MARIETTA - A Marietta veteran who has received the Army Commendation Medal with the Valor Device for his selfless actions in the Vietnam War earned another prestigious honor Friday as he became the first Washington County veteran to be inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame.
But when asked about his military service, 67-year-old Sgt. Gary Rhoades is more likely to start telling tales about the bravery of his fellow Vietnam veterans than about himself.
"There's a lot braver people over there than what I was and that deserve more than what they got," said Rhoades.
Photo courtesy Washington County Veterans Service Officer Niles Walters
Marietta resident and Vietnam veteran Sgt. Gary Rhoades, center, was honored Friday as the first Washington County veteran to be inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame. Rhoades was accompanied by family members and by local supporters, such as Washington County veterans service officer Niles Walters, left, and Ronnie Davis, commander of VFW Post 5108, right.
Despite his humble demeanor, Rhoades is more than deserving of the honor that was bestowed upon him Friday at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, said Washington County veterans service officer Roy Ash.
The Washington County Veterans Service Office nominated Rhoades for the honor.
"He was doing something way beyond what was expected of him. He said, 'I'm going to do this regardless of the risk to me.' It's above and beyond the call of duty," said Ash.
Rhoades completed two tours of duty in Vietnam, in the 1st Infantry Division and then as a heavy weapons adviser.
He received his Army Commendation Medal for actions against hostile Viet Cong forces on Nov. 3, 1967.
The citation reads: "He unhesitantingly ran through a hail of shrapnel and debris ... to reach his mortar position ... he continued to direct devastating fire onto the insurgents until they were forced to flee from the area."
Rhoades joked, "My wife likes to say I got my metal for running the wrong way."
But as Rhoades sees it, he was simply doing his job, a job that many other soldiers willingly did, and a job that many died doing, he said.
"There was a very, very brave man that died that night I was awarded the metal for," he recalled.
That soldier had previously been involved in an ambush and had retreated with his battalion back to base. Once the battalion was back safely, he drove out into the dangerous night to retrieve the bodies of two fallen soldiers, said Rhoades.
"That's how brave he was," he added.
Rhoades was surrounded by family as he became one of the 20 Ohio veterans to be inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame this year.
"You know, I was honored to participate in something like that. To be on the same podium as some of those men was an honor," said Rhoades.
The inductees represented veterans of WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. And like Rhoades, all of the inductees had performed heroic acts of valor.
According to its website, the OMHF was founded in 2000 to recognize an exclusive group of Ohio veterans who have received medals of valor for their battlefield actions.
The induction into the OMHF is a small token of appreciation on behalf of Ohio to recognize Rhoades achievements and to make sure his actions are preserved as a part of history, said Ash.
Often, veterans will stash their medals in drawers or file their commendation away, said Ash. But with the OMHF, Rhoades name and actions will be forever preserved for Ohioans to appreciate, he said.
"Now his kids or his grandkids can go in there a generation from now and see his name," said Ash.