Retired Col. Robert Lewis Howard , a man considered to be the country's most decorated soldier, died Wednesday. He was 70.
Howard was battling pancreatic cancer and died about noon at a hospice, his friend Benito Guerrero, a Vietnam veteran and retired sergeant major, told the San Antonio Express-News.
The Army veteran died in Waco, according to Oak Crest Funeral Home.
At the time of his death, he was the most decorated American soldier, the funeral home obituary said. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. No date has been set, the funeral home said.
Howard grew up in Opelika, Ala., and served in the Army from 1956 to 1992. He was part of the U.S. Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, and ran cross-border operations in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam.
He was wounded 14 times in Vietnam and was awarded eight Purple Hearts.
He was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor, the nation's most prestigious award for combat veterans. President Richard Nixon presented him with the honor at the White House in 1971 for his bravery in Vietnam during a mission to rescue a missing soldier in enemy territory.
During that mission, the platoon was attacked. Howard tended to his wounded platoon leader while under fire and rallied platoon members into an organized defense force until rescue helicopters could land.
"With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3½ hours 1st Lt. Howard's small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters ," according to his Medal of Honor citation.
His other two nominations were downgraded, one to the Distinguished Service Cross, the other to the Silver Star.
At a gathering earlier this year for Medal of Honor recipients, Howard said he and others given the medal don't wear their awards for themselves. "It is for all those who have and do wear the uniform of this great country of ours," he told the crowd. "For those who stood beside us and for those who did not come home."
In April, Howard traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan to talk to troops. About two months ago, he visited troops in Germany, Bosnia and Kosovo, the Express-News reported.
"As one of America's most decorated veterans, Col. Howard inspired everyone he met to consider their own commitment to our nation's essential values, and was the bravest soldier I ever met," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement.
Howard is survived by his children, Denicia Howard of Florida; Melissa Gentsch and her husband, Assistant Police Chief Frank Gentsch of Waco; Rosslyn Howard of California; and Robert Howard Jr. and wife, Tori, of California.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31, 2009