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Colonel Ralph Puckett from scout to US Army Ranger


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“On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country…”

“Of all the things about scouting that influenced me, the Boy Scout oath did the most,” Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr. said. “Repeating the Scout oath was probably the first time that I realized that I had a duty to contribute something to my country, to give something back to this great land in which we are privileged and fortunate to live.”

“Next to my parents, scouting was the most influential action on me while I was a young man,” Puckett said in that speech. “That influence has affected me all my life. Only my father in being a U.S. Army Ranger have had greater impacts than the Scouts did on me early on.”

“The uniform caught my attention,” he said. “I wanted to be a scout. When could I be old enough to become a scout? That day was more important to me than getting a driver’s license when I became of age.”

“I became a patrol leader and later the senior patrol leader,” he said. “With a push from my mother, I earned Eagle Scout rank with gold palm.”

In 1949, Puckett graduated from the United States Military Academy (where he captained the Army Boxing Team), was commissioned as an Infantry Second Lieutenant, deployed to Japan, and immediately volunteered to be assigned with the Rangers. When he was informed that there were no more lieutenant positions in the 8th Army Ranger Company, he said that he would "take a squad leader's or rifleman's job"; positions several grades lower than a lieutenant's. Colonel McGee, who was in charge of forming the company, was so impressed by Puckett's attitude that he gave him the company commander's position; a position normally reserved for Captains. On 11 October 1950, the Eighth Army Ranger Company entered the Korean War, conducting raids during both daylight and night time conditions.

Following the Korean War, Puckett served over two years in the U.S. Army Infantry School Ranger Department as commander of the Mountain Ranger Division. As the first Ranger Advisor in the U.S. Army Mission to Colombia, he planned and established the Colombian Army Escuela de Lanceros (Ranger School). Later, he commanded "B" and "C" teams in the 10th Special Forces Group in Germany. In 1967, then-Lieutenant Colonel Puckett commanded the 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry (Airborne) of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross for heroic leadership in August 1967. During a dire, night-long defense near Chu Lai, he inspired his soldiers, who rallied to repel the attacking North Vietnamese. A rifle platoon leader preparing for a "last stand" recalled Colonel Puckett's effect on the nearly exhausted soldiers: "... word of Colonel Puckett's arrival spread like wildfire. We all stiffened up and felt that nothing bad could happen now because the Ranger was with us." 

He retired in 1971 after 22 years of active duty and became the national programs coordinator of Outward Bound.

In 2013, upon receiving the Boys Scouts Distinguished Citizen Award, Col. Puckett clearly preferred to give honor to others. He started with a quote from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“He said humility must always be the portion of any individual whose acclaim was earned by the blood of his soldiers and the sacrifices of his friends,” Puckett said. “They deserve the credit. They’re the ones who carried me on their shoulders.”

Last week, President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to Colonel Puckett for his actions during the Korean War. Also attending the White House ceremony was South Korea President Moon Jae-in.

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

COLONEL RALPH PUCKETT JR.
UNITED STATES ARMY (RANGER)

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Commanding Officer of the 8th Ranger Company, 8213th Army Unit, 8th U.S. Army. First Lieutenant Puckett distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Unsan, Korea, on 25 and 26 November 1950. With complete disregard for his personal safety, First Lieutenant Puckett led his company across eight hundred yards of open terrain under heavy enemy small-arms fire and captured the company's objective. During this operation he deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire to enable his men to spot locations of the machine guns. After capturing the objective, he directed preparation of defensive positions against an expected enemy counterattack. At 2200 hours on 25 November 1950, while directing the defense of his position against a heavy counterattack, he was wounded in the right shoulder. Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back. During these attacks, he left the safety of his foxhole in order to observe movements of the enemy and to direct artillery fire. In so doing, he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy small-arms and mortar fire. In the sixth counterattack, at 0300 hours on 26 November 1950, he was wounded again, so seriously that he was unable to move. Detecting that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind so as not to endanger their withdrawal. Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety. First Lieutenant Puckett's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

 

Scout Salute to Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr.

https://www.wrbl.com/news/local-news/boy-scouts-set-the-foundation-for-leadership-style-commitment-to-service-col-ralph-puckett-took-into-u-s-army/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Puckett

https://www.stripes.com/news/us/biden-awards-long-overdue-medal-of-honor-to-retired-col-ralph-puckett-jr-1.674232

 

 

Edited by RememberSchiff
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I ran into one of my Eagle scouts a few years ago. He had two kids by that time. I don't remember how we got on the subject, but he told me that one of my SM Minutes made a big difference in life and probably why he got his Eagle. The story I told was similar to this one, a hero that made a difference.

I learned over the years that boys dream of being hero's. I don't know if girls have the same dreams because I don't remember my daughter running around pretending to be hero so much as she pretended to be the princess.

I taught in the adult courses that the better troops are the ones where scouts have the freedom to live their dreams. I can't say that my Eagle scout was trying to be a hero, but he says the hero was part of his motivation. Not only should we encourage the troop to be a place to live dreams, we should give more examples of heros. Not just military heros, but heros of culture, heros of character and heros of humanity. Boys want to be heros, we can show them how.

Thanks again RememberShiff

Barry

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