. We’ve had 37 actual reunions and it took about 15 years for the thing to get going. Then 15 years later a lot of people still didn’t want to get back into reunion mode, but little by little a couple of guys, then a couple other guys come and are honored. We have guest speakers and we get together and have our time together. We are united.

How important is it for people to think about and honor our veterans?

I hope people don’t forget the sacrifice that these men make. I know I won’t.

How important is it for veterans like yourself to fight and stand up for this country?

In my mind it will always be America first and love of life and the freedom that we share because of all those guys and it will just always go on. The day I don’t see a Memorial Day parade, I hope I’m not here.

Google “Site” Search and Maps

Hello firebase116 members and guests.

I wanted to take a second to let you all know that I added “Google Site Search” to the webpage.  It’s on the top of the sidebar on the right.

Just put in your query and click the Google Search button.  It will open a ‘regular’ Google page with the results.  You’ll know the familiar Google interface.  One thing I really liked was that on the left side of the Google result page is Images that basically pull up every image on firebase116.

Also, from now on, whenever there is an address in a post or a page, I will embed Google Maps into the post or page.  Like this:


Vietnam Veteran’s of America Chapter 116
The Leominster Veteran’s Center
100 West Street  
Leominster, MA 01453

Clicking on the red balloon will produce a popup box telling about the location and will offer “Directions“, clicking on the highlighted “Directions” will extend an “A” to “B” location your just need to fill in “A” and click the “Get Directions” button.  You’ll also see an offer to “Print Directions“.

Feel free to email me if you have any problems, comments or suggestions about firebase116.org.

-J. Barry

FOUR SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED BY VVA CHAPTER 116

FOUR SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED BY CHAPTER 116

Veterans, the public, and citizens joined with Chapter 116 of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) for the presentation of the 2012 Vietnam Veterans of America Scholarships. The ceremony was held at 7:00 PM, Tuesday, July 10, at the Vietnam Memorial at Carter Park in Leominster.  Mrs. Helen Hill, Gold Star Mother, and Dan Joseph, Scholarship Chairman, presented scholarships to the sons and daughters of Vietnam veteran and one student from Leominster High School. All are attending college. Following the short program, there was refreshments at the Leominster Veteran Center, 100 West Street.

Dan Joseph, Scholarship Committee chairman and Treasurer of Chapter 116, Vietnam Veterans of America, said that the VVA, has for the last 29 years, presented more that $115,000 for higher education to sons and daughters of VVA members.  This successful annual project is the longest running project for VVA Chapter 116.

2012 Recipients are:

 
  • Olivia Bennett, the 2012 Legacy Award winner from Leominster High School. She will be attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute majoring in Biomedical Engineering.
 
  • Sean Toohey will continue his studies at Elms College, Chicopee, MA, majoring in History.
 
  • Jessica Simmons is a student at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, MA majoring in Human Services.
 
  • Mary Kate Simmons will be entering her senior year at Fitchburg State University majoring in Special Education.


MRS HILL AND 2012 VVA 116 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS

The Vietnam Veterans of America Scholarship is awarded annually to recognize, encourage, and contribute to the higher education of qualified Chapter 116 members children.  The Scholarship is presented to honor members of VVA who have devoted their energies in effecting positive change on behalf of all Americans.  Many Vietnam Veterans were unable to attend college because of circumstances and the very weak nature of the GI Bill available to veterans after their service.  Also, as a tribute to their continued service and to those who have lost their lives, this Scholarship program is in keeping with the spirit of VVA’s motto: “IN SERVICE TO AMERICA.”

RECIPIENT SEAN TOOHEY READS HIS ESSAY

VVA’s ambitious agenda has always aimed to find creative, pragmatic solutions to the programmatic concerns of Vietnam-era veterans, their families, and the community.

 For more information visit our web site: http://firebase116.org, or contact Richard Earley, President VVA Chapter 116 at: [email protected]

From Our Commander and Chief – Memorial Day 2012

President Barack Obama’s testimonial to the contributions and sacrifices of Vietnam War veterans was long overdue, and Americans should heed the commander in chief’s words in trying to right a terrible wrong.
Sentinel & Enterprise
Posted: 06/03/2012 06:32:49 AM EDT

At a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., Obama urged Americans to mark the 50th anniversary of that ill-fated war by praising the soldiers who served and assisting them with issues they might be facing.

Five decades ago, tens of thousands of soldiers returned from Vietnam to an unwelcome homecoming, physically and psychologically battered from a long, torturous war that resulted in 58,000 American deaths and the perception of a military “defeat.” Soldiers were unjustly blamed for the war’s misguided management by White House politicians who meddled in military strategy and prolonged America’s involvement in a misunderstood foreign battle. Many brave men and women died needlessly; others continue to bear the wounds of combat and the mental scars of fighting a war that grew so unpopular it forced a sitting president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, to decide not to seek re-election.

Unfortunately, the soldiers got stuck with the black stain on America’s image rather than the politicians who deserved it. President Obama said it is time to wipe the slate clean.

“You were sometimes blamed for the misdeeds of a few,” Obama told Vietnam veterans. “You came home and were sometimes denigrated when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.

“Even though some Americans turned their backs on you, you never turned your backs on America,” said the president.

A majority of Vietnam veterans readjusted to civilian life, went to school, got good jobs, became successful business owners, productive workers and solid citizens and raised families. They put the worst behind them with dignity, despite the cloud that was hung over their heads for years. Obama wants America to show its gratitude to these sons and daughters of liberty once and for all. We agree wholeheartedly.

The president has designated May 28 to Nov. 11 for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. We urge each community to do its part with programs, ceremonies and activities that honor the veterans who did what they were asked to do, without complaint, in that long-ago and much-maligned conflict.

 

firebase116.org Welcomes ALL Veterans and Active Duty Personnel.

WELCOME to firebase116.org

In keeping with the VVA Founding Principal, “Never again will one generation of Veterans abandon another,”  We would like to welcome ALL Veterans, and ALL Armed Forces personnel, their family, loved ones, friends and those who support them to firebase116.org.

Welcome Home Sisters and Brothers.  Thank you for your service to America. 

Please enjoy our humble website.  You ARE Home!  You ARE WELCOME here.  We got your back.   Anything that I can do to help you, let me know, feel free to post your request in the Forums or in an email to me; [email protected]  I personally want to make this the greatest site on the Internet for America’s Finest.  Slide into the Forums, enjoy the links and the pages here.

We all bleed red.  We ALL took the same Oath…

Oath of EnlistmentAnd as Billy Shakespeare so eloquently put it:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile.”

We belong here…together.  We are Home.

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“A Veteran – whether Active Duty, Retired, National Guard, or Reserve – is
someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to
‘The United States of America’, for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’

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firebase116.org welcomes and is open to ALL of America’s Finest.

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