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Military service was a family tradition

Posted 5/23/12 (Wed)

By Lauren Billing
Farmer Staff Writer

Ron Quale lives south of Watford City on a piece of land that, surprisingly, lies mostly secluded from the hustle and bustle of oil field activity. He enjoys reading and is currently working on W.E.B. Griffin’s work “In Danger’s Path: A Corps Novel.”
At 64, Quale is an unassuming man, even though he has experienced more in life than many ever will. He has lived on three different continents, survived the Vietnam War and has been awarded numerous metals.
In 1966, Quale joined the Army when the U.S. military’s involvement in Vietnam was growing rapidly.
“I knew I was going to get drafted. They were drafting everybody at that time,” says Quale. “So I volunteered.”
After two years of training, culminating in graduation from Officer Candidate School, Quale was sent to Germany in 1967 as a 2nd Lieutenant.
In his two years in Germany, Quale worked as the communications officer for his battalion and eventually became the headquarters company commander.
By the age of 21, Quale had been made a captain in the Army.
In April of 1969, Quale received orders, and by June of the same year he was stationed in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, Quale was made the senior advisor to a South Vietnamese infantry battalion.
“It was miserable there because of the food and climate,” says Quale.
For over a year, he ran helicopter gun ships and ran the communications that called in the Air Force for air support.
“We might go two weeks without ever hearing a shot,” says Quale.
But that does not mean Quale and his fellow soldiers did not experience the heat and turmoil of the fighting in Vietnam.
“There was one fight where I was directing fire only about as far as from here to just across that road,” says Quale as he indicates a distance of about 30 yards. “One time we suffered over 70 South Vietnamese casualties in one fight.”
For his service in Vietnam, Quale received the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters and a “V” device for valor, the Army Commendation Medal, the Campaign Medal with three stars, an award for good conduct and the National Defense Medal.
Quale also received awards from the Vietnamese government for his work with the South Vietnamese infantry. They awarded him the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with a palm and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with a silver star.
The citation of Quale’s Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with a silver star explains that Quale, “guided in effective allied air and artillery support which repulsed the enemy assault, inflicting heavy casualties and forcing the enemy to withdraw.”
For the first oak leaf cluster on his Bronze Star Medal, the commendation reads, “As a result of his singularly impressive display of battlefield courage, the inspired Vietnamese force was able to achieve a hard-won victory over a strong and determined enemy. Captain Quale’s heroic actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflected great credit upon himself and the military service.”
“I’ve been pretty blessed,” says Quale. “I came out of Vietnam without a scratch.”
After serving in Vietnam, Quale spent time at Forts Jackson, Meade and Binning.
Quale left the service in 1975 as a captain, only to return to active duty in 1977 for a 90-day tour in Germany.
For his 90-day tour, Quale was in charge of seeing that arrangements were made for American servicemen who were going to spend time training with British regiments in northern Germany.
One such regiment was the Duke of Wellington Regiment of the British Army of the Rhine.
“They do it right,” says Quale of his visit with the regiment. “They get off right at 5 p.m. And then play bridge, have dinner and drinks.”
The Wellington Regiment even showed Quale a solid silver statue of the Duke of Wellington himself and a box where they kept a piece of his hair. And wherever the regiment is stationed today, they have a stein with Quale’s name on it from his time with them.
“That was an awesome deal. I had so much fun,” says Quale.
In all, Quale served in the Army for almost 10 years. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Earl Quale, who joined the military late into World War II. His son, Christopher, also has a grandfather who became a full colonel and served for 33 years. Christopher is now a fourth generation serviceman nearing his 20th year of service as a Lieutenant-Colonel.
As Memorial Day approaches, there will be many celebrations of servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. Not only will their valor be trumpeting, but their challenges and strength commended.
“We need to honor our veterans while they are still among us,” says Jerry Samuelson, McKenzie County Veterans Service officer. “We need to know who they are and learn what they’ve done.”
Quale is one of those incredible people. And though he enjoys a quiet life now, he should always be remembered and thanked for the valor and service he sacrificed for his country and his neighbors.
The 30th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will take place this fall on Nov. 11. Samuelson and the McKenzie County Veterans Service is planning to take local Vietnam veterans to the anniversary celebration. Veterans interested in attending can contact Samuelson at 701-444-6853.