2 county men named to Ohio Military Hall of Fame
Roger Bacon rescued 4 wounded comrades as a Marine in Vietnam
LISBON — Roger Bacon was 21 years old and still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life when he walked into a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting office in 1966 and asked what they had to offer. By the time Bacon walked out he had enlisted and would soon be on his way to Vietnam as the war was heating up.
Bacon, now 73, will be inducted Friday into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for pulling four of his wounded comrades to safety during a battle on May 2, 1967.
“It was one of those things you do on instinct,” Bacon said, when contacted for this story.
A 1963 graduate of David Anderson High School in Lisbon, Bacon attended college in Iowa before returning to Ohio and eventually graduating from the Columbus Business College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. While in the state capital, he got a job as an aide to Gov. James Rhodes.
“I was not sure what I was going to do with my life, so I did what a lot of kids do and visited a recruiting station,” Bacon said.
Bacon returned home to tell his parents, Bea and Dr. Wade Bacon, only to find his mother very upset because she had just received draft notices in the mail from the U.S. Army for both Bacon and his brother.
Following basic training in California and additional training as an infantry machine gunner, he was shipped off to Vietnam in April 1967 and assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Division. On May 2, while searching for the Viet Cong, his unit came under heavy fire that left four Marines wounded in an open area and the rest of the unit scrambling for cover.
Bacon looked at the wounded Marines and decided to take action. One by one he dragged the soldiers back to relative safety, covering distances of 20 to 40 yards, he estimated.
This occurred exactly 52 years ago today.
Six days later after pulling the injured soldiers to safety, Bacon would be injured with shrapnel from a mortar round that exploded near him, knocking him off a hill. “The guy in front me took the worst of it. He was killed,” Bacon recalled.
This was the first of two Purple Hearts awarded Bacon, who was wounded again with shrapnel from a land mine set off by another Marine. Unlike the first injury, which required hospitalization, Bacon said the corpsman was able to pull out the shrapnel and dress the wound, and he never missed a day.
Bacon would later be “dinged” by a bullet, but nothing serious, and the corpsman agreed not to report it since three Purple Hearts could get you sent home.
“My unit was probably one of the most active units in the war,” he said. The 1st Battalion, 1st Marines served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1971.
Bacon, who had been promoted to staff sergeant, returned from Vietnam in April 1968 and trained troops for several months before being discharged from active duty. Besides the Purple Heart medals, he was awarded the Navy Marine Corps Medal for Valor, in addition to numerous other medals and citations earned by his unit.
After his discharge, Bacon came back to Lisbon and began a 40-year career in manufacturing, holding various administrative positions for several companies in Ohio and elsewhere before retiring. Bacon and his wife Ellie live in Lisbon, and he has two step-children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Bacon was nominated by fellow HOF inductee Leo Connelly Jr. of Youngstown. “It’s a little overwhelming,” he said of the honor. “I’m a bit of a private person … If you know Vietnam vets who truly were in action they don’t like talking about” their experiences with anyone else but a combat veteran.
He said it is a far cry from the way returning Vietnam veterans were treated back in the day by the public and even some of the service organizations. Bacon now serves on the Columbiana County Veterans Services Commission and is a trustee at the Lisbon VFW and is a member of several others.
Bacon’s father served as a Navy doctor assigned to the Marine Corps during World War II. He has the distinction of being born on the same day his father was in the next room helping the wife of Marine Corps legend Chesty Puller give birth to twins at the Camp Lejeune base hospital.