Though a “million dollar wound” gave his time in Vietnam an early end, Capt. Ronald Hoover stands as one of the most accomplished Marines to have been involved in the war.
Hoover, 79, of Carlisle, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1954. He said his decision to enlist was inspired by several of his friends who had enlisted before him.
“I had some friends from high school that went in (to the Marines) during the Korean time,” Hoover said. “They came back and we were talking, and I said that the Marines was the place I wanted to go. I thought the Marine Corps was the best outfit. I made a lot of good friends there and decided I would stay and make 20 years out of it.”
During his career, Hoover served two tours at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina as a drill instructor and he also served on the Inspector Instructor staff of the 78th Rifle Company in Williamsport. He achieved the title of Master of Fitness, which had only been accomplished by 22 Marines ever at the time of his retirement.
Hoover served in two tours during Vietnam. His first tour was spent with Alpha Company, Third Reconnaissance Battalion from 1966 to 1967.
“One of the big problems we had was when we would get in a situation out there, we would sometimes run up against 30 to 40 guys and we would need some kind of support,” Hoover said. “We were responsible for each other and (for) making sure that all the people we had were coming home safe and sound; that was the primary thing in my mind.”
After coming back to the United States for three months, Hoover returned to Vietnam for a second tour from 1968 to 1969 – this time as Company Commander of India Company, Third Battalion, 26th Marines.
“The situation I was in as a commander was similar to that movie ‘We Were Soldiers,’” Hoover said. “We walked into three machine guns one night and we lost 157 marines in about two hours. We stayed there the whole night and we actually had hand-to-hand combat for about two hours. My company sergeant, from PA, got the medal of honor posthumously.”
It was during this tour that Hoover suffered injuries significant enough to end his involvement in the war.
“A mortar round came in and blew me away and left me off the ground,” Hoover said. “I had wounds in my back, arms and legs. I got my ‘million dollar wound,’ as they say; I did not go back into (Vietnam) again.”
Hoover spent nine months at a hospital in Guam before he was finally transported back to the United States.
“I stayed (in Guam) for nine months and got put back together,” Hoover said. “From there, I went to Okinawa and got back on my feet and came home.”
Hoover was awarded the Silver Star – just one of a list of accumulated personal awards that includes a Bronze Star with combat valor, a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat valor, a Purple Heart, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal, a Vietnam Cross of Gallantry Star and a Vietnam Campaign Ribbon.
After officially retiring from the Marine Corps in 1974, Hoover remained involved with public service as a law enforcement official.
“I was a people person,” Hoover said, “so I ended up going into law enforcement.”
Hoover served as a deputy sheriff for 10 years with the Reno Nevada Sheriff’s Department and served another 12 years with the California Department of Corrections before retiring again in 1994.
Hoover currently resides in Carlisle.
“I’m 79 years old and there is not too much I can do,” Hoover said. “I’m kind of slowed down a bit, but I do what I can.”
Hoover said that Vietnam, as a whole, should stand as a lesson to modern America.
“The government needs to adhere to the lessons we learned in Vietnam,” Hoover said. “We won the battles over there, but we did not win the wars.”