Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
The Port Washington Veterans of Foreign Wars has selected Peter Ripullone, a decorated soldier and architect, as Co-Grand Marshal of this year’s Memorial Day Parade. The Ripullone family has a long tradition of military service, which dates back to World War I.
Ripullone followed the family tradition and entered military service as a second lieutenant in the army, in 1966. After completing his combat engineering training, he was certified as a combat engineer unit commander. Prior to his service in Vietnam, he spent three months with the 91st Combat Engineers, assisting in the training of West Point cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, for various combat engineering missions, including various types of bridge construction, building and fortification structures, road and runway construction, mine warfare and demolition training.
Since combat engineers typically work hand in hand alongside their infantry comrades, they are affectionately characterized as ”infantrymen with weapons, shovels and more.” After his West Point deployment, he was assigned to the First Combat Engineer Battalion in the First Infantry Division (The Big Red One) in Vietnam.
He spent most of his time in the field in a line company, on assignment in Vietnam for one year, from 1966 to 1967.
Shortly after arriving with the 1st Engineers, 1st Infantry, he was thrown into Cedar Falls, one of the first major operations of the war. This operation was in war zone C between Saigon and the Michelin rubber plantation in a known Viet Cong (VC) stronghold, called the Iron Triangle. His immediate mission was to remove a critical collapsed bridge leading into the Iron Triangle, which had been blown up by the VC. His platoon worked through the night to clear the demolished bridge and rebuild a new bridge in 24 hours, while exposed to the enemy.
His next mission was a search, destroy and clear operation to expose VC tunnels, fortifications, mines and booby traps. Using his dozer clearing and mine sweeping demolition teams and working with the 173rd Airborne troops, they proceeded into the Iron Triangle. During this operation, his troops and the 173rd Airborne were involved in substantial conflicts with the VC.
Later in the year, his company was involved in Operation Junction City. His unit built three airfields in three locations in VC areas near Cambodia (one airfield was built in 6 days), while working with 1st Infantry fellow units. They also helped expand U.S. Army Special Forces camps and other nearby facilities. All of this work was accomplished in spite of serious VC conflicts and dangerous VC harassment.
His was a company executive officer and company commander of the battalion’s headquarters and heavy equipment company, for his last Vietnam assignment, which had him flying to multiple base camp and special forces locations, exposed to enemy danger.
Upon leaving Vietnam and active military service, he served three years in the active army reserves and one year in the standby army reserves, leaving the reserves as a captain.
He has received eight federal awards: two Bronze Stars, one for valor, one Army Commendation Medal for valor, the Vietnam Service Medal with Campaign stars, the National Defense Service Medal, three Meritorious Unit Citations and two awards from the Republic of Vietnam: Gallantry Cross Medal with silver star for valor and Campaign Medal. He will be receiving two New York State awards.
He is currently a trustee of VFW Henderson-Marino Post 1819 and a member of American Legion Post 509, both in Port Washington. He is also a member of Vietnam Veterans of America and the Vietnam War Veterans Association. He is dedicated to promoting work with veterans and the community and has been a Port Washington Resident since 1994.