Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy Birthday LTC (r) Roy Lombardo, Jr.

It's no secret to LTC Lombardo, his lovely wife Carol or anyone else who knows me that I absolutely adore this man.  Please join with me today to send mountains of birthday wishes to Roy as he celebrates another milestone birthday.

LTC Lombard mixing the punch for the punch bowl ceremony in memory of all of the fallen 173rd, 2-503d Bravo (now Battle) Co from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan

I met Roy in Vicenza, Italy in September of 2008 at the Welcome Home party that was held for the 2-503d.  Roy had traveled to Vicenza at the request of Major General Ellis Williamson's daughter Nan to present the "Butch" bowl to the 2-503d.  Little did I know when I met Roy what an American treasure he was.  I am beyond honored and blessed to have him in my life and to call he and Carol my friends.

LTC Lombardo at the 2-503d Welcome Home party in Vicenza, Italy after OEF VIII

On May 5, 1965 then CPT Lombardo lead the 2-503d Bravo Bulls as they jumped from C-130s into the jungles of Vietnam.  It was the first (and as I understand) the only combat jump into Vietnam.  From the stories I have been privileged to hear at various Bravo Bulls reunions, the Bulls definitely took it to the enemy once they hit the ground.

In 1967 LTC Lombardo returned to Vietnam.  This time he was a senior advisor for the 41st Ranger Battalion and then for the 4th Ranger Group.  Under his advisorship the Rangers were responsible for destroying at least four VC battalions during the TET offensive which helped to regain government control in the south at that time.

After his tours in Vietnam Roy continued his Army career in command of various units until his retirement.  His gracious and lovely wife, Carol, always by his side.

Carol and Roy near the Airborne Memorial at Fort Benning, GA

In 1996 LTC Lombardo was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame.  The web page says, "Lieutenant Colonel Roy Lombardo is inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame for his outstanding service as a Ranger throughout his career in airborne and infantry assignments. His service includes Vietnam as one of the first Rifle Company Commanders in the 173d Airborne Brigade (1965), the Senior Advisor to the 41st Ranger Battalion (1967), and, subsequently, the 4th Ranger Group (1968). His tactical advice, fire support coordination, and courageous presence is responsible for the 41st Ranger Battalion defeating a multi-battalion Viet Cong force and earning the U.S. Valorous Unit Citation. During the Viet Cong Tet Lunar Offensive, his tactical advice and personal efforts to rescue threatened personnel contributed to the defeat of the attacking enemy forces in Can Tho and Kien Giang Province, a key infiltration route from Cambodia. He was selected to command the model for the Light Infantry Battalion, to develop organization and tactics, and to deploy that unit for evaluation to the swamps of Florida, the jungles of Panama, and the mountains of Alaska. Throughout his entire career this Ranger has always "Led the Way"

Over the past few years I've had the privilege of spending time with Roy, Carol and many other Vietnam Bravo Bulls and their wives at various events.  There are MANY attributes of Roy that endear me to him.  One is that he will NEVER allow our fallen to be forgotten.  Each time the Bravo Bulls are together he hosts the punch bowl ceremony.  The name of every Bravo Bull (now Battle Co) hero who has given his life in service to our nation is engraved on a silver cup.  Each paratrooper's name is read as his cup is turned over in memory.  After all of the names have been read the surviving Bulls fill their cups with the specially made punch and toast to the memory of the fallen from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Roy also spends endless hours via phone, email or hand written note, ensuring that each surviving Bull and/or their wife is doing OK. 

He also works tirelessly to make sure the legacy of the Bravo Bulls/Battle Company stays intact.  He does so by organizing regular trips to Vicenza, Italy where he and any other Bravo Bull who can attend hosts a dinner for the current Battle Company paratroopers.  At that dinner the Bravo Bulls award Soldier of the Year and NCO of the year to current 2-503d Battle Company Soldiers.  The Bravo Bulls make these trips and provide the awards at their own expense.  I've often told Roy how grateful I am that he and the Bulls keep in touch with and support our current day Warriors and how I wish that the other Companies within the 2-503d had the same relationship with their Vietnam counter parts.  It is beyond moving to see the bond between these Warriors.

In May 2010 LTC Lombardo and the Bravo Bulls descended on Fort Benning, GA en mass to 1) attend the dedication of the 173d Memorial, 2) honor and remember the fallen Rangers from their unit and 3) honor and remember the fallen Paratroopers from their unit.  You can read about those events herehere, here and here.  None of those events are unique to LTC Lombardo and the Bravo Bulls.  They gather once or twice each year (usually Memorial Day and Veterans Day) at Arlington National Cemetery to lay wreaths and read the names of the fallen Bravo Bulls/Battle Company men and to pay their respects to MG Williamson and his wife.  It is beyond moving to witness these moments.  I was privileged to be there with them in November 2008.

In November of 2011 LTC LombardoLas Vegas, NV Veteran's Day parade.

Bravo Bulls in Las Vegas Veteran's Day parade 2011 lead by LTC Lombardo

After the parade the Bravo Bulls had a special visitor stop by to share a few beers and talk about Army life.  I cannot tell you how special it was for me to watch as Sal (2-503d Battle CO) entered the room and the Bulls all stood up to salute him.  This was followed by many hand shakes, hugs, beers and sharing of war stories that occured decades apart.  It's that bond I referred to earlier in this post. 

SSG Sal Giunta receiving his own Bravo Bulls jacket presented on behalf of the Bulls by LTC Lombardo

Recently Roy was selected by the Bravo Bulls as their Sky Soldier of the Year for 2011 (scroll down to page 10).  A more than fitting tribute.

So on this special day - Roy's birthday - I ask you to join with me in wishing him the best birthday ever along with many years of continued good health, more happiness than he can stand and the knowledge that he is loved, admired and respected by anyone who knows him.  He absolutely is a national treasure and I love him dearly.

♫ Happy Birthday Roy! ♫

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