Richard Ross Tolette

Second Lieutenant
Army of the United States
04 October 1942 - 25 July 1968
Pomona, California
Panel 50W Line 007

Combat Infantry

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

Richard R Tolette

The database page for Richard Ross Tolette

22 Apr 2003

Richard "Rich" Tolette was a friend to everyone he met, and he will never be forgotten by his loving family and countless friends. Even though I knew Richard for only a brief portion of my life, he made a big impact on me. Rich's memory continues to be alive, and those of us who were honored to know Rich will never forget the joy he brought to us.

Rich and I both attended Chaffey High School in Ontario, California, but our paths didn't cross until we met in Chico while both of us were attending Chico State in the early 60's. I met Rich at a dance shortly after I arrived in Chico to attend Chico State in 1961. Rich was wearing a Chaffey sweatshirt when I first spotted him, and I was excited to meet someone from my hometown when I was 500 miles away from home.

Rich was very popular at Chico State, and he made friends easily. Rich was full of spirit, and he was one of the most enjoyable friends I have ever known. He was a kind and loving man with a heart of gold. Rich was an excellent athlete, and his enthusiastic spirit helped him excel in sports despite being small in stature.

Rich was an excellent teacher, and he was an great role model for his students. He wanted to serve his country, so he gave up teaching and voluntarily joined the Armed Forces. In one year of service, Rich attained the rank of 2LT/01, and he served our country well.

I vividly recall in July 1968 when Willie Simmons (Rich's boxing coach) solemnly walked in the President's Office at Chico State where I worked and shared the sad news that Rich had been tragically killed in Viet Nam. I was devastated when I received the news about Rich's death, and I contacted his family in Pomona to convey my condolences. I met Rich's family a short time later when I stopped by their home when I was in Pomona, and we instantly bonded. The Tolette family has become my extended family, and they now reside in Chico where I live. I was deeply saddened when Rich's Mother passed away with cancer a number of years ago, and Sally is dearly missed along with Rich. Rich would be very proud of his nephew, Richard (named after him), and niece, Leah, who he never had the joy of meeting.

Rich's life was cut short, but I know it was a full one because he lived his life so fully. Rich had a zest for living - and did so.

Rich, I think of you and the countless others who bravely served our country and who did not return to enjoy our great nation and the freedom you died for. Every time I see a flag, I think of you and others who gave their lives in the continuing cause of freedom. Your wonderful spirit will always be present, and you will always be remembered with beautiful memories!

From a friend,
Sharon Schacht

22 May 2007

I served with Rich Tolette in the 2/506. I was a 19 year old 2 LT (OCS Graduate) and Rich was a few years older, and had already graduated from College. So he was quite a sophisticated fellow, from my perspective, and helped me learn how to be a leader. We worked together in the Operations Section of the Battalion Headquarters for a few months, before we were assigned as platoon leaders. He went to A Company and I went to B Company.

Most of the time the companies operated independently, so I didn't get a chance to see Rich more than once or twice a month. Being a Rifle Platoon Leader in Viet Nam was a dangerous occupation, our battalion lost over 20% of the platoon leaders Killed in Action and another 40% wounded seriously enough to require medical evacuation. The young officers didn't like "little hearts" (Purple Hearts that didn't require medical evacuation) because we believed that those "little hearts" were a magnet for "big hearts" - bad wounds. Silly superstition, but that's what we believed.

We were operating near Cu Chi in III Corp when Rich was killed. It was an area with lots of rice paddies, that had some of the biggest leeches in the world. The leeches' primary victims were the water buffulo that were used by the farmers in the rice paddies. There were also lots of mines and booby traps.

I was told by soldiers in his platoon that they were moving across some rice paddies when they came under fire. Rich was moving to try and get a better fix on where the enemy fire was coming from, when he was hit and killed. Leaders are problem solvers, and that is what he was doing. Leading from the front, as he always did.

An excellent platoon leader, a great friend, and a wonderful man, gone too soon.

I Am Not Dead

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am diamond glints of snow;
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush;
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds encircled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.

Lyrics by Mary Frye (1932) and Wilbur Skeels (1996)

From a fellow Platoon Leader,
Col (R) James Stevens Roach

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Although most of the 101st Airborne Division was moved into the northern provinces in early 1968, elements of the division remained in the south, including the 2nd Bn, 506th Infantry which came under the operational command of the 25th Infantry Division. The following entry is taken from the 25th ID's Operational Report for the period May-July 1968:

The engagement extended into 26 July and cost the battalion fourteen men:

  • A Company:
    • 2LT Richard R. Tolette, Pomona, CA
    • SFC Thomas A. Lutge, San Francisco, CA (Silver Star)
    • SSG William S. Baker, Middletown, DE
    • SP4 Chester L. Witanek, Cheshire, MA
    • PFC Wayne A. Keller, Silver Spring, MD
    • PFC Charles T. McNutt, Hingham, MA
    • PFC Fernando M. Valdez, Pepeekeo, HI

  • B Company:
    • SFC William J. Tellis, Detroit, MI
    • SSG Paul H. Nabors, Binger, OK
    • PFC Thomas R. Cook, Greencastle, PA

  • C Company:
  • HQ Company:
    • SP4 Jack R. Sanborn, Detroit, MI (medic w/ A/2/506)
    • PFC Steven A. Frink, Vancouver, WA (medic w/ B/2/506)

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 22 Apr 2003
Last updated 08/10/2009