- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Richard Webb Cato, a retired Army colonel, died of brain cancer April 5 at Capital Hospice in Arlington. He was 69.

Col. Cato was a decorated combat veteran who served more than 26 years on active duty in the Army. In November 1966, while serving as company commander in the 28th Infantry, 1st Division, during Operation Attleboro in Vietnam, he was awarded the Silver Star. Although he was seriously wounded during the battle, he continued to show his true colors as a military leader.

According to the citation, “Ignoring his painful injury, he continued to direct his unit until ordered to seek medical aid. Upon reaching the evacuation site, he braved sniper fire to set up a defensive perimeter and supervise the aerial extraction of the wounded. Capt. Cato refused medical treatment until he had personally ensured that all other injured were attended.”

Col. Cato returned from Vietnam in a body cast and spent a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He lived the rest of his life with shrapnel in his head.

Col. Cato was honored to be the first man ever selected as the 82nd Airborne Division Lieutenant of the Year and was presented with an Army Commendation Medal, the Conway Trophy, for military achievement and an engraved pearl-handled .45-caliber pistol. During Operation Attleboro, he was separated from the pistol with his name on it. Thirty years later, his wife was contacted by a military aide for Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat, asking for the widow of Richard Cato in efforts to return that pistol, not knowing he had survived the battle.

The aide said Mr. Kerrey was at the Hanoi Vietnam Museum and requested to bring to the United States some of the soldiers” items he saw there, including the pistol and a ring belonging to Sen. John McCain. The initial answer was no, but as the senator prepared to leave Vietnam, he was given the pistol but not Mr. McCain”s ring. The pistol was later returned to Col. Cato.

In addition to the Silver Star, Col. Cato won numerous military honors, including the Legion of Merit (one oak-leaf cluster), the Distinguished Flying Cross (one oak-leaf cluster), the Bronze Star (three oak-leaf clusters), the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal (three oak-leaf clusters), the Air Medal (10 awards), the Army Commendation Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation.

As an Army officer, Col. Cato served in the 10th Special Forces Group in Germany, completed two battlefield tours in Vietnam and worked as military assistant to the Office of the Defense Representative in Iran. There, he was a U.S. representative and inspector for the International Red Cross and State Department to the Iranian Kurdish refugee camps, where he verified Iranian treatment of more than 250,000 Kurdish refugees, established international interest in humanitarian handling of the refugees and coordinated U.S.-Iranian efforts on drug suppression, smuggling across borders and guerrilla-warfare training.

Col. Cato was an Army Ranger and commander of the 4th Airborne Battalion at the Airborne Infantry School in Fort Benning, Ga. He worked at the Army Recruiting Command headquarters in Fort Sheridan, Ill., graduated from the National War College in Washington and held numerous positions at the Pentagon.

After retiring from the military in 1986, Col. Cato spent 20 years working in network technologies within the defense industry. Most recently, he worked with Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) and Boeing Information Services.

An interest in politics led him in 1991 and 1992 to work as a resource analyst for the Bush National Campaign Staff assisting the State Campaign Committees” development of resource-management plans.

After retiring from the defense industry, he attended L”Academie de Cuisine to pursue his passion for gourmet food and graduated with distinction to the delight of friends and relatives who enjoyed his cooking.

Col. Cato was born in the Philippines. He graduated in 1960 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. His father, brother, uncle and numerous cousins also graduated from West Point. He later earned two master’s degrees from Stanford University, one in operations research and the other in engineering-economics systems. He also received a master’s degree in information and telecommunications from Harvard University’s executive management program.

He was a 25-year resident of Fairfax. He had lived in Northern Virginia off and on because his father was assigned to the Pentagon when Richard attended McLean High School. He was an active member of the Falls Church in Falls Church.

Col. Cato enjoyed playing squash and tennis and was a private pilot. He enjoyed international travel, including recent trips to China, Africa and Turkey.

Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Emily Davis Cato of Fairfax; two children, Dr. Gavin Richard Cato of Cary, N.C., and Lauren Emily Checkley of Bristol, Ind.; a brother, retired Col. Robert B. Cato of Arlington; two sisters, Barbara Cato Nelson of Fort Walton, Fla., and Suzanne Cato Dilda of Seminole, Fla.; and five grandchildren.

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