Honor long time coming: Seymour man recognized for Vietnam service

A Seymour resident has received special honor and recognition for his infantry service during the Vietnam War.

Randy Smith, 69, was awarded the Order of Saint Maurice medallion by the National Infantry Association during the reunion of the 1st Battalion 50th Infantry Association at Fort Benning, Georgia, earlier this month.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of their deployment to Vietnam and the 100th anniversary of the formation of the unit.

“It made me feel very honored that the people I served with, my superiors, would nominate me for this,” Smith said. “I didn’t expect it. I had no idea that it was coming, but I’m very honored.”

Smith began his military service in August 1966 and after basic combat training attended advanced medical field training at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. At that time, he earned the 91B Military Occupational Specialty of combat medic.

He was then assigned to Company 1st Battalion 50th Infantry (Mechanized) headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas, arriving just in time to help prepare the battalion medical platoon for mobilization and deployment to Vietnam.

Smith sailed with the battalion, leaving from Oakland Army Depot in August 1967. Upon arrival in Vietnam, he was assigned to duty as a line medic in Delta Company.

As a senior medic, it was his responsibilities to care for the men in the platoons of the company and help with the evacuation of wounded people, he said.

During his tour of duty in Binh Dinh Province, the battalion was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division and then the 4th Infantry Division and finally to the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Throughout his assignments, Smith saw considerable combat action in a total of 14 enemy engagements, where he demonstrated honor, courage and loyalty, according to military records.

For his efforts, he earned the Combat Medical Badge, Bronze Star for Valor, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal and several other service awards.

He earned the Purple Heart after his unit was hit with a Russian rifle-propelled grenade, he said.

He continued his distinguished service with the battalion until his second injury when he was sent to Camp Zama in Okinawa, Japan, and then back to the United States, where he was released from active duty.

“I had four months left to serve, so I worked at the Army hospital in Okinawa in the physical exam section and drew blood,” he said. “It gave me a chance to fit back in with society before I came back to the states.”

Smith returned to Seymour and transitioned back into his former civilian life. He resumed his job at Cummins Diesel and remained working for the company until he retired more than 41 years later.

On Feb. 21, 1971, he married Mary Jane Gladden, and they had two sons, Randolph “R.J.” Smith and Adam Smith. His wife passed away Dec. 23, 2015.

Besides work, Smith served in officer roles in the parent-teacher association at his sons’ school and was involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts when they were younger. He is a lifetime member of Veterans of Foreign Wars, serving as community service officer, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, all in Seymour.

In 1988, he became a lifetime member of the 1st Battalion 50th Infantry Association at Fort Benning and has served as vice president and then president of the group.

“Getting back together with the men I served with was the best therapy we could have, and a lot of them feel the same way,” Smith said. “It’s important for me to go to the reunions and stay in contact with them to share memories because they know what really happened and what was going on then.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.