Maj. Howard V. Lee was born in August 1933 in New York City. While in his final year at Pace College studying accounting, Lee found out about a 12-week officer candidate training at Quantico with the U.S. Marine Corps. Lee signed up for the program after graduation in 1955. This program allowed Lee to enter the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as a second lieutenant.
After leaving Quantico, Lee was an infantry officer, guard officer, and spent three years as an instructor at Quantico. During the Dominican Republic Crisis in 1965, Lee conducted daily inspections of the Dominican Republic. Lee promoted to first lieutenant and went to Vietnam in 1966.
In August 1966, Lee learned of a company surrounded and under fire. He convinced seven other men to go out to Cam Lo to support. Lee took over after discovering the the enemy killed the platoon commander. Lee went from platoon to platoon to maintain morale. During this battle, grenade fragments hit Lee’s right side of his body, including his eye. Lee kept fighting and boosting morale until his right leg and arm seized up. He passed out from blood loss. When he came to, help had arrived, and he learned that they successfully kept the enemy at bay.
Lee’s doctors salvaged some of his sight, leaving him with 30% vision loss in his right eye. Shortly after leaving the hospital, Lee learned he would receive a Medal of Honor. On Oct. 25, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson presented Lee with his medal, while Lee’s young son had a tantrum on the stage next to him. In an interview some years later, Lee said that he, and most likely others like him, wore their medals for those who did not make it. After serving ifor 20 years, Lee spent another 20 as a superintendent of grounds maintenance in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
One thing Lee would said is, “this country is worth fighting for and that it’s important that we understand that our freedom depends on our ability to protect ourselves and that we have to be prepared for that.”
Lee passed away on March 23, 2019, at the age of 85 years old.
We honor his service.
Writer: Kelly Dooley
Fact Checker: Vivian Hurney
Graphics: Michelle Zischke