Courage, skill, dedication and
love of country combined to make Maj. Richard Meadows
A Special Kind
by Heike Hasenauer
Richard Meadows lived a life punctuated by adventure,
danger and intrigue. When he died of leukemia in July,
only hours before he was to receive the Presidential
Citizens Medal, the special operations
community lost a legend.
him as the same hero they saw," said his son,
Capt. Mark Meadows, commander of Company F, 51st Infantry
Regiment, a long-range surveillance unit attached
to XVIII Airborne Corps' 519th Military Intelligence
Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C.
came out of the Korean War at 19, he was a master
sergeant. Special Forces
cranked up, he got involved and became intrigued with
long-range reconnaissance and special forces
stuff," Mark said.
Clinton, in a letter to the elder Meadows before his
death, wrote, "In Korea, Vietnam, Iran and many
other dangerous locales, you established a legendary
reputation that will forever be hallowed within the
special forces and by all Americans
who know of your extraordinary exploits."
Meadows' death, Clinton, in a public statement, wrote,
"I am pleased that Maj. Meadows knew of [the
presidential honor] before his death."
In the citation
that accompanied the award, presented to Meadows'
family, Clinton wrote: "His exceptional special
forces and civilian career included operations behind
enemy lines in Vietnam for which he received a rare
battlefield commission, leadership in a daring rescue
attempt of POWs at Son Tay Prison near Hanoi, infiltration
into Tehran for the Desert One hostage rescue mission,
and a key role in establishing the elite Delta Force."
The elder Meadows
joined the Army at 15 and spent more than 30 years
serving his country -- most of it in Special
Forces and Ranger positions. He fought in the Korean
War, and became its youngest master sergeant.
In 1953, he
joined the 10th Special Forces Group and, in 1960,
became the first NCO to participate in an exchange
program between the 7th SFG and the British army's
elite 22nd Special Air Service Regt.
In 1961 Meadows
deployed to Laos as part of the White Star mobile
training team that spent six months teaching combat
tactics to the Royal Lao Army and Laotian tribal guerillas.
tours in Vietnam Meadows conducted numerous cross-border
reconnaissance and commando missions. He also helped
write the operations plan for the daring raid to free
American POWs from Son Tay Prison, near Hanoi, in
which he served as assault team leader.
in Southeast Asia so impressed the senior U.S. commander
in Vietnam, Gen. William Westmoreland, that he obtained
approval for Meadows' direct commission to captain.
It was the first battlefield commission to be given
during the Vietnam war.
assignment was at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in 1977,
where he was the training officer and deputy commander
of the jungle phase of Ranger School.
But his special
operations career was far from over.
to Iran in 1980 during the Iran hostage crisis and,
as a U.S. Army consultant, posed as a foreign businessman
to scout the American Embassy in Tehran where the
hostages were being held. That mission was aborted
when three of eight Navy helicopters involved experienced
military awards and decorations include: the Distinguished
Service Cross, two Silver Stars, Bronze Star with
Valor Device, Air Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious
Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Combat
Infantry Badge, Ranger Tab, Scuba Badge and numerous
The man who,
in the words of U.S. Special Operations Command commander
Gen. Wayne Downing, "made extraordinary contributions
to the security of the nation," was remembered
at a July reunion of the Son Tay Raid Association
at Hurlburt Field, Fla. During the reunion, Meadows
was inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame.
Meadows' widow, Pamela; son, Capt. Meadows; daughter,
Michele Gilmore; and USASOC's Downing, who made the