Richard Lewis Poling
September 26, 1946 ~ January 22, 2022
Resided in: College Station, Texas
Richard Lewis Poling went home to be with the Lord on January 22, 2022. He was a faithful believer in Christ; a much-loved and supportive parent and grandparent, and defender of underdogs everywhere. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 26, 1946, he was 75 years old when he passed away peacefully in College Station with family by his side.
He is survived by two sons and daughters-in-law, Matthew Poling and Ashli of College Station, David Poling and Melissa of College Station; and one daughter and son-in-law, Erin Naylor and Kyle of Pflugerville; seven grandchildren Ulyesses Dunn, Meredith, Duncan and Elise Poling, Travis and Tyler Poling, Russell Naylor, and great-granddaughter London Dunn; half-sister Carol Sue and her mother Patricia, and former wives Katherine Shafer of College Station and Debra Nichols of Austin. He was preceded in death by his parents, Gordon Poling and Kathleen Vanderlinden, and his beloved brothers Alonzo, Lyle, and Carlton.
Rich spent most of his childhood in the south side of San Antonio with his three brothers and graduated from Highlands High School. He found his next family at Texas A&M and in the Aggie Band where his commitment was exemplified by marching on a broken foot at halftime of the tu game when depleted ranks compelled it.
But his most conspicuous act of heroism occurred in 1972 in Mo Duc, Vietnam as described in www.airforcemag.com/article/valor-long-night-at-mo-duc. With other air support unavailable during a monsoon, an army detachment of 120 men was under attack from a force of over 2,000 enemy soldiers. The impossible odds, and Poling’s San Antonio roots, led the Air Force Times to call him a “modern day hero of the Alamo” in a feature story. But this Alamo had a better ending, with the ground commander crediting Poling and the co-pilot of their lightly armed OV-10 Bronco with saving his ground troops from total annihilation.
Poling’s plane was shot down at the end of that long night of continuous battle, but he evaded capture—even after being shot down a second time in the first rescue helicopter to find him. For his selfless courage in helping to save the lives of the garrison, he was awarded the Air Force’s highest commendation for valor, succeeded only by the Congressional Medal of Honor. He also earned two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross, among numerous other honors.
Lt. Col. Poling retired in 1989 after 20 years of service to his country. He later worked as a defense contractor in Saudi Arabia before starting an environmental business back in Texas.
He joked about “peaking at age 25,” but his family knows better. His greatest achievement was overcoming a difficult background to become the first one in his family to graduate from college, while never failing to express his love and affirmation to his children and grandchildren. He remained an active presence in their lives as long as his health allowed.
A faithful believer in Jesus, in retirement he pursued his lifelong devotion to “underdogs” by sheltering and supporting many struggling individuals and families, generously sharing with those less fortunate, while storing up his treasures in Heaven. When Rich “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” for the final time, Heaven gained a good and faithful servant who will be greatly missed by those who knew him and love him still.
A memorial service will be held at 2pm on Thursday April 21st at The Aggie Field of Honor in College Station. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to the Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, Texas 77840. Please designate “In memory of Richard L. Poling ’69.” to help fund a scholarship in his name for a deserving future Aggie.
Memorial Service: April 21, 2022 2:00 pm
Aggie Field of Honor
3800 Raymond Stotzer Pkwy
College Station, TX 77845