Tumacder: A national hero laid to rest

Known for his big heart and generosity, decorated soldier and retired Army Sergeant First Class Ricarte “Ricky” Tumacder of Hanama‘ulu, battled to keep his dear life on Nov. 1, 2012. Suffering from a series of heart attacks and strokes, Tumacder left this earth with great pride and love for his wife Emilia Tumacder and children from two previous marriages.

Tumacder retired from the U.S. Army in 1971 after 24 years of service in the infantry branch. Following his military service, he worked as a park ranger in Koke‘e for the State of Hawai‘i and was a teacher for mentally-challenged students in Hanama‘ulu for the State Department of Education.

A decorated soldier, the local boy-made-good was the recipient of the Silver Star Medal by President Richard Nixon. The Silver Star is the third highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to any person serving in any capacity with the United States Armed Forces. The medal is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

Like many teenagers of his time, Tumacder fibbed about his age and enlisted in the Army at the age of 16 in 1946, short of his 17th birthday. He served in the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict. He had an illustrious military career, including a remarkable combat record with numerous awards and decorations. In addition to the Silver Star Medal, he had two Combat Infantryman Badges, three Bronze Star Medals with “V”, three Purple Heart Medals for wounds sustained in combat, the Army Commendation Medal and numerous Certificates of Achievement.  

His Silver Star Medal citation reads: “For gallantry in action, SFC Tumacder distinguished himself on 6 August 1971 while serving as an advisor to two regional-force companies in Vietnam. Early in the battle he was wounded in the leg, but disregarded the pain and rallied the friendly forces. As the enemy began to place small-arms fire on the group, he directed the return fire and encouraged the Montagnard troops he was advising to drive off the enemy. In the meantime, seeing an area on the perimeter needed reinforcement, he moved across an open area with his machine gun, but was wounded again in the chest by fragments of a mortar round. Although almost incapacitated he refused medical attention until others were treated. His bravery under fire was instrumental in driving off the enemy force and was an outstanding example for the men he advised.”

He was a sniper and squad leader with the 5th Regimental Combat Team in Korea. Following two tours in Korea, he served three additional tours in Vietnam as an advisor and later platoon sergeant with the 11th LIB, America l Division, from which he received three Bronze Star Medals as a platoon sergeant and acting platoon leader. One of his citations demonstrated outstanding leadership in his platoon of Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry.

During an ambush in Vietnam, despite having been wounded, he, with complete disregard for his own safety, rallied his men to fight back and move to a more strategic location to defeat the enemy. Tumacder was wounded twice in the same month and returned to duty. He was a legendary noncommissioned officer who valued his men’s safety more than his own. Tumacder was a “soldier’s soldier.” For the rest of his life, he walked around with remnants of shrapnel in his lungs, but Tumacder was resilient and proud to be an American soldier who fought for his country.

He is survived by his wife, Emilia Tumacder, sister, Trinidad Fernandez and brother, Dominador “Dado” Tomacder. Tumacder had two biological children with his first wife: Ricarte Tumacder Jr. and Deborah Tumacder and he adopted two of his first wife’s sons from a previous marriage: Robert and Ernie Tumacder. He also adopted Sandra Sagisi Tumacder Moser, daughter of his second wife.

Tumacder leaves behind wife, Emilia, his step-daughters Marylyn Bergado Lee, Melaney Hao-Bergado and Jimmy T. Bergado. He has 20 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Tumacder is preceded in death by his parents Andres and Victoria Tumacder. He died at the Tripler Army Medical Center earlier this month with wife Emilia, and daughters Marylyn, Melaney and Sandra at his bedside.

Tumacder received U.S. Army military funeral honors, fitting for a hero, at Kauai Veteran’s Cemetery in Hanapape.


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