RONALD CHARLES COON
September 24, 1948 – May 15, 2019
Ronald Charles Coon was born in Minnesota as Winter was approaching on September 24, 1948. His father Joseph Lysle Coon (1922-1982) and mother Audree Lois Halverson Coon (1927-2011) were still trying to forget WWII and the impact it had upon them.
Ron’s father, Lysle, upon joining the Army in 1941 volunteered as an original member of Darby’s Rangers. This legendary group of warriors fought ferociously against the Axis forces throughout Europe and North Africa. In January of 1944, after an amphibious landing in Anzio, Italy, Lysle Coon as one of 667 members of the 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalion were ordered to take and secure Cisterna. On this day, poor intelligence, superior enemy firepower and overwhelming numbers of the elite SS could not be overcome with the pure courage and tenacity displayed by the Rangers. They were surrounded as they approached Cisterna and decimated in an open field by intersecting machine gun fire and artillery. Only 6 Rangers returned from the battle that day, the others either fell or were captured when they ran out of ammunition. Lysle was captured at Cisterna and spent the remainder of the war imprisoned by the Nazis at Stalag 2B in Hammerstein, Germany.
Ron cherished the memory of his father and understood better than anyone, the courage in his family’s lineage. Ron visited Cisterna to see the battlefield first-hand to further honor and understand the people who made the battle synonymous with Ranger valor in the face of futility.
Is it any wonder Ron was such a special man, and a ferocious warrior? Ron proudly served with the 2nd Bde LRRPs of the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highland’s Province of Kontum. They were the early Vietnam era Rangers and set the bar high for all that were to follow. Ron’s was a lifelong commitment to the Rangers, and he was recognized as an extraordinary leader and organizer so their memories and valor would not be forgotten.
His LRRP Platoon Sgt, Bob Smyers wrote of him “Ron was a ready soldier. Even after having been wounded, once released from the hospital, he was back in the LRRPS for more. He was very active with the teams. He seemed to come in and go right on the next team going out. I only had him once on my team. My teams were mostly the Montagnards or Vietnamese. Ron covered our backs as he was our rear security and with him there you felt comfortable. Our time on this mission was quiet, as there was no contact. But had there been, Ron was one I would not of had to worry about.”
Ron was the consummate soldier and lived his entire life upholding an honor only those who have survived life-changing combat can sustain. Every Ranger is indebted to each other Ranger who served, but on rare occasions we owe even more. Ron endured a mission early in his Vietnam experience that was to change his life forever.
On June 1, 1967, LRRP Commander Lt. Mike Lapolla, formed a LRRP team comprised of TL Ron Bonert, ATL Danny Harmon an Alutiiq Indian, Radioman Jim Sommers and Ron Coon to walk point. Harmon & Bonert each had only 6 days before their year was up while Ron and Jim were just beginning their tours. Their mission, in the Ia Drang Valley, was BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) for a recent B-52 strike. Ron always thought they must have dropped leaflets instead of bombs because almost immediately they encountered numerous NVA forces that clearly knew the LRRPs were in the area. Shortly after insertion, while silently moving through the AO, the team came un-noticed upon the rear of an enemy force waiting to spring an ambush. Being severely outnumbered, the team backed off and moved to a defendable night location. Throughout the night, there was heavy movement and sporadic gunfire as the enemy searched for them. In the morning they moved to a bomb crater next to highway 19 to await promised extraction by three M-48 Main Battle Tanks and a reactionary force of an Infantry Platoon. While waiting, they could observe enemy movement in the tree-line. Bonert called in an Artillery Fire Mission but, in hindsight, it caused minimal enemy casualties and seemed only to pinpoint the location of the LRRPs. The early morning extraction was delayed due to one of the tanks “throwing a track”. Later in the afternoon, the 3 tanks arrived and the LRRPs were instructed to ride on the exterior of the monsters. Minutes later, while retracing their exit route, the enemy initiated a well-planned ambush from all sides intended to destroy the tanks. The first tank was halted with a mine placed in the road that took off one of the tracks and the third tank in the column was disabled with an RPG. The middle tank was rendered immobile, blocked by the other two. An RPG fired at the tank the LRRP team was on wounded Sommers, Coon and Bonert. They were completely exposed and unable to move on their own due to their wounds. Danny Harmon, to that point uninjured, pulled an unconscious Ron Coon to the cover of a roadside ditch. Danny went back for Bonert and was killed by three rounds from an enemy AK-47 while pulling him to cover. While Harmon died immediately, Bonert died days later in an Army hospital. Ron and Sommers both recovered from their physical wounds and later returned to resume the fight.
From the time Danny Harmon pulled him from sure death until the last breath he took, Ron spent every moment grateful for the sacrifice made on his behalf. He often spoke of the obligation he had to live in a manner honorably befitting the great gift given to him at the cost of Danny’s life.
In June of 2003, Ron along with Lt. Mike Lapolla, Bob Crawford, and Jim Umberger, all 2nd Bde LRRPs, traveled to Danny Harmon’s remote island home off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska to attend a memorial service. They were able to meet his family and bestow a small amount of the honor Danny earned by his heroic actions. Ron explained to those in attendance that he felt an obligation to show his appreciation to Danny by living with the same level of honor that Danny displayed in saving his life. Ron never stopped walking point for those guys.
Ron received his honorable discharge along with his Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and numerous other awards and decorations. He returned to Northern Minnesota shouldering a debt he tried to settle for the remainder of his life. He spent his life giving back to the men he respected most, Veterans, particularly his beloved LRRP / Rangers. Ron, continuing to serve, was proud to be Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Post 1757 in Cook, MN.
Ron married Sheryle Hoppenrath Coon (B 1951) on September 28, 1968 shortly after being discharged. They were to drift apart and divorced October 18, 1982. Ron was married a second time to Janet Lillian McCoy Coon on September 4, 1983.
Ron had three children, son Michael Coon, and daughters Heidi Coy and Vanessa Faye McCoy Coon who tragically passed away in 2013 at the age of 31.
In the end, time and Cancer succeeded in doing what all our nation’s enemies in those big, bad, Central Highlands of Vietnam couldn’t. Ronald Charles Coon left us on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Ron remains held in the very highest regard by those men who dole that praise out sparingly.
While attending Harmon’s memorial on Woody Island, AK in 2003, Ron was interviewed by the newspaper in Kodiak, AK. He told them “Danny saved my life. I’ve no way to thank him,” Coon went on, “He was my friend and I don’t know how to repay him.” By now, Ron has been reunited with Danny and we have no doubt Ron has his answers. Harmons sacrifice was not in vein, Ron lived a good and honorable life for himself and his long ago fallen brother Ranger.
Link to the Coon family’s tribute to Ron’s life:
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