Valor Friday

| May 29, 2020


S/Sgt Marvin “Rex” Young

For today’s Valor Friday, Mason brings us the incredible heroism of Staff Sergeant Marvin “Rex” Young, and his actions in Viet Nam. Sadly he did not survive the conflict. Rex comes via a bit different path than most of our Valor Friday honorees; he was requested by Poetrooper, as Mrs. Poe attended high school with him in Texas. Small world. The TAH Valor Friday Editorial Staff, consisting of Mason and myself, could hardly refuse. And so…

Mason
Our own Poetrooper has a shirttail relationship with today’s subject. His wife went to high school with the young man before he enlisted and shipped off for Vietnam.

Marvin “Rex” Young was a West Texas native enlisting into the Army from Odessa, TX. Known as Rex to most, he’d been born in Alpine, TX with the family moving to Odessa when he was eight. A few years later his parents divorced. His father remarried and moved to Anchorage, AK, leaving Young and his two older siblings behind.

After his freshman year in high school at Odessa Permian High School he traveled to Anchorage to visit his father. He was supposed to return before the school year started, but family finances prohibited it. He ended up taking his 10th grade in Alaska.

By the following year he was begging his parents to get him back to Odessa. His mother had already moved from town, but his sister had recently married and was living in Odessa. While he was convincing them to allow him to live with his sister the A.R. Edgmar family of Odessa offered him a room. Returning to Odessa he finished his final two years of high school at Odessa Permian, graduating in 1965.

Mrs. Poe remembers Rex as quite handsome and an overachiever. By all accounts he was a standout athlete in baseball (playing catcher) and football (playing guard). A fellow pony league baseball player of Rex’s, Billy Brown said, “I always thought Rex could have written his own ticket in baseball, for a catcher, he had the arm…He gave his best in everything he did, whether it was in sports or in the military. Rex never wavered.” Young also had an interest in art, specifically painting. His sister said his talents were so varied, “There were lots of things, it’s hard to put a finger on any certain one” that he was destined for.

Personality wise, he was humble, likeable, and all around a hell of a nice guy according to not just Mrs. Poe but other people who knew him in high school. He’d later discussed going to Texas Tech and becoming an architecture student after his enlistment. Young was a hard working, talented young man with a brilliantly bright future.

After high school he attended a semester at Odessa College. He then followed his mother when she moved to San Francisco where he took another semester at Kentfield Junior College. In the summer of ‘66 he moved back to Odessa and lived with his sister Margaret before enlisting in the Army on 15 September.

Receiving basic training at Fort Bliss and then infantry AIT at Fort Lewis, Young was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, the Tropic Lightning, in Hawaii. He deployed to Vietnam 20 October, 1967. One of his comrades, Gary Young (no relation and who was a Charlie Company medic) notes that Rex’s Mormon faith would have allowed him to fill a non-combat post as a conscientious objector. Gary said that Rex was proud of the role he was filling and his men respected him for it. It says something about a man’s character when he volunteers to be somewhere, doing something that many would avoid at all costs.

The 1-5 Infantry had been the first battalion of the division deployed to Vietnam. The 5th Infantry would remain in Vietnam for five years. By the time Young arrived, 1-5 Infantry had already received an Army Valorous Unit Award for combat bravery, the unit equivalent of the Silver Star.


Purple Heart

Not two months after arriving in country Rex was wounded by shrapnel, receiving his first Purple Heart for actions 7 December, 1967. During the brutal Tet Offensive in February 1968 he was again wounded, receiving another Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Bronze Star Medal w/ “V” for Valor.

Bronze Star with “V”

Through his actions and his personality “Rex was one of the most respected men in the company, and surely still is,” said Lawrence E. Marc-Aurele, a fellow Charlie Company 1-5 Infantry soldier who served with Young. Dale Davis, who served with Rex and called the man a friend said, “He was one of the finest men I ever met.”

With not even two years in the Army Rex Young was a staff sergeant.This was before the Army started their “Shake and Bake” sergeants. So he was promoted on his merits. It’s an impressive feat for any 21 year old to be an E-6 even in time of war and speaks to Rex’s hard charging work ethic as well as his natural abilities to lead men.

So it was on 21 August, 1968 that the young staff sergeant was with his company, serving as a squad leader, on a reconnaissance patrol near Ben Cui. Ben Cui was the site of a Michelin Corporation rubber plantation. It would become the site of a vicious battle between the US Army and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong forces.

Several months into their combat deployment, staffing was low. Only 86 men of Charlie Company had gone forward with the other elements of 1-5 Infantry trailing the lead company by about 300 yards. Young’s platoon was without an officer, the acting platoon leader was Sergeant First Class Mainor Lang, a 30 year old native of Georgia.

As Company C moved through the jungle they were attacked by a reinforced regiment-sized force of enemy troops (about 2,500) who had laid an ambush just after 11am. The enemy was well prepared with minefields deployed along the left and right flanks and tunnels, spider holes, and booby traps to prevent the company from being able to escape the trap.

As direct small arms fire came at them, rocket propelled grenades came flying in, destroying armored personnel carrier (APC) after APC, while indirect fire rained down from above. In the initial volley of enemy fire several men were wounded and the acting platoon leader SFC Lang was the first man killed that day. Rex immediately took over as platoon commander.

Young organized his men and skillfully deployed them in defensive positions to repel the enemy attack. It was then that the enemy launched a human wave attack. A human wave is a dense formation of large numbers of infantrymen who attack in an unprotected frontal assault. The intent is to use your superior numbers to overwhelm your opponent. Despite losing large numbers of troops in an assault of this type, the goal is to get your men within the defensive perimeter where you can engage them in melee combat.

As the NVA human wave came at the beleaguered company Young moved from position to position, encouraging the men and adjusting their fields of fire as needed. As he moved from location to location he repeatedly exposed himself to withering enemy fire. Because of Young’s leadership, they were able to hold off the significantly larger enemy force.

Orders came down that the company was to retreat. Young ordered his men back and remained forward to cover their retreat. It was then that he saw six men of the point squad that were pinned down and would be left behind. With no regard for his safety he rushed to the pinned element.

As he ran through the concentrated hail of enemy fire he made it halfway before being hit by small arms fire. Shot in the head, the round hit right next to his eye, shattering the orbital socket and rendering the eye completely blind.

Despite the grievous injury, Rex pressed forward, unwilling to leave his men behind. When he got to the men he ordered their retreat while he took a position in the rear to cover them.

As they retreated, an enemy round found his arm, knocking him over. He came back up and continued covering his soldiers. Then Young took a third bullet to his lower leg, shattering both bones. The fight was not yet over for the half-blind and crippled staff sergeant. He literally crawled to cover. He steadfastly refused medical attention which would only slow the company’s retreat.

Unable to move under his own power and unwilling to let his men die for him he ordered them to continue their retreat while he provided cover. As the soldiers left him, the final man refused to leave Rex’s side until the staff sergeant said he’d shoot the man himself instead of letting the enemy capture the both of them. Even with all his wounds, Young seemed convinced that he would survive the battle, though he thought he’d be leaving the field a prisoner.

As the final man left, Young continued to lay covering fire until his position was overrun by enemy forces. C Company lost not just Rex Young and Mainor Lang that day. There were a total of 17 killed in action and 21 wounded in action, a 44% casualty rate for the company.

First Lieutenant Arthur Cook (who would later retire from the Army as a lieutenant colonel after 27 years of service) was acting C Company commander on 21 August, 1968. Cook said, “What SSGT Young did on that day was truly heroic. He allowed the rest of us to reach safety after we were so hopelessly outnumbered. I’ll remember him always in my heart. Thanks to his heroic efforts I and my fellow soldiers in the unit are able to be home with their families. My heartfelt thanks to SSGT Marvin Young and to his family.”

For his gallantry and heroic self-sacrifice at the cost of his own life, Staff Sergeant Marvin Rex Young was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The medal was presented to his mother by President Nixon on 7 April, 1970. The 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment also received a Presidential Unit Citation, the unit equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross, in large part for the actions of C Company on 20 August, 1968.

US Army Medal of Honor

While reading through memorials posted in remembrance of Rex Young, someone posted a message that I think bears repeating here;

“DEATH LEAVES A HEARTACHE NO ONE CAN HEAL, LOVE LEAVES LIVES A MEMORY NO ONE CAN STEAL”

Hand Salute. Ready, Two!

Thanks again, Mason. And a special thanks to the Poetroopers for pointing us in he right direction.

Category: Guest Post, The Warrior Code, Valor

Comments (32)

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  1. ninja says:

    Thank You so much, Mason, Mr. & Mrs. Poetrooper and AW1Ed for sharing the story of SSG Marvin Rex Young and his heroic actions that has kept him Forever Young at 21.

    There are some nice pictures and additional information at this link of SSG Young:

    http://www.veteransmemorial.us/bios/vwall/heroes.php?id=159

    Additionally, SSG Young’ memories and heroic deeds are now living forever:

    * In November 2007, the East Side Post Office located in the 4100 block of E. 52nd Street in Odessa was officially named the Staff Sergeant Marvin Rex Young Post Office.

    * VFW Post 4395 in Pasadena, Texas is named in honor of SSG Young.

    * There is also a street named for him at Fort Hood, Texas.

    * In March 2013 in conjunction with the National Medal of Honor Day, Sunset Memorial Garden’s Cemetery began to fly the Medal of Honor Flag over the final resting place of SSG Marvin Rex Young and Corporal Alfred Mac Wilson, another Medal of Honor Recipient.

    * On 20 August 2015, Hood Junior High School in Odessa was renamed the Wilson and Young Medal of Honor Middle School in honor of SSG Marvin Rex Young and Corporal Alfred Mac Wilson.

    * In October 2019, the Department of Veteran Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Odessa was named the “Wilson and Young Medal of Honor VA Clinic”.

    Salute. Rest In Peace,Soldier.

    “Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends”

  2. 26Limabeans says:

    Tough read.

    • ninja says:

      Beans,

      Yes…it was tough to read what SSG Young went thru.

      I hope all that have chosen to embellish their time in Vietnam come across Mason’s post,i.e. those who made themselves “heroes” by exagerrating to others their service in Vietnam.

      Oh, I forgot. Those with a Narcisstic Personality Disorder (Look At Me and Look What I Did!) only think of themselves.

  3. Slow Joe says:

    So, they left him behind to fall into enemy hands.

    • ninja says:

      Slow Joe:

      Wow. Amazing.

      This is what you took away what Mason and Mr. & Mrs. Poetrooper shared with us?

      Did you even bother to read what Mason wrote?

      Who is “they” in your statement? Show me where SSG Young was “left behind to fall into enemy hands”.

      Oh, I forgot. You don’t read everything put in front of you.

      Such a sad statement coming from a US Army Noncommissioned Officer. Lack of compassion, emphathy, feelings.

      I now worry about Soldiers working for you (if there are any).

      • Mason says:

        I would expect an infantry NCO to appreciate a man willing to sacrifice himself for his men.

        • Slow Joe says:

          I will NEVER appreciate a man that is willing to leave a fellow Soldier behind.

          • timactual says:

            Ever hear of a “rear guard”? Sometimes whole units are intentionally “left behind”. It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it. Most real soldiers realize that. Like walking point.

      • Slow Joe says:

        “Lack of compassion, empathy, feelings.”

        What are you talking about?
        I feel for SSG Marvin Young. He clearly did an exceptional job under incredible strenuous circumstances.

        My problem is with the other people involved. They abandoned the guy behind. You pull that shit today, and your ass ends up in Leavenworth.

        We do not leave a fallen comrade behind. Period.
        When we start tolerating this behavior, we lose the confidence of our subordinates and discipline goes to shit, because now everyone is expendable, and there is no such thing as an expendable American Soldier.

        If your subordinates believe you can leave their asses behind because they are slowing you down when breaking contact with the enemy…

        • ninja says:

          READ WHAT MASON WROTE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED WITH SSG YOUNG AND HIS MEN.

          HIS UNIT WAS AMBUSHED. THE COMPANY ORDERED A RETREAT. SSG YOUNG SACRIFICED HIS LIFE SO THAT HIS MEN COULD RETREAT.

          SSG YOUNG WAS NOT ABANDONED. ALL OBEYED AND FOLLOW ORDERS FROM THEIR HIGHER UP.

          GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR BEHIND.

      • Slow Joe says:

        Ok Ninja,

        Let me expand on this.

        That mission gave me the creeps from the beginning as I was reading Mason’s original post.
        I got it, it was a different war, a long time ago, and the standards have changed.

        To begin with, the Company Commander was not there, and 1LT Arthur Cook was in charge, and I hope he was the XO, the senior LT in the Company, and stepped up. Then, the Platoon Leader was not there, and SFC Mainor Lang was in charge.

        For what I gather, they started moving up mounted and got ambushed. Why didn’t they immediately called their indirect fire support for immediate impression of the enemy while the Company set up a defensive position or broke contact, as it was being engaged by a superior force?

        Are you telling me they were conducting a patrol outside their indirect fire support umbrella? Did they coordinate with higher for close air support? No commander I know would approve a mission without support. So poor planning.

        Then, the Company receives the order to break contact with the enemy. This is the part that gets super dicey.

        1) You don’t break contact in the middle of an enemy assault. You defend first, defeat the assault, then break contact. You try to break contact while the enemy is charging your position and you die.
        2) A Company breaks contact one platoon at a time. Each platoon breaks contact in their sector one squad at the time, using bounding overwatch, meaning at least two squads lay suppressive fire on the enemy position while one squad picks up and move to a new position farther back, and opens suppressive fire to allow another squad to bound back, and so on successively. You DO NOT all get up at once and walk away.
        3) If you have casualties, that’s your limit of advance. You secure the position where you took casualties and fight the enemy off until you can evacuate. Under no conditions you try to break contact leaving the wounded behind.

        So yeah.
        Unprofessional behavior, to say the least.

        We, as leaders, are problem solvers. We have to approach each contact as a problem to be solved. There are many ways to find a solution to a tactical situation. That was not it.

        • Slow Joe says:

          *immediate suppression.

        • ninja says:

          A couple of WOTs ago, I dedicated a Mack Davis song to you “Oh, Lord, It’s Hard To Be Humble”, but it is obvious you did not watch and listen to that song on YouTube.

          I will say it again. Why you chose to address what you did instead of addressing what SSG Young did, i.e. sacrifice his life for his troops is beyond me.

          So sad.

          • Slow Joe says:

            SSG Marvin Young was a hero that had to sacrifice his life to save his men from the clusterfuck that mission was.

            Have you heard the saying that the bigger the fuck up the bigger the medal?
            Where do you think that comes from?

            That mission was fucked from the beginning, and SSG Young was forced to lay down his life to save his men.

            And they left him behind!

        • Mason says:

          There’s a lot more about the battle that, for brevity’s sake, doesn’t go into my article. It was the Battle of Bến Củi if you want to look it up.

          From the PUC for the battalion:
          ” The lead elements of Company C, 1st Battalion came under heavy mortar, rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun, and automatic weapons fire. The company deployed against the enemy forces while the scout platoon protected the company flank and prevented reinforcement by a battalion-size enemy unit. Through skillful use of close supporting fires from artillery, helicopter gunship and tactical air, the officers and the men of the Task Force repulsed human wave counterattacks and defeated a numerically superior enemy force, which left one hundred and eighty-two dead on the battlefield. The individual act of gallantry, the teamwork and the aggressiveness of the officers and men of the 1st Battalion Task Force continued throughout the period of prolonged combat operations, resulting in the resounding defeat of enemy forces in their operational area. The heroic efforts, extraordinary bravery and professional competence displayed by the men of the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry and attached units are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon themselves, their units, and the Armed Forces of the United States.”

          Artillery and air support were used. This was a reduced sized company going head to head with a regiment of enemy troops in a coordinated ambush zone. There was a second enemy regiment about an hour away that was literally running to help their comrades. Their advance was slowed by the indirect fire and air strikes.

          The entirety of the battle was less than an hour. C Company was well on their way to being completely wiped out. They wouldn’t be able to press on and fight their way out of the ambush.

          This was day one of a month long battle called the “Third Offensive” as it was the third large massed offensive after the Tet Offensives.

    • OmegaPaladin says:

      Sgt. Young literally had to threaten to shoot one of the men to get them to leave him behind. He chose his stand, like a Spartan at Thermopylae, and it is no shame on his men that they followed his explicit commands to leave.

      • Slow Joe says:

        OMG. Do I really have to argue this?

        Let me use an example.

        I don’t have the authority to leave my immediate supervisor in my chain of command EVEN if HE asks me to do that. That is the definition of an illegal order in the UCMJ article 90, which means I am OBLIGATED to not obey it.

        The shitbags left SSG Marvin Young behind.

        • ninja says:

          READ WHAT MASON WROTE.

          SINCE YOU CANNOT READ, I AM CUTTING AND PASTING WHAT ONE OF THE “S$@HB%*GS SAID:

          “Lieutenant Arthur Cook (who would later retire from the Army as a lieutenant colonel after 27 years of service) was acting C Company commander on 21 August, 1968. Cook said, “What SSGT Young did on that day was truly heroic. He allowed the rest of us to reach safety after we were so hopelessly outnumbered. I’ll remember him always in my heart. Thanks to his heroic efforts I and my fellow soldiers in the unit are able to be home with their families. My heartfelt thanks to SSGT Marvin Young and to his family.”

          HEY, IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER, I WILL TRY TO FIND

          OPEN YOUR EYES. BE HUMBLE.

          • ninja says:

            I WILL TRY TO FIND LTC(RET) CLARK SO YOU CAN TELL HIM ONE ON ONE THAT HE & OTHERS ARE “S$#TB%GS”.

            HOW SAD YOU CHOSE A POST THAT WAS HONORING SSG YOUNG TO TALK ABOUT YOUR “INFANTRY” WAYS AND CALL THE SOLDIERS THAT SSG YOUNG SAVED NAMES.

            I DARE YOU TO GO ON ANOTHER FORUM THAT ADDESSES MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS AND SANDBLAST THOSE SOLDIERS.

            HOW DARE YOU. YOU WERE NOT THERE DURING THAT INCIDENT JUST AS YOU DID NOT PARTCIPATE IN OIF WHEN WE IN OVERTOOK IRAQ, BUT STILL HAD THE GALL TO KNOCK DOWN AND MOCK DAVE COLONEL PERKINS, NOW RETIRED GENERAL DAVE PERKINS AND HIS SILVER STAR.

            • Slow Joe says:

              Sorry, I can’t read all caps.

              Say again please.

            • 5th/77th FA says:

              Slow Joe, you might wanna go see if an urologist can doctor those cleat holes you just put in your private parts. You could bleed out, quickly, stepping on it that hard.

              Give ‘im hell, ninja, he deserves it for that one. rtr!

        • Mason says:

          That’s not an unlawful order. You’re conflating your sense of honor with the law.

          I agree we shouldn’t leave men behind, but you’re asking for the entire company to be wiped out to save a single man.

  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    Awfully damn dusty in here and I just changed those air filters. Thanks to everyone who brought this Hero’s Story to us. “No Greater Love, Indeed!” “…that such men lived!”

    Hand Salute? Nope. Battalion Gun Salute! PREPARE!!! FIRE!!!

  5. Sparks says:

    Dusty today.

  6. Bill says:

    Good to know such Infantrymen served. He’s in Valhalla for sure. Thanks, Staff Sergeant.

  7. Thunderstixx says:

    While I was reading this article, Two Steps From Hell came up in the rotation on my YouTube playlist.
    “Men of Honor” Extended version….
    Couldn’t be more appropriate…..
    Godspeed SSG Young and God Bless your family.

  8. ninja says:

    To Slow Joe:

    I will say it again: Mason’s post was about SSG Young and his Medal of Honor.

    Mason’s post was NOT about US Army Schoolbook Tactics or UCMJ or Rules of Engagements.

    Are you going to continue to critique other Behind the Scene Medal of Honor stories that Mason has blessed us with on a weekly basis that AW1Ed posts as Valor Friday?

    So sad you stoop that low today to do this. If you want to discuss/critique previous War/Conflict situations, then I recommend you start your own Forum to do this.

    Please let me know if you would like me to locate LTC (Ret) Clark for you as well as other Soldiers that SSG Young saved that day so you can contact them and tell them that you think they are “Sh!#@ags”.

    Mason, I apologize for getting off kilter on your post. Please forgive me.

    To KoB: hbtd

    😎

  9. Poetrooper says:

    Mason, thanks for an excellent account of SSGT Young’s heroism. Ms Poe has sent the link to many of Rex’s fellow Permian graduates.

    Joe, wish you hadn’t started the firefight–your holier than thou attitude makes me wonder at the extent of your own experience in actual firefights.