Robert Ray Boyd was National Hero for Valor in Vietnam

February 10, 2020, Susan Harber, The Daily News Journal

When I ponder amongst our Rutherford County heroes, one outstanding man comes to light as a role model within our present-day generation. Captain Robert Ray Boyd of Readyville is a national luminary and Gold Star casualty of a controversial and bitterly fought war of Vietnam. He served proudly from 1964 to 1967 with the 53rd Signal Battalion of the 173rd Airborne Artillery Brigade at Fort Campbell.

The engagement with Vietnam in Southeast Asia on the South China Sea was a brutal encounter from 1955 to 1975 where 58,000 Americans took their last breath. Four million perished in both North and South Vietnam in this needless conflict. Yet, the United States was adamant to protect the spread of Communism, and the mission was onward with no end in sight. In Tennessee, 1,219 soldiers died in this war.

Robert Ray Boyd was a wonderful and focused young man from the first day of his life. He attended Kittrell Elementary, MTSU Campus School, and Central High where he graduated with honors in 1959. He attained a Chemistry degree in May 1964 from MTSU and was Second Lieutenant Rank in the ROTC and a Distinguished Military Cadet. On campus, he was in the Track and Sabre Club, Chemical Association, and Sigma Club. As a student, Robert had an innate desire to succeed and contribute to mankind.

Robert was an only child born on April 21, 1941 to Mose Clayton Boyd Jr (1913 to 2001) and Zera Arnold Boyd (1909 to 2000). Mose lived to age 88, and Zera perished at age 90; yet Robert died on May 17, 1967 at 26 years old. He would be 79 in 2020 had he survived. Both Mose and Zera were visible in the community and encouraged an ‘open door’ to their home. My Uncle Leon Fox shared delicious meals prepared by Zera, who was a great cook. Mose was an elder at Science Hill Church of Christ, and they were dedicated to their congregation and goodwill for anyone in need. Robert was a best friend of Bud Mitchell, who is a well known resident of Kittrell.

Both Robert’s paternal and maternal lineage is longstanding in Rutherford County with burials in Coleman Cemetery. The Boyd family was prominent in the Readyville community in the early 20thcentury. Robert’s grandfather Mose Boyd Sr (1879 to 1935) died at age 55 and had 9 siblings. Mose Sr’s wife Caroline Emily Jamison (1872 to 1965) had 8 siblings. Caroline was retired as school teacher and lived to age 92. Along with her siblings, she inherited the estate of her father William ‘Bud’ Jamison as he had no will. Yet, the brothers and sisters signed over the family farm to Emily and Mose Sr, who had no place to live on their own. This was the same Readyville farm on Woodbury Road bequeathed to Robert’s parents. The original Jamison farm stood within 100 years in a familial line of descendants.

Caroline’s father was William Jamison (1837 to 1923), and her mother was Mary Jane Shelton Jamison (1843 to 1910). They wed in 1861 on the cusp of the Civil War. Both are buried in the Jamison Cemetery in Readyville. Robert Ray Boyd’s maternal great great grandfather was Thomas Allen Jamison (1811 to 1873) of Readyville. He wed Caroline Fulks Jamison (born 1815); and they are also buried in Jamison Cemetery. Caroline and Thomas were wed in 1835.

Robert’s paternal great-grandparents were John Wesley Boyd (1845 to 1898) and Susan Ann Pitts (1850-1925) of Readyville. Susan lived in the 21st District all of her life and was a member of the Republican Grove Baptist Church. She bore 15 children, who were all living at the time of her passing. Susan’s parents were Matthew Pitts (1820 to 1885) and Martha Pitts. Matthew was a lifelong resident of Rutherford County and buried in the Rucker-Pitts Cemetery where his tombstone reads ‘kind father.’ The legacy of the Boyd and Jamison ancestry is quite extraordinary as pioneers in an early chapter of time in Rutherford County. They were regarded as hard-working and honorable in building a foundation in the Readyville community.

After his course requirements at Fort Campbell, Robert was transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he graduated from the Field Artillery Officers Basic Course and then shipped to Vietnam with Tour of Duty commencing on July 8, 1965. He was an excellent soldier and awarded the ‘Certificate of Merit in Recognition of Outstanding Performance of Duty’ on October 24, 1965. On March 16, 1966, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Heroism. Citation states ‘Robert moved under heavy enemy fire to the platoon receiving the brunt of attack and directed very accurate artillery fire on the Viet Cong while exposing himself to their guns. As the Viet Cong directed fire on him, Lt. Boyd continued to direct artillery for 5 hours. His actions resulted in the defeat of the Viet Cong. Boyd displayed aggressiveness, devotion to duty, and personal bravery for the United States military service.’

Soon thereafter, Robert responded to a letter of appreciation from a mother in a Pennsylvania newspaper in stating ‘I consider this not a duty but great privilege to serve so that your boys may grow up in our wonderful country and enjoy all it has to offer.’ He was promoted to Captain in January 1967 and positioned in Bein Hoa Air Base near Saigon as Communications Officer for the 173rd Airborne Division.
In February 1967, Robert returned home with great fanfare from family and loved ones. On a Sunday evening before he departed for a voluntary second tour of Vietnam, he attended Science Hill Church of Christ in Readyville. He led the service with his slideshow and described the daily lives and struggles of the Vietnamese, whom he was valiantly fighting for each day. He related his sojourn with much elation and was excited over freedom coming soon.

On February 22, Robert said farewell to his parents and returned to Vietnam. He would be coming home after his second tour, and life would move on as planned. Yet, on May 17, 1967, Robert was preparing for a convoy when a shell from a hostile mortar round hit his heart directly in Hau Nghia Province in South Vietnam. Mose and Zera soon received word their son had left this earth with multiple fragmentation wounds; and their sorrow was unending.

After a military funeral, Robert was buried at Coleman Cemetery on Woodbury Pike where his parents lay to rest in a current day. On July 15, 1967, the U.S. Army presented an award of the Purple Heart to Captain Boyd for heroism. He also received the Air Medal and First Oak Leaf Cluster. He was later awarded the Army Presidential Unit Citation and Army Good Conduct Medal as Field Artillery Unit Commander.
What his parents were most proud was his name on Panel 20E, Line 12 of the Virtual Wall of Vietnam casualties in Washington, DC. He was an extraordinary son to be remembered for all time and a brave personage for Rutherford County.

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