JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Fifty years: that’s how long one veteran, along with his family, friends, and fellow veterans strived to receive the honor he deserved.
Former U.S. Army Spc. 4 Ronald Mallory received a Bronze Star for his actions during the Vietnam War, at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum, Fort Eustis, Virginia, Mar. 4.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James M. Smith, U.S. Army Chief of Transportation, awarded the medal to the veteran in an intimate ceremony consisting of his family and comrades from the war.
“It is an utmost honor to stand before this group today… and to just be in the mere presence of heroic Soldiers such as Mr. Mallory,” said Smith.
“Mr. Mallory, you are ‘living history’ for those of us who are still serving and those who will serve in the future. As the proud son of a Vietnam War veteran, on behalf of the entire transportation corps and the United States Army, I want to publicly thank you for your service to our nation.”
In addition to the Bronze Star, Smith also presented Mallory with the “Soldier For Life” pin, endowing him with the proclamation of “once a Soldier, always a Soldier.”
“You helped pave the way for many of us,” Smith said. “You are a Soldier for life. So today sir, I salute you, and I am extremely humbled to be in your presence today.”
Drafted into the Army on Jan. 22, 1970, Mallory received orders for the 359th Transportation Company in Vietnam.
After driving fuel trucks for months, he took an interest in gun trucks and befriended a crew who affectionately called their truck “the Brutus.” The infamous named trucks were often targeted by the Northern Vietnamese and their proxies because of their significant fire power.
After one such instance, the driver of the Brutus was killed, and Mallory volunteered to take the wheel. On Feb. 23, 1971, during a convoy protection operation in the An Khe Pass in Binh Dinh province of the former Republic of Vietnam, the company was ambushed and took on heavy gunfire from enemy forces.
Fred Carter, a fellow veteran and former roommate of Mallory during the war, shared his recollection of the battle with the audience during the medal presentation ceremony.
“We could see the mushroom clouds of smoke from exploding tankers up in the An Khe Pass, and hear the desperate calls for help,” recounted Carter. “[Over the radio]: ‘help, contact, contact, contact! One gun truck down, calling on any available gun truck in the area.’”
He went on to narrate how his company commander ordered them to the pass to save their desperate comrades.
“I was located about a hundred yards down the pass from the Brutus, and was still looking for targets when Ron [Mallory] was in the process of turning around in the road and backed up toward a high embankment when several [enemy] soldiers rushed the Brutus,” Carter continued. “I saw Ron pushing a burning tanker out of his path and drive through the kill zone under fire—in an unmanned gun truck to a checkpoint where his crew mates could receive medical attention and be medically evacuated to An Khe.”
Mallory broke into tears and his wife put her arm around him, while his pastor patted him on the shoulder and Carter continued.
The enemy charged toward Mallory’s vehicle after a lull in the fighting—when everyone thought it was safe to turn around—and hurled a grenade into the truck. One of Mallory’s comrades, Spc. 4 Larry Dahl, threw himself onto the grenade—sacrificing himself, but saving the lives of his teammates.
“Ron saved the lives of the remaining crew members on the Brutus that day,” said Carter, finishing his story. “Ron is a hero, well deserving of this recognition. Not only did he save the lives of Hector J. Diaz and Charles L. Huser (the remaining crew members), he turned the tide in a horrific battle. Congratulations, and thank you for your service to your country, Ronald Lee Mallory. I love you, brother.”
Carter played an instrumental role in helping Mallory earn his long-overdue medal, enlisting the help of fellow veterans—who in turn sought out living members of Mallory’s old chain of command.
Mallory was honorably discharged from the service on Sept. 23, 1971, at the rank of Spc. 5—just eight months after the battle at An Khe Pass, and remained humble about his accolade. He thanked fellow veterans, family, friends and everyone else who helped him in receiving the recognition.
He cited his wife as his “big inspiration” in continuing to fight for his star. He also thanked Dahl, memorialized in the same museum where Mallory received the Bronze Star, who he believed “was looking down from heaven.” Because of Dahl’s sacrifice, Mallory survived the war and lived to raise a family.
“And now everyone out there knows what I’ve done, and what I’ve been through in the Vietnam War,” Mallory said. “Being awarded the Bronze Star, it’s something great. I never thought I’d see the day. I’m just overjoyed… and in disbelief.”