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Vietnam veterans Richard Knight, at left, and Wathan Fielding share a laugh at the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Lecture Series at the Jackson Center in Huntsville. Both men served with the U.S. Marines. CONTRIBUTED/”Redstone Rocket”

Knight named ‘Veteran of the Year’ for Alabama’s Vietnam vets

By SKIP VAUGHN, Editor of “The Redstone Rocket”
Reprinted by permission

HUNTSVILLE – For Richard Knight, 2019 was an excellent year.

Knight was named “Veteran of the Year” for Alabama’s 10 chapters of the Vietnam Veterans of America. The Huntsville resident accepted his honor at an awards dinner on Nov. 10, 2019 in Birmingham.

Knight’s plaque cites him as the one “who has done the most to foster the highest ideals in community service, membership and our American way of life.”

Knight, 71, was surprised to receive the award. “I didn’t feel the work that I do would get to that point to be recognizable,” Knight said. “The 50th commemoration has brought a lot of veterans out of the shadows to be recognized.”

Knight serves as membership chairman of Huntsville’s Chapter 1067 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He was one of the chapter’s founding members in 2012. With 650 members, Chapter 1067 is the largest chapter in Alabama and the eighth largest of 670-plus groups nationwide.

“He’s absolutely a man that has supported our chapter 100 percent,” Charlie Miller, president of Chapter 1067, said. “Because of his hard work, he has added to our membership probably 400 members. That’s exceptional.”

Besides recruiting members for the chapter, Knight assists veterans in navigating their paperwork through the system to receive benefit claims. Knight learned the system by pushing his own paperwork from the late 1990s to 2000 when he gained 100-percent disability. He was diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease.

Knight joined the Marines after receiving his draft notice in November 1968. He served as a machine gunner in Vietnam from 1969-70. He was a 23-year-old lance corporal with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in An Hoa. His unit, H Company, went out on numerous patrols.

But in mid-February 1970, shortly before they were scheduled to return to the United States, one of his friends volunteered to go on patrol with G Company. His friend stepped on a land mine. All that remained was part of his flak jacket and his left foot.

Knight received the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Ribbon, Good Conduct Ribbon, Sharpshooter Badge and expert badge on the machine gun. He completed his two-year obligation and left the service as a lance corporal.

His hometown Excel is in Monroe County. He and his wife of 46 years, Lillian, have three children and three grandchildren. Their older son Terrance lives in Athens. Their younger son Kevin and daughter Leslie are Huntsville residents.

Editor’s note: This article is the 250th in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

For more information, visit theredstonerocket.com.

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