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Rupert Leon Sargent

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U.S. Army
Medal Of Honor, Vietnam

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First Lieutenant Sargent lead a platoon that was investigating a reported Viet Cong meeting house and weapons cache, when his men discovered a tunnel entrance that he observed was booby trapped. He tried to destroy the booby trap and blow the cover from the tunnel using hand grenades, but this attempt was not successful. He and his demolition man moved in to destroy the booby trap and cover which flushed a Viet Cong soldier from the tunnel, who was immediately killed by the nearby platoon sergeant. First Lieutenant Sargent, the platoon sergeant, and a forward observer moved toward the tunnel entrance. As they approached, another Viet Cong emerged and threw two hand grenades that landed in the midst of the group. First Lieutenant Sargent fired three shots at the enemy then turned and unhesitatingly threw himself over the two grenades. He was mortally wounded, and his two companions were lightly wounded when the grenades exploded. By his courageous and selfless act of exceptional heroism, he saved the lives of the platoon sergeant and forward observer and prevented the injury or death of several other nearby comrades.

In this action Rupert Sargent became the first Black Officer in history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. (In 1997, upgrades of DSCs awarded to Black heroes of WWII resulted in awards to three additional Black Officers from that war.)

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