ROGERS — Friends, family, veterans and members of III Corps paid homage to Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Felix M. Conde-Falcon on Saturday at his gravesite in the Rogers Cemetery.
“This was a remarkable man,” said Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood.
President Barack Obama presented the posthumous award March 18 to Conde-Falcon’s son, Richard Conde of Temple, in Washington, D.C., “for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam ... on 4 April 1969.”
Milley said he wondered what that day was like, when the infantry rifle platoon was completing its mission on an abandoned rubber plantation. It was about 10 a.m. and the platoon was conducting operations against well-trained North Vietnamese units, doing a search and attack movement, he said. Its mission was to set up a series of ambushes.
One of the other platoons in Delta Company had walked into a base camp of the enemy, he said. It was a clear day, sunny and hot. The soldiers were loaded down with about 100 pounds of equipment. The platoon was down to 16 or 17 soldiers. Their lieutenant had been injured, and Conde-Falcon was now the platoon leader.
“Following tactical artillery and air strikes on the heavily-secured communist position, the platoon of Sgt. Conde-Falcon was selected to assault and clear the bunker fortifications,” the award reads.
At that point, Milley said, many would have taken a step back. Conde-Falcon assaulted. Firing and maneuvering by himself, he neutralized three successive enemy bunkers with hand grenades. He rejoined his platoon, selected three men and carrying a machine gun, killed the occupants of a fourth bunker. He ran out of ammunition, but picked up an M-16 and headed for a fifth bunker.
“Within 10 meters of his goal, he was shot by an unseen assailant and soon died,” the award reads.
Milley called Conde-Falcon’s deed “an incredible act of heroism and physical courage.”
Milley recognized veterans of Vietnam and other wars who were present for the ceremony, including members of Conde-Falcon’s unit, the 82nd Airborne Division.
“You’re all heroes,” he said. We thank you for your service. We thank you for your combat action in Vietnam.”
Milley praised Leslie Hayes of Russell, Ky., who served with Conde-Falcon, for tracking down and getting in touch with his son, Richard Conde and his daughter, Jeannie Holland of Florida.
Hayes said he was Conde-Falcon’s radio operator. “I was with him the day he was killed,” he said.
Conde said Hayes searched for him and his sister for more than 35 years. Hayes was looking in Chicago, because that’s where Conde-Falcon enlisted. In 2004, Hayes wrote a letter, and asked Conde to call him. “For the next two weeks, we talked almost every day,” Conde said.
Conde, who was 3 years old when his father died, thanked Hayes for giving him his father back. He said he wanted to remember two people, his mom, Lydia, who passed away nine years ago, and his sister, who couldn’t make it to the ceremony. His parents met while Conde-Falcon was stationed at Fort Hood and Lydia was living near Buckholts. The couple bought a home in Rogers and lived there six years. Conde said he lived in Rogers until he was in the second grade.
Col. Matthew Goff, III Corps chaplain, gave the invocation Saturday. Carson Cobb, a junior at Rogers High School, sang the national anthem. The 1st Cavalry Division provided a color guard for the ceremony, which ended with three rifle volleys and the playing of taps. A reception followed at Rogers High School.