The Service Continues

Richard Ellis Hill

Did you know that more than 40% of Elks members are veterans?

Take a look at the results of a recent survey done by the Elks magazine for more information.

To highlight some of these members, we’re starting a new series called The Service Continues.

The first veteran and Elk to be featured is Richard Ellis Hill, currently the Exalted Ruler of Coalinga, Calif., Lodge No. 1613.

Hill volunteered for the Marine Corp in May 1967.

He was in the 1st Battalion, 5th marines, 81 mortars. After boot camp he was sent to Vietnam Quang Tri  in September 1967. In November 1967 he was moved to Phu Bai.

On February 10, 1968 he was sent to Hue city and fought in the bloodiest battle of the Tet Offensive and was wounded.  He was hit with shrapnel in both legs on February 16, 1968 and wasn’t evacuated out until a day later February 17, 1968.

The photo below of a Patton tank carrying wounded U.S. Marines would become emblematic of the Battle of Huế—one of the most famous photographs from the Vietnam War and one of the great images in the annals of combat photography.

In this photo, Richard Hill is the the farthest to the right.

The photograph would appear on March 8 in Life magazine, part of a six-page color portfolio of powerful images from Huế. The photographer John Olson would go on to win the Robert Capa Award for these photographs.

Hill was medevacked to Japan. In addition to his wounds he also had malaria, trichinosis and hook worms. 

After he recovered from all his wounds and various ailments he returned to Vietnam for another tour.

In 1969 while fighting in A Shau Valley in Vietnam he was hit by shrap metal from a rocket which penetrated his stomach, arms, eye. He was medevacked to Da Nang, Vietnam and then to Okinawa, Japan for surgery and then was sent back to the United States.

He was assigned as the sergeant of the honor guard and placed on burial detail. He suffered a severe skin condition from exposure to agent orange and was honorably discharged in December 1970.

Hill’s boots, pictured above, were displayed as part of The Marines and Tet exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C..

Sgt. Richard Ellis Hill received two purple hearts and several other medals during his distinguished service in Vietnam.

Today, he keeps busy as Exalted Ruler of his Lodge. In May he will join the National Veterans Service Committee team as the California-Hawaii Elks Association East Central District Chair, continuing his service to country and community.