Every year for homecoming weekend the Randolph-Macon Academy community gathers at Melton Memorial Gymnasium for their annual Memorial Ceremony. This ceremony is meant to celebrate and remember the alumni and members of the R-MA community who sacrificed their lives for their country.
There was a name on the list for the 2016 Memorial Service that was particularly special to the class of 1966, who were celebrating their Golden Anniversary. Captain Samuel Gilmore Umstot was a chemistry teacher at R-MA from 1963-66. His daughter, Ann Bussey, was in attendance and received an American flag, which had been flown over the R-MA campus in her father’s honor.
Captain Umstot was a part of the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army Medical Service Corps in 1968. On September 12, 1968, Captain Umstot and his comrades were on a reconnaissance mission when they were suddenly ambushed by heavy machine gun fire and rocket propelled grenades. The ambush caused many casualties and Captain Umstot sprang into action. He began to treat his fallen comrades based on the severity of their wounds and directed their evacuations to a safer location.
As the battle grew in ferocity, so did Captain Umstot’s performance. Despite the advancing line of the Viet Cong, he continued to treat the wounds of his comrades. He was then hit by enemy fire and lost his own life.
His efforts on that fateful day saved many lives and helped his infantry win the battle. On September 22, 1968, Captain Umstot was awarded the Bronze Star. According to research historian Andrew E. Woods of the Colonel Robert R. McCormick Research Center, Captain Umstot won The Bronze Star for:
“…Meritorious Service. For distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam during the period June 1968 to September 1968. Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results. He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he was faced as a result of the ever changing situations inherent in a counterinsurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems… His initiative, zeal, sound judgment and devotion to duty have been in the highest tradition of The United States Army and reflect great credit on him and on the military service.”
On October 3, 1968, he was awarded the Silver Star for:
“…Gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam: On this date, Captain Umstot was serving as the battalion medical operations assistant on a reconnaissance in force operation. As the friendly force proceeded through the treacherous area, it was suddenly subjected to intense rocket propelled grenade, machine gun, and automatic weapons fire from well concealed enemy positions which caused numerous casualties. Exposing himself to the enemy barrage raking the area, Captain Umstot began treating the more seriously wounded and directed their immediate evacuation to more secure locations. When the battle intensified, he continued to supervise the medical aid teams removing the injured soldiers. While moving about the area, he observed several casualties lying near the advancing Viet Cong position. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Captain Umstot maneuvered through the hail of hostile rounds and was mortally wounded while administering first aid to a companion. The exemplary courage, outstanding professional leadership, and selfless concern for his comrades demonstrated by Captain Umstot were instrumental in saving numerous lives, and significantly contributed to the success of the mission. Captain Umstot's unquestionable valor in close combat against numerically superior hostile forces is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army.”
Captain Umstot volunteered to serve in the Army. He willingly gave his time, his energy, and ultimately his life for a cause greater than his own. What compels a man to be so selfless? What causes him to live in a way that puts the well-being of others ahead of his own? Whatever the reason, Randolph-Macon Academy is deeply honored and forever grateful to have been in the presence of such a man.