U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Robert E. O’Malley got his Wikipedia entry the hard way. As a Medal of Honor recipient, O’Malley is credited with singly killing eight Viet Cong then safely evacuating his wounded squad to a helicopter all while being wounded three times.
On Thursday, Rim Country residents and veterans were treated to a rare treat from O’Malley, 66, as he visited town to meet with retired military personnel and their families at the American Legion post off Highway 260.
While O’Malley is proud to meet with fellow veterans and citizens, O’Malley was shy to talk about himself and refused an interview with the press. Nonetheless, O’Malley’s visit reminded those in attendance of their own time in the service and others’ sacrifices.
U.S. Marine Corps Col. Bill Sahno said it was an honor to have a Medal of Honor recipient visit town because “there is not that many of them running around.”
Army Vietnam veteran Dave Reizer said O’Malley is “our reminder that we’re real heroes.”
“We hold the Medal of Honor as the real epitome of what people have given in service to their country,” he said.
Reizer added events like these not only honor the living, but “those who didn’t come home.”
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Douglas E. Wade not only served during the Vietnam War but also in World War II and the Korean War. As a 28-year veteran, Wade said he amassed a “bunch of medals” but was reserved to elaborate on which ones.
After serving in the military for so long, Wade said he is drawn to events like Thursday’s because of the camaraderie and support offered between veterans.
During his time in Vietnam, Wade said he was stationed off Sipan when his unit invaded Iwo Jima. Wade was in charge of dump trucks used to fill holes on an airstrip.
“I remember when the whole island was secure, the sealed up holes and tunnels were opened and there were still a lot of (Japanese soldiers) in there, I almost got shot,” he said.
In one cave, Wade said he walked past what he thought was a dead Japanese soldier laying on his back with his fists closed.
“I took 10 steps and heard a rifle shot,” he said.
Turns out, the Japanese soldier was not dead and had been holding a grenade, ready to throw it at Wade once he passed. Luckily, an American soldier behind Wade saw the man move and shot him before he could throw the grenade.
In O’Malley’s case, he received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the communist (Viet Cong) forces at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty” as a corporal in South Vietnam.
According to O’Malley’s citation, on Aug. 18, 1965, O’Malley led his squad in an assault where the unit came under heavy small-arms fire.
“With complete disregard for his personal safety, Corporal O’Malley raced across an open rice paddy to a trench line where the enemy forces were located. Jumping into the trench, he attacked the Viet Cong with his rifle and grenades, and singly killed eight of the enemy,” the citation states.
Upon reloading, O’Malley fired again into the enemy emplacement and then evacuated several wounded Marines.
With his remaining squad, he returned to the heavy fighting and once ordered, gathered his wounded squad and led them under fire to a helicopter.
“Although three times wounded in this encounter, and facing imminent death from a fanatic and determined enemy, he steadfastly refused evacuation and continued to cover his squad’s boarding of the helicopter while, from an exposed position, he delivered fire against the enemy until his wounded men were evacuated. Only then, with his last mission accomplished, did he permit himself to be removed from the battlefield,” the citation states.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, O’Malley holds the Purple Heart, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star, and the Vietnam Service Medal.