Wednesday, October 23, 2013

TAPS - Colonel Robert B. Rheault

Col. Robert Bradley “Bob” Rheault, age 87, died peacefully at home in Owl’s Head, Maine on 16 October 2013. He was born in Boston, October 31st, 1925, the second of three sons of Charles Auguste and Rosamond (Bradley) Rheault of Westwood, Massachusetts. His father had been a member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, while his mother worked in Labrador, for Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, of the Grenfell Mission.

During the summer, for three years, from age fourteen, Bob worked as a cowboy on ranches in Wyoming: moving cattle, mending fences, stacking hay. After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy and the United States Military Academy at West Point, Bob served for 26 years in the US Army, retiring in 1969 as Commander of Special Forces in Vietnam.

Rheault was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in combat in the Korean War, attaining the rank of captain. After Korea, Rheault taught at the U.S. Military Academy for several years in the mid-1950s, before attending the Special Forces Qualification course in 1961. Upon completion he was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in Germany. Rheault later commanded the 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa before taking command of the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam in 1969.

COL Rheault, a widely respected Special Forces officer was implicated and largely thought to be a scapegoat for the June 1969 execution of South Vietnam double agent, Thai Khac Chuyen, who compromised intelligence agents involved in Project GAMMA operating in Vietnam and Cambodia.

A subsequent investigation and court-martial, was held by the U.S. Army in Vietnam, with the charges later being dropped.  COL Rheault retired after 26 years of service. 

After retirement he worked for the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School for 32 years, from Assistant Watch Officer to President of the School. During the last 19 of those years, he started and ran the Outward Bound Program for Vietnam Vets suffering from PTSD.

COL Rheault was actively involved in his community, giving generously of his time and skills while serving on the boards of The Apprenticeshop, Sterling College, Kents Hill School and the Georges River land Trust, where he was a founding member. He, with his wife Susan St. John, was an active member of the First Universalist Church in Rockland.

Ever mindful of a leader’s need to be prepared, when back from the field Bob made sure that his inbox was empty, and so it was when he died. Bob’s bills were paid and he had communicated with his loved ones. Bob was predeceased by his brother, Andre Eugene Rheault; and by his first wife, Nan (Young) Rheault. He is survived by his brother, Charles Auguste Rheault, Jr.; his wife of 36 years, Susan St. John; his five children: Susanne Rheault, Meesh Rheault Miller, Robert Rheault, Jr., Nicholas St. John-Rheault and Alexis St. John-Rheault; as well as a beloved passel of in-laws, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and his one goddaughter. A memorial service will be held on the 2nd of November, 2013, at 2 pm, at the Camden Opera House, 29 Elm Street, Camden, Maine.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, 39 Mechanic Street, Suite 310, Camden, Maine 04843 or to the Georges River Land Trust, 8 North Main Street, Suite 200, Rockland, Maine 04841

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