MILLS COUNTY, Texas — Robert O'Malley, 78, has seen a lot in his life. The small log cabin he calls home is full of memories from the past.
Born in New York City, he remembers the words that landed him in Marines.
"You’ve got a choice go to jail or go to the marine corp," a Judge told O'Malley in the 1960s. A small petty crime would send him right to Vietnam.
August 18, 1965, Operation Starlite was launched based on intelligence from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
Sgt. O'Malley, 23 at the time, and the group of men he was leading performed a landing near the village of An Cuong. That's when the battalion came under fire.
"Everybody got wounded," said O'Malley.
O'Malley's squad was ordered to withdraw. As he led his men to the helicopter, he was shot in the legs, arm, and chest by mortar fragmentation. He refused to evacuate and instead kept fighting until all of his men were on the helicopter.
"I only lost one man, 18 years old he should have never been there," said O'Malley.
Treated for his injuries in Japan, he had surgery to remove fragmentation that had lodged in his lungs.
After the Vietnam vet recovered, he was one of the first to receive the Medal of Honor.
"When I received the Medal of Honor there were 368 other recipients," said O'Malley.
The service on December 6th was colorful and full of military music, family flying in from New York, and playing "Hail to the Chief," as President Lyndon B Johnson walked out.
Can think of only one gift sufficient to honor men like this: We can assure this man and we can assure every man who wears our uniform that their cause is a good cause, that the principles they stand for are sound principles, that the battle they are fighting deserves their bravery.
Johnson pinned the Medal of Honor on the 23-year-old.
"While leading his squad in the assault against a strongly entrenched enemy force, his unit came under intense small arms fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety," said President Johnson in a speech while pinning the medal on.
When the Medal was pinned on him you see a smile. It was a moment the young man from New York still hasn't forgotten.
"'How do you put this damn thing on' was Lyndon B. Johnson's remarks," said O'Malley.
A moment that would land him on newspapers across the country.
He would throw out the first pitch at a Yankees game.
"We lost that game to Boston," said O'Malley.
New York City would throw a celebration for the young man.
O'Malley married and he and his wife settled down in Goldthwaite. The Mills County Museum has an area for him.
His wife died recently. Now living by himself his home is like a museum. Pictures with presidents and military reminders all over.
Spending over four hours with O'Malley his mind sparked with memories when he sees pictures.
Not talking much about himself or the battles he fought, the conversation would veer back to his late wife and the men he shares the honor with like Ernst "Chief" Childers.
"He was a chief for the Indian Reservation," said O'Malley.
Anytime he gets a chance he loves to share the memories of history.