Garrettsville – The final Garfield graduate to be honored at the James A. Garfield Hall of Fame gathering on Saturday, April 30 is Robert E. Armstrong, member of the Class of ’65 and recipient of the nation’s third-highest military award, the Silver Star, presented for Conspicuous Gallantry in Action, for his actions in Viet Nam, January 28, 1969. He also received the Distinguished Service Cross for actions on March 11, 1969. He is one of the reasons that we are able to be here to recognize him, posthumously, in the Hall of Fame.
The guys in his class—Dave Ressler, Bob Stamm, Gene Semplak, Roger Angel, John Brock, Larry Roach, Phil Tushar, for instance—probably thought he was just a regular fellow; his pictures in the Jaguar made him look a lot like “the Fonz” from “Happy Days”—white socks, black oxfords, cardigan, collared shirt. He belonged to the Jaguar staff, was on the scholarship team, the science club, the math club. His last line in the yearbook was, “A little saint is what I ain’t.” He attended the prom (theme : A Roman Holiday; they had a fountain). He had a sister; he had a brother. Everybody called him “Robin”. Then came Viet Nam.
Robin became Specialist 4th Class, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 12th infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. The two actions for which he was awarded the military recognition both involved taking command of his unit following devastating attacks and casualties. He called in reinforcements and covering fire, moved his men to more advantageous positions, directed the responding fire, adjusted artillery response, assisted in evacuations of the wounded—though wounded himself—braved enemy fire to aid an injured comrade. One of the official citations reads : “Specialist Four Armstrong’s courageous acts, outstanding leadership, and exemplary devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.”
Fellow classmate Jerry Leedom called our attention to his recent passing and subsequent burial at Arlington National Cemetery and pointed out that—no matter what our feelings on the war– the soldiers who served in Viet Nam were not the politicians who sent them. Our hero will be on our wall to acknowledge our debt and our pride.
The James A. Garfield Hall of Fame event will be held on Saturday, April 30 in the Professional Development Center at the Garfield Elementary School, beginning at 5:30p.m. For reservations, call Sheri Johnson at 330-671-0228.