3rd Rail Politics Honors Ohio Veterans
Richard Stobbs Has Been a Voice for Ohio Veterans; Working Hard to Get Deserved Recognition for Vets
By Bill Perry
Richard “Dick” Stobbs can look back on his family commitment to the military. Both his mother and father served in the armed forces during World War II. “My mother was in the Women’s Army Corps, and my father served as a navigator on a patrol bomber. He was stationed in the Aleutian Islands,” Stobbs recalled.
RIchard Stobbs, Bronze Star Medal recipient, Vietnam
He joined the U.S. Army on August 12, 1968, volunteering for the draft and served in combat in Vietnam. Specialist-4 Stobbs was assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry, called the Blackhorse Regiment. “I was on the First Squadron Commander Staff as an administrative clerk and a machine gunner; and was on the Regimental Commander’s staff as a combat correspondent,” he said.
Stobbs, who received an honorable discharg on March 18, 1970, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. His honor states that he,” distinguished himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with military operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam.” His recognition didn’t stop there. Other awards included the Army Achievement Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, and other Vietnam Theatre Medals.
Prior to his service Stobbs was a student at Ohio University in Athens and was close to completion of his degree when he signed up for the military. After his service, he returned to Ohio University with a semester left and finished his degree.
Recognizing Fallen Soldiers Families
Stobbs credits his interest in the Gold Star Family Recognition program as result of marrying his wife Jo Ann, who was widowed as the result of her husband being killed in Vietnam. She was a Gold Star widow when they married.
In 2007, with the support of the American Legion, Stobbs led the effort to create the Gold Star Family license plate recognition in Ohio. He served as chairman of the Gold Star Family Committee (GFC). GFC’s lobbying efforts in 2007 allowed passage of SB-25 in Ohio, giving license plates to family members of Fallen Warriors. “In 2008 Gold Star Family plates were official in Ohio. It was recognized that the loss is a family thing, a loss for the entire family,” he added.
Jo Ann, on April 24, 2008, got her license plate. “It was the first day it was available and she had it on the car, proudly for 17 months, until the day she lost her battle with ovarian cancer,” Stobbs said. Today, one of his many community service efforts include his commitment to ovarian cancer research. He is active with the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio.
The establishment of the Gold Star Family plate also led to the Military Sacrifice license plate, eligible to families who lose someone who may not be directly related to military combat, but is a result of serving in the military.
It is offered to spouses, children, parents, grandparents and siblings of qualifying service members. It’s a special license plate available for immediate relatives of any member of the U.S. armed forces who died outside a combat zone while serving honorably in the military.
“In 2014 we got the Military Sacrifice plate established in Ohio in a bill signing ceremony signed by Governor Kasich.”
Getting Recognition for Two Medal of Honor Recipients
Stobbs is the former sheriff of Belmont County, and is law enforcement liaison to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. He has worked hard to gain recognition for war heroes and most recently was instrumental in getting a memorial plaque placed on a stretch of highway for two Congressional Medal of Honor winners from WW II, both from Belmont County.
“I was very pleased to be part of an effort recognizing two Congressional Medal of Honor winners from Belmont County. Two highway markers have now been placed as a result of Ohio legislative efforts we now have markers recognizing Sgt. Sylvester Antolak and Sgt. Emile DeLeau Jr.”
Sgt. Antolak was a Medal of Honor recipient who sacrificed his life in battle in Italy on May 24, 1944. DeLeau received the Medal of Honor for actions in France during World War II on February 2, 1945.
“To my knowledge these are the only Medal of Honor highway markers in Ohio at this time,” Stobbs said. “Highway 219 recognizes Sgt. Antolak and Highway 216 for Sgt. DeLeau.”
Sgt. Antolak Medal of Honor Highway Marker ceremony
The Anonymous Battle—No More
Stobbs was part of an effort to give recognition to a unit that was critical to saving the lives of military combat engineers trapped and outnumbered by the enemy near the Cambodian border in 1970. It was called — The Anonymous Battle.
“They stumbled into an enemy base camp and were overwhelmingly outnumbered,” he said. “The NVA had plenty of ammo, and the Americans had only what they could carry.”
Stobbs said credit is given to Captain John Poindexter of the Alpha Troop. He told his commanders that he could reach the unit to initiate a rescue.
Years later, Poindexter began a drive to petition the Army for individual awards and a unit citation, organizing a team of assistants to gather after-action reports, casualty records, photographs and first-person accounts.
Stobbs was Captain Poindexter’s right gunner, and spent his last three months in Vietnam serving as a combat correspondent. He was assigned to the 17th Public Information Detachment (PID) in the rear staging area at Bien Hoa, as a liaison with the combat correspondents in the field. Stobbs gathered battle information to send up to senior level command. “I did not deal directly with the media, but had a press card which gave me travel orders with access throughout Vietnam,” he said. “Our PID office also provided information for an internal company newsletter for the troops.”
That combat correspondence background helped him when working on the research manuscripts and writing the individual citations. “To me that was big deal, it was the least that I could do for those who put their lives on the line. They saved 100 guys,” Stobbs emphasized.
Stobbs, who was Captain Poindexter’s right gunner, and his last three months in Vietnam served as a combat correspondent, worked on the research manuscripts and helped write the individual citations. “To me that was big deal, it was the least that I could do for those who put their lives on the line. They saved 100 guys,” he said.
Eventually, Poindexter compiled a dossier that he sent to the Army. The documentation helped the troop win the presidential citation presented by President Obama, along with individual medals for 14 members. “I believe Captain Poindexter’s service is at the level to get the medal of honor eventually.”
Recognized by His Peers
Mary Spahia-Carducci has known Stobbs for 10 years and has worked with him on Veterans concerns. Her work is inspired by her father. “I do this in memory of my late father. He was a Marine Marksman, the beginning of the snipers, in WWII in Okinawa, Saipan and China. He must have been a good shot or I would not be here.”
She points to Stobbs humility. “Not only is Dick a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and an active advocate of veterans and active military members, he humbly works behind the scenes as well,” Spahia-Carducci explained. “Many do not know that he has been the driver of legislation that permits recognition for veterans/ active military/law enforcement special license plates.”
Spahia-Carducci credits Stobbs as the driving force behind efforts to make the new Gold Star license plate a reality in Ohio. “Dick also tirelessly travels the state on his own time for many events such as when roadways and highways are officially dedicated to a veteran or law enforcement member,” she said. “He continues his lifetime of public service by working with the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio and is a lifetime member of the NRA. He sets the example of veteran ideals as he continues to serve and I am sure will serve for life.”
She said Stobbs exemplifies the ideals of a veteran who served in the military, in combat, and he still serves today.