KANSAS CITY, Mo. --
Nearly 50 years separate his actions in Vietnam from his award, but the wait was well worth it. Family, friends and dozens more gathered at the 24th Marine Regiment drill hall May 4 to witness the awarding of the Bronze Star Medal to former Pfc. Robert L. Rimpson.
The award was presented for combat actions on Aug. 18, 1965 in support of Operation Starlite in the Republic of Vietnam. Although that day was almost half a century ago, Rimpson, a Kansas City, Mo. native, remembers it like it was yesterday.
“That day makes me cry,” Rimpson said. “I’ve seen a lot of misery and pain in my life and that was the most heartache I’ve ever had; something I put behind me for a while.”
Rimpson, who was 19 at the time, and his fellow squad members advanced on an entrenched enemy near An Cu’ong village when suddenly they received intense small arms fire. He and members of his squad, to include Sgt. Robert O’Malley, his squad leader, advanced in an effort to clear the trench line. Rimpson assaulted the trench line with rifle and grenade fire. O’Malley was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.
After clearing the trench line, the squad moved to assist a nearby unit, Rimpson, who suffered shrapnel wounds from enemy mortar fire, moved forward with fellow squad members to assist in moving wounded personnel to a helicopter landing zone for evacuation, according to the award citation. During this time, Rimpson delivered accurate suppressive fire from his grenade launcher on the enemy position, which in turn enabled the helicopters to land and evacuate casualties.
“When we hit the trench line, we opened fire to save my brothers from harm,” Rimpson modestly recalls of the day-long engagement, which saved several lives.
Rimpson was recommended for an award while he was still on active duty, but once off active duty lost contact with Marine Corps officials and didn’t hear much more about his award. He was once again recommended for an award by retired Col. John A. Kelly in May 2010. It was further approved by Headquarters Marine Corps to be awarded in February. Although more than 40 years after his service, Rimpson is proud to wear the award and be a part of the Marine Corps brotherhood.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Rimpson, surprised when he learned of the approval. “I’ve never been more proud to be a Marine.”
According to the Department of Defense Manual, the Bronze Star Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in the capacity with the U.S. Armed Forces, distinguishes himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service… while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. Rimpson is authorized to wear the Combat “V” device, denoting personal hazard during direct participation in combat operations.
“When giving a medal like this, especially a combat valor award, unlike an athlete, this is probably that Marine’s worst day of his life,” said Col. Charles Sides, the commanding officer of 24th Marine Regiment.
Rimpson is currently a resident of Kansas City and also wears a Purple Heart for wounds he sustained during the Vietnam War.