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50 states, 50 heroes: Saving the platoon

Born Sept. 19, 1937, in Dexter, Missouri, George Kenton Sisler served in the Army National Guard and then the Army Reserves from 1956 to 1958. He then served active duty with the Air Force from 1958 to 1962. In 1964, he earned a Bachelors of Science degree from Arkansas State College (now Arkansas State University) and enlisted in the Regular Army. He attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a second lieutenant on June 22, 1965.

Official military records at the time stated that Sisler was sent to Vietnam as an assistant intelligence officer with Headquarters Company, Fifth Special Forces Group (Airborne), First Special Forces. This, however, was a cover assignment; he was actually part of the Studies and Observation Group (SOG), a classified special operations unit that conducted covert operations during the Vietnam War. Known for his courage and aggressiveness, Sisler participated in several hazardous missions and was promoted to first lieutenant.

On Feb. 7. 1967, Sisler was leading his platoon on patrol deep within enemy-held territory near Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, when they suddenly came under attack by a North Vietnamese company. Facing an assault from three sides, Sisler rallied his men and managed to get them to a better defensive position. From there, he called in air strikes and moved around the position to direct and encourage his men.

Sisler was then informed that two of his men had been wounded before they could reach the defensive perimeter. Unconcerned for his own safety, Sisler left his position and charged through intense enemy fire until he found the wounded men. Grabbing one man and hoisting him up, Sisler began to carry him back to the perimeter when he once again came under heavy enemy fire from a nearby machine gun. Sisler put the wounded man down, killed three onrushing enemy soldiers with his rifle and used a grenade to knock out the enemy machine gun. He then resumed his rescue and carried the wounded man back to the perimeter.

As he returned to the perimeter, the North Vietnamese focused their forces in a heavy attack against the defensive position’s left flank. Several members of Sisler’s platoon were wounded, prompting Sisler to take immediate action to prevent the position from being overrun. Grabbing several grenades, Sisler made a one-man charge at the enemy forces, firing his weapon and tossing the grenades. The boldness of Sisler’s actions caught the North Vietnamese off-guard, broke up their assault and forced them to begin withdrawing.

As the battle carried on, Sisler continued to move about his men, directing their fire and encouraging their efforts, and directed air support strikes. Sisler continued in his efforts until he was killed.

Sisler’s actions were credited with saving his platoon from annihilation. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on July 16, 1968. He also posthumously received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Sisler is buried in the Dexter Cemetery in his hometown of Dexter.

Sisler was inducted into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame in 1988, the same year Sisler Hall at Fort Huachuca was dedicated in his honor. In 1998, the Navy named the roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Sisler in his honor. Members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps Ranger Challenge Team at Arkansas State University are known as “Sisler’s Raiders.”