Ruppert L. Sargent

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Ruppert Leon Sargent
Army Medal of Honor
Born(1938-01-06)January 6, 1938
Hampton, Virginia
DiedMarch 15, 1967(1967-03-15) (aged 29)
Hậu Nghĩa Province, Republic of Vietnam
Place of burial
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUSArmy flag.jpgUnited States Army
Years of service1966 - 1967
RankFirst Lieutenant
Unit4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division
Battles/warsVietnam War 
AwardsMedal of Honor
Purple Heart

Ruppert Leon Sargent (January 6, 1938 – March 15, 1967) was a United States Army officer and a recipient of America's highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Vietnam War.


1LT Sargent was a graduate of Virginia State University. He joined the Army from Richmond, Virginia in the late 1950s, served several years as an enlisted soldier, and went through Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning.[1] By March 15, 1967, he was serving as a First Lieutenant in Company B, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.[2] On that day, while in Hậu Nghĩa Province in the Republic of Vietnam, Sargent threw himself on two enemy hand grenades, sacrificing himself but saving the lives of two men nearby. 1LT Sargent is the first black officer in history to be awarded the Medal of Honor[3] (In 1997, upgrades of DSCs awarded to black heroes of World War II resulted in awards to three additional black officers from that war).[4]

Burial and legacy[edit]

Ruppert Sargent, aged 29 at his death, was buried in Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia.[3]

The Ruppert L. Sargent Building in Hampton, Virginia houses the Hampton City Schools, Commissioner of the Revenue, Treasurer, Economic Development Department and Office of the Assessor of Real Estate.[5] A statute of Sargent rests in the building's lobby.[2]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Lieutenant Sargent's official Medal of Honor citation reads:[4]

...For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While leading a platoon of Company B, 1st Lt. Sargent was investigating a reported Viet Cong meeting house and weapons cache. A tunnel entrance which 1st Lt. Sargent observed was booby trapped. He tried to destroy the booby trap and blow the cover from the tunnel using hand grenades, but this attempt was not successful. He and his demolition man moved in to destroy the booby trap and cover which flushed a Viet Cong soldier from the tunnel, who was immediately killed by the nearby platoon sergeant. 1st Lt. Sargent, the platoon sergeant, and a forward observer moved toward the tunnel entrance. As they approached, another Viet Cong emerged and threw 2 hand grenades that landed in the midst of the group. 1st Lt. Sargent fired 3 shots at the enemy then turned and unhesitatingly threw himself over the 2 grenades. He was mortally wounded, and his 2 companions were lightly wounded when the grenades exploded. By his courageous and selfless act of exceptional heroism, he saved the lives of the platoon sergeant and forward observer and prevented the injury or death of several other nearby comrades. 1st Lt. Sargent's actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military services and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Shadow box".
  2. ^ a b "First African-American Medal of Honor recipient".
  3. ^ a b Rockett, Ali. "Towering above Hampton, Ruppert Sargent building named for one of city's bravest sons".
  4. ^ a b "Ruppert Sargent - Recipient - Military Times Hall Of Valor".
  5. ^ "Ruppert L. Sargent Building". Hampton, VA.