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Branch: Marine Corps / Army
Theatre: Vietnam

Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and other awards

Just after graduating from high school, Patrick Watkins turned down a track scholarship and enlisted in the Marine Corps, marking the beginning of a heroic career that lasted 24 years.

During his seven years in the Marine Corps, he was deployed to Lebanon in 1958 and then in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After his service in the Corps, Watkins enlisted in the Army and served in the 82nd Airborne with Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic and then with Special Forces—something he had always wanted to do.

In 1967, Watkins volunteered for Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observation Group (MACVSOG), a clandestine operation that conducted classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and North Vietnam. The work was intense and often deadly for the men who were involved. Casualties in Watkins’ unit were extremely high.

Watkins served three tours over 27 months in Southeast Asia and led many cross-border operations. He was known for his exceptional skills as a covey rider and for his skills in coordinating air to ground assets. He was also a reconnaissance team leader.

These skills were evident on August 23, 1968, when a group of highly trained Vietnamese sappers executed a surprise attack in Da Nang at FOB-4. Although he was wounded in the initial assault, Watkins organized his men into a defensive attack position while rescuing the wounded. Through machine gun fire and grenades Watkins continued to direct the recovery of the wounded, even rushing a sniper to stop further wounding of American soldiers. Although the attack was one of the most deadly in special forces history—with 18 killed and more than 30 wounded—Watkins’ efforts helped save the lives of many. In the end, the men were able to successfully defend the compound. For his service, Watkins was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Watkins continued to serve by teaching survival and land navigation skills to ROTC cadets at the University of Utah prior to retiring from the military in 1980. He then worked for the University of Utah Athletics Department, as technical writer for Hercules Aerospace, and later as the Safety Manager for the Veterans Administration. He now lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife Carol who is also a fellow Marine.

Reflecting on his service, Watkins is adamant that people must really think about things before getting involved in a war: “Terrible things happen in war and politicians need to contemplate all those things before our troops are sent to sacrifice.”

Honor A Veteran

Selections are only based on the nominee's military service
Nominees do not have to be alumni or associated with the university in any way. Each year, the committee selects eleven honorees based on noteworthy honor, courage, commitment, and sacrifice during their military service to our nation, but decorations for valor are not required. Selections are only based on the nominee's military service.