George Thomas "Ted" Sargent, Jr.
Lieutenant Colonel, USMC
Lt. Col. George Thomas Sargent, Jr. was born in Auburn, Alabama on April 14, 1929 to George Thomas and Alleen Kling Sargent. He grew up on Payne Street with his older sister, Shirley, who called him Ted instead of Tom, coining the nickname he would use for the rest of his life. The Sargents moved only once during Ted’s childhood to another home on Payne Street that his family built and where his daughter lives today.
Ted was a member of Auburn United Methodist Church, attending Sunday school throughout his childhood. As they got older, Ted and John Lowery, who lived nearby on Gay Street, would ride their bicycles about seven miles to camp at Lake Ogletree over the weekends. The two initially knew little about the outdoors and spend many nights freezing half to death, John remembered. But they learned on the fly and hunted coots and the occasional rabbit for dinner at the campsite.
During his time at Lee County High School, Ted played trumpet in the marching band and was the sports editor of “The Tiger,” the school’s yearbook. He was manager of the football team and was in the “A Club,” which was made up of football players who had earned their letters for their interest and devotion to athletics and their fatiguing labor on the field.
Ted and John began flying at the Auburn-Opelika airport at age 16, both receiving their private pilot’s licenses by 17 years old. Ted finished his last year of high school at the Georgia Military School in Atlanta then returned to Auburn to attend the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. He joined the Naval ROTC where he was donned his first Marine uniform. Ted was a standout on API’s wrestling team, winning in his weight class at the Southeastern Invitational Wrestling Tournament in 1948.
Ted graduated from API with a bachelors in Aeronautical Administration in December 1950. About two years before his graduation, Ted married Lamar Ellis who he had known since before grade school. Since Naval ROTC students weren’t allowed to be married, John drove Ted and Lamar to Columbus, Georgia, to elope. They hid their marriage, continuing to live with their families until Ted’s graduation so he could keep his scholarship.
After graduation, Ted and his wife moved to Parris Island while Ted waited for a slot to open in Officer’s Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia. He entered the Korean War in 1953 and was there less than a year before a medical emergency sent him back to the U.S. He continued serving in the Marines, traveling across the south and east coast with his wife and four children. He was named Young Man of the Year in Johnson City, Tennessee, and attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1960, Ted was assigned with the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, or the Seabees, in Davisville-Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Over the years, Ted rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and served in Paris Island where he was the commanding officer of the Third Battalion Training Regiment and finally as the commanding officer of the First Battalion, Fourth Marines, Third Marine Division, in the Vietnam War.
On March 20, 1969, Ted was in command of a heliborne attack against enemy positions in Quang Tri Province during Operation Purple Martin. The lead helicopter in the attack came under heavy fire from the North Vietnamese Army and crashed in the landing zone. Ted took command of the lead company, directing the battalion to a smaller landing zone on the slope of a hill below the designated area. The Marines started up a hill and encountered a hostile force occupying a well-fortified position. While bravely leading his men in an aggressive assault against the enemy emplacements, Ted saw a machine gun that was pinning down part of his unit. Ted powered on, fearlessly moving across the fire-swept terrain toward the North Vietnamese emplacement and hurled several hand grenades that killed two hostile soldiers and destroyed the enemy’s weapon. He and his men secured the slope of the hill. Early the next morning, despite a fragmentation wound from the previous day’s engagement, Ted led a final assault against the enemy soldiers. The fire fight began, and the Marines were subjected to intense North Vietnamese mortar and small-arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. Ted ignored the hostile rounds impacting near him and remained with the forward units, leading his men and exploiting every enemy contact to the maximum extent until he was mortally wounded.
Ted received several awards for personal bravery including the Navy Cross, Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart.
His consistent acts of bravery and aggressive leadership were instrumental in accomplishing the unit’s mission and inspired all who observed him. Ted’s courage, intrepid fighting spirit and unwavering devotion upheld the finest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.