Friday, June 18, 2021

Lions seek to honor community, military

Staff Writer | June 9, 2021 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — It is for soldiers like Ralph Puckett Jr. that the Sandpoint Lions Club works so hard to make its Fourth of July events special.

Puckett was honored at the White House in late May with the Medal of Honor, the U.S. government’s highest and most prestigious military decoration.

According to the Good News Network website, Puckett's first response was to ask, “Why all the fuss? Can’t they just mail it to me?”

But, after his lifetime of service to the nation, President Joe Biden said at the medal ceremony, “Rather than mail it to you, I would’ve walked it to you.”

It was on a frozen hilltop deep in what is now North Korea, that the young first lieutenant acted with bravery that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, the military’s second-highest honor.

As commander of 8th U.S. Army Ranger Company, 51 of Puckett’s Rangers and nine Korean enlisted soldiers set out in a daylight attack to take Hill 205, just 60 miles from the border with China. The attack drew mortar, machine gun, and small-arms fire. Puckett mounted the closest tank, exposing himself to the deadly enemy fire. Leaping from the tank, he shouted words of encouragement to his men and began to lead the Rangers in their offensive.

To make their charge, the website said the soldiers had to cross about half mile of frozen rice paddies under fire.

“Almost immediately, enemy fire threatened the success of the attack by pinning down one platoon. Leaving the safety of his position, with full knowledge of the danger, First Lieutenant Puckett intentionally ran across an open area three times to draw enemy fire, thereby allowing the Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy positions and to seize Hill 205,” according to the citation detailed on the website.

Even though the Rangers were outnumbered almost 10 to one, five attacks by a battalion-strength enemy were repulsed, the website said. While, Puckett was wounded during the first attack, he refused evacuation and continually directed artillery support.

When the enemy launched a sixth attack, Puckett received “grievous wounds” to both his feet, his backside, his left arm and shoulder, according website. Puckett ordered the Rangers to leave him behind and evacuate. They refused, staging an effort to rescue Puckett. Eventually, they succeeded and the soldiers made it to the bottom of the hill.

The GNN website notes that Puckett’s military service did not end in Korea. He also served in the Vietnam War, where he earned multiple medals.

Soldiers like Puckett, his service and to the country he loves — and the country that Lions Club members love as well, are why the Lions decided to again host the Fourth of July celebration this year.

The parade's theme this year is "It Takes a Community" and the event will showcase the many local businesses which impacted by the pandemic, and celebrate the community and all residents, Lions Club officials said.

Applications are being accepted for the Grand Parade, and will be until the morning of the parade. The children’s parade will start at 9 a.m., and the Grand Parade will begin at 10 a.m.

While the club has the funds to cover the costs of the parades, celebration, and fireworks show, they're looking to make them bigger and better than ever.

Among today's donation stand at $2,600. Those donating to the Independence Day celebration will be named in future columns. If you would like to be anonymous, please indicate that on your donation or let the Lions Club know.

Although overall fundraising for this year is limited due to the short turnaround time, Lions Club officials held a raffle in 2019 to pay for 2020 fireworks, which were then run by Sandpoint Independence Day, Inc. instead.

Those funds, in addition to community donations, will be used for the Fourth of July events.

Those who wish to contribute to the July 4 fundraising can do so by clicking the donation link on the Lion’s Facebook page,, or dropping off donations at the Daily Bee, 310 Church St.