It will be first such ceremony at new USO Tampa Bay
TAMPA – An Army Special Forces radio operator who, according to those present, turned Rambo-like and saved his platoon when they came under heavy rocket and mortar fire in an isolated Vietnam outpost is finally being recognized for his gallantry. Family members from Michigan will attend in what will be the first such ceremony at the new USO Tampa Bay.
Ralph A. Morgan, 62, of Parrish, Florida, distinguished himself the night of June 4, 1971 when he intentionally moved around his outpost that was deep in enemy territory, drawing fire away from his platoon and toward himself. He was able to hold off the enemy with just his M-16 rifle long enough for his platoon to retreat to a safe perimeter location where they would be picked up by helicopter.
On Tuesday, almost 42 years later, Morgan will stand before U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) who’ll pin a long-overdue Silver Star Medal on his chest at a special ceremony at USO Tampa Bay. Morgan’s son, Jacob, and daughter, Kristen, will be in attendance along with other family members. It will be the first such presentation at the new USO center.
The Silver Star Medal is the military’s third highest decoration for valor, awarded specifically for gallantry in action against an enemy.
“I’m honored,” the modest Morgan said recently when informed Nelson had recovered his award that had originally been approved on June 13, 1972.
“With disregard for his own personal safety he exposed himself to heavy enemy fire,” his commander wrote about Morgan in an account of the incident. “Sergeant Morgan’s gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of military service.”
But for reasons unknown, the paperwork for Morgan’s Silver Star Medal was never processed. So, Morgan contacted Nelson’s office recently after hearing about a group of other veterans the senator had helped get medals for their actions during the Vietnam War.
Fifteen veterans – three of them from Florida – were honored with a total of 33 awards, including Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Stars, Army Commendation Medals and more at the Special Operations Association’s Reunion Banquet in Las Vegas two years ago.