Commemoration Ceremony Guest Speaker
Colonel Ralph Puckett, U.S. Army, Retired
Colonel Puckett was an inaugural inductee into the United States Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 1992 for extraordinary valor and distinguished service as a Ranger qualified leader. He formed, trained, and commanded the Eighth Army Ranger Company in Korea as a second and, later, first lieutenant. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on November 25-26, 1950, when he successfully lead his 51 Rangers and nine Korean Augmentation Soldiers against numerically superior Chinese forces and established defensive positions on the captured objective.
Though wounded in the initial counterattack, Lieutenant Puckett directed the company's defense that repelled five assaults by a Chinese battalion. On the sixth counterattack, he was wounded a second and third time and, while staying behind to fight, ordered his Rangers to withdraw. Later his Rangers rescued him after fighting their way onto the objective.
Following the Korean War, Puckett served as the Commander of the Mountain Ranger Division of the Ranger Department. As the first Ranger Advisor in the U.S. Army Mission to Colombia, he planned and established the Colombian Army Escuela de Lanceros (Ranger School). He commanded "B" and "C" teams in the 10th Special Forces Group in Germany in 1960-63.
He was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross in the Republic of Vietnam. In 1967, then-Lieutenant Colonel Puckett commanded the 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry (Airborne) of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross for heroic leadership in August 1967. During a dire, night-long defense near Chu Lai, he inspired his Soldiers, who rallied to repel the attacking North Vietnamese. A rifle platoon leader preparing for a "last stand" recalled Colonel Puckett's effect on the nearly exhausted soldiers: " . . . word of Colonel Puckett's arrival spread like wildfire. We all stiffened up and felt that nothing bad could happen now because the Ranger was with us."
Puckett's other decorations and awards include two Silver Stars, three Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars, the Commendation Medal, ten Air Medals, and five Purple Hearts. He has also been awarded the Cross of Gallantry with Palm from the Republic of Vietnam and the Lancero Medal and Order of Merit from Colombia. In 2001, he was awarded the United States Special Operations Command Medal for his outstanding contributions to Special Operations.
Puckett is a qualified Master Parachutist and Glider Trooper. He has been awarded parachutist wings from Greece, Germany, and the Republic of Vietnam. He has also earned the coveted U.S. Army Ranger Tab and the Lancero Badge from Colombia.
Colonel Puckett is a 1949 graduate of the United States Military Academy and has a Master's Degree in Personnel Administration from George Washington University. His military education includes the Command and General Staff College, Armed Forces Staff College, and Army War College. His military training includes Airborne, Jump Master, Ranger, Glider, Special Forces, Jungle Warfare, Winter Training, SCUBA, Skiing, and Lancero (Colombian Army) Courses.
Colonel Puckett retired in 1971 after 22 years of active duty to become the National Programs Coordinator of Outward Bound, Inc. He subsequently established Discovery, Inc., a leadership and teamwork development program that focused on "Personal Growth through Safe Adventure." Later, he became the Executive Vice President of MicroBilt, Inc., a soft- and hardware computer company.
He has continued to be very active in military affairs. He served as the Honorary Colonel for the 75th Ranger Regiment from 1996 to 2006 for which he was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Award. He speaks often at graduations and other functions at Ft. Benning and is an Honorary Instructor at The Infantry School. He was inducted into the Order of St. Maurice in 1998, and was the 1998 Ranger of the Year for the Ranger Infantry Companies of the Korean War. He was inducted into the USAF Gathering of Eagles in 1999. He was added to the Tifton (GA) Wall of Fame in 2004. Other honors include appointment as an Ambassador of Goodwill by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, selection as a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Military Academy in 2004, and selection as the Infantry's Doughboy Award recipient in 2007. He is the author of Words for Warriors: A Professional Soldier's Notebook and numerous media articles.
He lives in Columbus with his wife, the former Jean Martin. They have two daughters, a son, and six grandchildren.