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Rodney Dale Staton
Courtesy Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Rodney Dale Staton

"May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right."

Peter Marshall

Rodney Dale Staton was born on November 21, 1942, in Landville, Logan County, West Virginia, to his mother Veatrice Morgan Staton and his father Garland Staton, who was a coal miner and a preacher at the Coal Mountain Baptist Church. Rodney would end up with ten brothers and sisters; however, one of his brothers, Johnnie passed away in 1941 before reaching the age of one. Another brother, Randall, served in the U.S. Army at the same time as Rodney, but was stationed in Germany. Rodney grew up in the community of Guyan, Wyoming County, West Virginia, which is eight miles away from the town of Oceana, which had a population of 1,367. Rodney went to Coal Mountain Elementary School as a child and graduated from Baileysville High School, which was located in Wyoming County, West Virginia. Baileysville High School's mascot was the Rough Rider with the school colors being red, white, and blue with blue as the dominant color. Wyoming County during this time was one of the biggest producers of coal in the entire state, as they ranked tenth, producing more than 566 million tons of coal extract between 1883 and 1998. Most employment in the area Rodney grew up in was related to coal, but it wasn't for him. (Information about Oceana and Wyoming County is summarized from Warner Walker, "Oceana Community History," West Virginia Archives and History, 1926, accessed 29 April 2020, and Karl C. Lilly III, "Wyoming County," e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 4 June 2013, accessed 29 April 2020,

Rodney enlisted in the active Army in February of 1963 and completed basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, followed by airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia. He would then proceed to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to complete his advanced individual training (AIT) for field artillery cannon crewmember as his military occupation skill (MOS) was 13B. Rodney married Sharon Kay Bolen on February 7, 1964, in Raleigh County, West Virginia. When Rodney re-enlisted with the Army in 1966, he was sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he served as a drill instructor for the artillery unit. He brought his wife there and would later receive orders to deploy to Vietnam.

In the United States during this time, the Vietnam War was going on with major U.S. involvement from 1965 until 1973. The Vietnam War involved the communist North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its ally the United States. Both North and South Vietnam were fighting for a unified Vietnam. The North fought for communist rule, while the South wanted economic and social ties to the West. More than three million people died in the war, including more than 58,000 Americans. ("Vietnam War,", 29 October 2009, 28 February 2020, accessed 29 April 2020,

At the time, Sharon was seven months pregnant, and Rodney was due to leave prior to the birth of their child. He was granted a 60-day deferment so he could witness the birth of his son, Ronnie Dale Staton on July 2, 1966. He would eventually leave his family as his tour of duty in Vietnam began on September 10, 1966. Staff Sergeant Staton would serve with Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 19th Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. The 1st Cavalry Division during the Vietnam War became an air assault division as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), commonly referred to as the 1st Air Cavalry Division. The use of helicopters on such a large scale as troop carriers, cargo lift ships, medevacs, and as aerial rocket artillery had never before been implemented. This new means of warfighting freed the infantry units from the treacherous terrain to attack the enemy at the time and place of its choosing. S/Sgt. Staton during his time in Vietnam served as a field artillery cannon crewmember.

On December 26, 1966, a message was transmitted from the headquarters of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) that was intended for their 22nd Regiment to receive. However, the intelligence officers of the 1st Cavalry were able to intercept and figure out what it meant. The message had suggested an attack on Landing Zone (LZ) Bird was imminent.

S/Sgt. Staton was part of a U.S. Army artillery base named LZ Bird, which was adjacent to the Kim Son River in Binh Dinh Province, Republic of Vietnam. LZ Bird was defended by only part of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, which was providing security for 1st Cavalry howitzers of Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 19th Artillery (105mm guns) and Charlie Battery, 6th Battalion, 16th Artillery (155mm guns). The combined American strength at LZ Bird was 170 personnel.

Early on December 27, 1966, at 1:06 am, three battalions of the 22nd NVA Regiment, an estimated 1,000 NVA soldiers, ambushed and attacked LZ Bird, outnumbering the mere 170 soldiers of the 1st Cavalry. The NVA attack had begun, supported by mortar, recoilless-rifle, and machine-gun fire. They broke through the perimeter and occupied some of the American gun positions. The 1st Cavalry soldiers fought back, with some of the fighting dissolving into hand-to-hand warfare. A number of the 105mm guns were cranked down to pointblank range, and "beehive" rounds sliced through the attackers like scythes, effectively stopping the assault in its tracks. This, along with an armed CH-47 Chinook helicopter gunship support, stalled the NVA momentum, and they began to withdraw after their one-hour siege. One account of enemy dead was assessed at a total of 211 NVA killed in and around the LZ. The American losses were 28 killed and 67 wounded. Unfortunately, S/Sgt. Rodney Dale Staton was one of the 28 killed in action (KIA) as a result of small arms fire at LZ Bird, the Crow's Foot-Kim Son River, South Vietnam, Binh Dinh Province. Rodney was only 24 years old. (Spencer Matteson, "Bad Night at LZ Bird," War Stories: True Stories of the Vietnam War, 5 December 2016, accessed 29 April 2020,

S/Sgt. Rodney D. Staton's remains were returned to West Virginia. Funeral services were conducted at the Coal Mountain Baptist Church, and he was laid to rest at Palm Memorial Gardens in Matheny, West Virginia, with full military honors. Both of his parents are buried beside him at the cemetery today. S/Sgt. Rodney D. Staton posthumously received the Purple Heart for his sacrifice on that fateful day in Vietnam. He also earned the Bronze Star, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Army Presidential Unit Citation, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Army Good Conduct Medal and Airborne Wings. ("Rodney Dale Staton,", accessed 20 April 2020,
Military headstone for Rodney D. Staton in Palm Memorial Gardens. <i>Find A Grave</i> photo courtesy Brenda Hatfield

Military headstone for Rodney D. Staton in Palm Memorial Gardens. Find A Grave photo courtesy Brenda Hatfield

<i>Find A Grave</i> photo courtesy Brenda Hatfield

Find A Grave photo courtesy Brenda Hatfield

Staff Sergeant Rodney Dale Staton is memorialized at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston, West Virginia, and his name is also inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., on Panel 13E, Line 87. On January 18, 2007, the West Virginia Legislature introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 4, wherein they requested that the Division of Highways rename the bridge numbered 25305 on County Route 6/2 leading into Coal Mountain as the "Rodney 'Ronnie' Staton Memorial Bridge," dedicating it to S/Sgt. Rodney Dale Staton for his service and sacrifice to his country.

Article prepared by Maura McGhee and Haleema Boukhemis, George Washington High School JROTC
April 2020


Rodney Dale Staton

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