COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Retired U.S. Army Col. Puckett has had many Ranger buddies over the years.
Known simply as “The Ranger” among the elite fighting force, Puckett has been a Ranger since 1950. His latest Ranger buddy is retired Army Col. Rob Choppa.
“Ralph and I have had a unique relationship the last three years. In his words, I am his Ranger buddy,” Choppa told News 3.
Despite a 35-year age difference, Rob Choppa and Ralph Puckett are linked by the bond created through being U.S. Army Rangers. They are elite soldiers who tackle the nation’s most dangerous missions.
The last three years, Choppa has volunteered to help keep the 94-year-old Puckett engaged.
“I pick up Ralph at 3 in the morning and take him to the Ranger PT Test where he motivates and inspires everybody to do their best,” Choppa said.
Choppa has also been there every step of the way as Puckett was awarded the Medal of Honor last month at a ceremony in the White House. Friday night when Puckett was honored at a dinner in Columbus, he thanked Choppa.
“To Col. retired Rob Choppa, I would have never made it to the White House to receive this honor if you had not coordinated a myriad of communications among the Pentagon, White House, and Fort Benning. Anyone who knows the government knows the Army knows how much paperwork was part of this event. We are all enjoying tonight because Rob Choppa had one more thing he had to do.”
Puckett is a fixture at Ranger School and on post at Fort Benning. And as his health has declined, he has stayed engaged with the help of his Ranger buddy.
In April, Puckett fired the gun to start an overnight ruck march on the first day of the Best Ranger Competition. That evening he was with Choppa in a Korean War-era Jeep.
“He told me, “Rob, I just want to be part of the Ranger team, part of the Infantry family,” Choppa said. “And he loves his family more than anything in the world, and thinks the most of his son Thomas, his daughter Marty and loved Jeannie with all his heart. But he also loves the Rangers.”
And Choppa has seen first hand what he suspects has made Col. Puckett one of the nation’s most highly decorated warriors.
“Ralph has terrible courage. Terrible courage, in that he was pinned down by enemy fire,” Choppa said. “It’s hard to get up when you are being pinned down by enemy fire. Ralph got up and drew fire by running across the front of his formation. So, his men could identify where the snipers and machine guns were.”
Terrible courage? …
“Even though he was wounded several times, that’s terrible courage,” Choppa said. “It was terrible for Ralph and potentially terrible for the unit.”
But it underscores the way Choppa and many others see Col. Puckett.
“Ralph is a selfless servant of America,” Choppa said. “And that’s what you want to know about him. Just a good American.”