Gregory Allen Russell, KIA Vietnam
Updated: Apr 23
"Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death." - Omar Bradley, U.S. Army General, WWII
This young man, at age 20, earned the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force. Unfortunately, he never received it himself, as he was killed while earning it.
Gregory Allen Russell was near the village of Da Phuoc on May 11, 1968. He was a radio operator in C Company, 6th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. His company started crossing a river to establish a night defensive position, but as they entered the water, they were attacked by heavy enemy fire. Greg was wounded and thrown into the river. Ignoring his pain, he swam ashore to get another radio because his had quit working. After obtaining a working radio, he exposed himself to enemy fire while swimming 50 meters, while injured, to deliver the radio to his platoon leader. He accomplished his mission, but was then killed by a sniper's bullet.
Greg was the young husband of my friend's friend, Bea Turnage. He was born April 17, 1948 in the Sacramento area of Rio Linda, California and graduated from Rio Linda High School in 1966. He was one of four children of a divorced mother. Throughout high school, he held a job in order to help support his mother and 3 siblings; this gave him no time for sports or other typical high school activities. His dedication to family was a trait people who knew him held in high regard, especially his future wife.
He knew he would most likely be drafted, so instead, he enlisted in the U.S. Army; he had hoped that would help with his financial responsibilities at home and also help with his college plans after his tour of duty. While he was on leave in the Sacramento area from Fort Lewis, Washington, before he was married, he lived across the street from an apartment complex where Bea lived. He would watch her walk to the little market behind her building. Since he knew the owner of her apartment building, he asked to be introduced, and that was the start of their short time together. They headed to Reno in March of 1968, to get married, less than a month before he left for Vietnam. What she loved about him: his kindness, his sense of humor, his sense of duty, his devotion to family, his perseverance and she adds that it didn't hurt that "he was a cutie as well."
On the day that Greg left from Travis Air Force Base in early April, Bea was to meet him there to say their last good-byes. Unfortunately, Bea got lost once she got on the base. She didn't make it in time. She saw the military cargo plane fly overhead as she was still on the base driving. She was devastated and I'm sure he was too.
They never saw each other again. One month and 8 days after his arrival in Vietnam, Gregory Allen Russell, SGT. E5, while being true to his responsible nature and despite his injury, became a hero in a dirty river near Da Phuoc, South Vietnam, where he gave his life while doing what he needed to do to save others.
Greg, you are remembered 51 years later. Your heroism and devotion reminds us of that which is important in life. Rest in Peace Gregory Allen Russell.