Army honors local fallen soldier
Branch dedicates building to Iowa Park man killed in Vietnam
Courtesy of TimesRecord News Wichita Falls TX
Ronnie Adams led his halftrack to the banks of a river in the jungles of Vietnam. He sensed something wasn't quite right. The 24-year-old Army sergeant from Iowa Park motioned for others in the unit to stay back. He and one fellow soldier edged their vehicle into the water. It hit a mine and exploded. Adams and his companion were killed instantly. It was Feb. 13, 1968.
Adams was attached to F Troop of the 17th Cavalry, a unit with a history that reached back to border conflicts with Mexico in 1916. F Troop served in all the wars from World War I to Vietnam. It was the last ground combat unit to see action in Vietnam in June 1972.
Then its history ended - or so it seemed. With no war to fight, the Army had no need for F Troop. It was decommissioned.
Fast forward more than 30 years and the Army decided to reactivate F Troop at Fort Wainwright in Alaska. To honor its fallen, the commanding officer decided to name facilities after men who lost their lives in combat.
In May, far from the jungles of Southeast Asia and far from the plains of North Texas, the Army dedicated the Ronnie Lee Adams Motor pool at the Alaskan post.
Bob Decker, a former F Trooper who lives in South Carolina, decided that Adams' family needed to know about the honor. His inquiry to the Times Record News led to quick work by local genealogist Julie Coley and Decker was soon able to spread the news to relatives.
Sharon Sparks was touched by the recognition given to her brother.
"He was extremely patriotic," she said, noting that Adams had served a stint in the Navy before joining the Army and volunteering to go the Vietnam.
She remembered him as a "fun-loving, outgoing" young man.
"He was my big brother, my best buddy," she said. He had taught her how to drive and was the person who had to give approval to anyone she wanted to date.
Shirley Banks, who knew Adams from school days, remembered him as "a wonderful, wonderful person."
"He married his high school sweetheart. They were the American dream couple," she said.
Sparks said she never learned much about what happened to her brother until she made contact with his unit commander a few years ago.
The ex-officer told her Adams had a native instinct about being in the field, that he could sense things. She attributed that to his life-long love of hunting and fishing and being out in the country.
"He was just a few weeks from coming home when he was killed," she said.
Lahoma Adams, Ronnie's mother, said her son only got to see his baby daughter twice. She was surprised to learn that he was being honored by the military.
"I can't say enough. It's an honor to know they would want to do this - he gave everything he had for our country," she said.
Lahoma Adams still lives in the house where she and her husband raised Ronnie and his siblings.
Adams is buried next to his father - a World War II veteran - in Highland Cemetery in Iowa Park.
Sparks and her husband, who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, plan to fly to Alaska soon to see the facility named after her brother.
"It's like one of greatest honors you can have, to see a unit come back to life again. Memories of these guys will live for ever now," Decker said. He said the unit normally had about 120 men and saw lots of combat from Saigon to Da Nang.
"We lost 15 men in one battle alone," he recalled.
And if most people only think of the old TV western when they hear "F Troop," Decker just laughs.
"They built a gate just like the one in the show at Fort Wainwright," he said.