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This is to Certify that
The President of the United States of America
Takes Pride in Presenting
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS
Roy Lee Richardson
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Roy Lee Richardson, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company A, 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. First Lieutenant Richardson distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 9 May 1970 while leading a platoon in search of suspected enemy positions near an allied fire support base. As the platoon advanced through the area of operations, they were suddenly ambushed by a well-concealed enemy force utilizing hand and rocket-propelled grenades. Lieutenant Richardson immediately began moving through the enemy fire to deploy his men into defensive positions and direct aerial rocket artillery on the hostile force. As the enemy fire intensified, the lieutenant moved forward to rescue a critically wounded comrade. Although under constant enemy attack, Lieutenant Richardson continuously maneuvered through the fusillade to place suppressive fire on the enemy while inspiring his men to sustain their defensive efforts. As the contact continued at an intense level, Lieutenant Richardson was mortally wounded by the hostile fire. First Lieutenant Richardson's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army. HQ, USARV GO 4826 Oct 14 70
Ardis E. Parshall, Salt Lake Tribune
Living History: Quarter-century after his death, soldier's memory very much alive:
Roy Lee Richardson was the kind of young man any family, state and people would be proud to have as their representative. Born in Alberta, Canada, Richardson moved with his family to Salt Lake City when he was a child, and graduated from Highland High in 1962. He served an LDS mission to Great Britain, then entered the University of Utah where he was a student athlete and musician. He entered the U.S. Army in 1967, winning honors as outstanding trainee in basic training and as an honor graduate from the Army's Ranger School.
First Lt. Richardson left for Vietnam in January 1970. Richard J. Ventola, then of the Bronx, N.Y., and now of New Jersey, remembers Richardson was the first Utahn and the first Mormon he had ever encountered when the two officers, both serving with the 101st Airborne Division, met in Vietnam that January. "He was a very decent person," Ventola recalls. "He seemed very concerned about things. I was impressed by his moorings."
On May 9, less than three months into his tour of duty, Richardson's platoon was ambushed by an enemy force using hand and rocket-propelled grenades. Richardson moved through enemy fire to place his men in defensive positions and to direct defensive aerial artillery.
As the battle continued, Richardson ran through withering small-arms fire to pull one of his critically wounded men to safety, and was mortally wounded himself. For his "exceptionally valorous actions" and "extraordinary heroism," Richardson was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Only the Medal of Honor is a higher award for valor. "I was very upset" to learn of Richardson's death the next day, Ventola recalls. "I wrote something about him, and always wanted to deliver it to his family, saying I thought he was a decent guy. There were many things in Vietnam you wanted to forget - knowing Richardson was one of the things I didn't want to forget."
He tried several times in the past few years to find Richardson's family, without success. Ventola's brother-in-law, Hugh Massey, determined that Richardson had been buried in Salt Lake City, and Ventola and his wife, Lynn, decided to visit the grave this past December as they drove cross-country to a family wedding in Sacramento. They found Richardson's grave in the City Cemetery, next to that of his father. While viewing Salt Lake City from the observation floor of the LDS Church Office Building, Ventola told his story to a hostess, who escorted the Ventolas to the church archives to see if anything more could be learned. Librarian Larry Skidmore helped them locate Richardson's obituary, which listed the names of Richardson's brothers and sisters, and the Ventolas continued their trip to Sacramento.
With the help of the Internet, Ventola was able to contact Legrande W. Richardson of Salt Lake City, a brother to Roy Lee Richardson, and the two men spoke by telephone last week. Legrande, who joined the Navy at the same time his brother entered the Army, was serving aboard a ship in southeast Asia when he received word of Richardson's death. The two men shared memories of Richardson. Ventola learned from Legrande that a few years after his death, the Army had named an officers' hall at Fort Campbell, Ky., (headquarters of the 101st Airborne) after Richardson, and had flown several members of the family from Utah to Kentucky to witness the dedication.
Legrande also told Ventola that other old comrades had contacted the family through the years, all with similar good memories of Richardson. The family appreciated every phone call, every letter. Roy Lee Richardson has been gone now much longer than he lived, yet he has not been forgotten by his family, or even by some of those who knew him only briefly. May that thought comfort the families of other Utah servicemen and women who gave their lives too soon.
Rardis E. Parshall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Salt Lake City-based historian.
© Salt Lake Tribune 01/28/2007
Reproduced under 17 USC §107