Ronald E Ray
Ronald was born in Cordele, Georgia, on the 7th of December, 1941, the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He had four brothers and when he graduated high school in 1959, he enlisted in the US Army in Atlanta for three years. Ronald reenlisted two months after his contract was up but this time with the Special Forces. Since he excelled in his training, he was selected for Officer Candidate School and upon graduation, received his commission as a second lieutenant. By the time Ronald was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in 1966, he was a first lieutenant and a platoon leader with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. It was his actions shortly after arriving in country in the Ia Drang Valley that would earn him the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Ray distinguished himself while serving as a platoon leader with Company A. When 1 of his ambush patrols was attacked by an estimated reinforced Viet Cong company, Capt. Ray organized a reaction force and quickly moved through 2 kilometers of mountainous jungle terrain to the contact area. After breaking through the hostile lines to reach the beleaguered patrol, Capt. Ray began directing the reinforcement of the site. When an enemy position pinned down 3 of his men with a heavy volume of automatic weapons fire, he silenced the emplacement with a grenade and killed 4 Viet Cong with his rifle fire. As medics were moving a casualty toward a sheltered position, they began receiving intense hostile fire. While directing suppressive fire on the enemy position, Capt. Ray moved close enough to silence the enemy with a grenade. A few moments later Capt. Ray saw an enemy grenade land, unnoticed, near 2 of his men. Without hesitation or regard for his safety he dove between the grenade and the men, thus shielding them from the explosion while receiving wounds in his exposed feet and legs. He immediately sustained additional wounds in his legs from an enemy machinegun, but nevertheless he silenced the emplacement with another grenade. Although suffering great pain from his wounds, Capt. Ray continued to direct his men, providing the outstanding courage and leadership they vitally needed, and prevented their annihilation by successfully leading them from their surrounded position. Only after assuring that his platoon was no longer in immediate danger did he allow himself to be evacuated for medical treatment. By his gallantry at the risk of his life in the highest traditions of the military service, Capt. Ray has reflected great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Ronald's lower body was temporarily paralyzed and yet he still led the platoon and when he allowed himself to be evacuated, he first went to Pleiku and then to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he spent the next six months in recovery. Several years later, he was a Captain at Fort Benning, Georgia and had returned to Vietnam two more times. Ronald received his Medal of Honor from President Nixon on the 14th of May, 1970, in a ceremony at the White House and ten years later he medically retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel.
Having received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Tampa and Oklahoma, respectively, Ronald settled in Florida and founded a real estate development and brokerage company. He went on to serve as a special assistant to the US Secretary of Commerce from 1974 to 1975 through the White House Fellows program and went on to work on the successful presidential campaigns of Ronald Regan and George H. W. Bush. President Bush appointed Ronald to be an assistant secretary for the Department of Veteran Affairs and he held that position from 1989 until 1993. Ronald Eric Ray is still a member of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, as well as its former president.