Kern County veteran to receive Distinguished Service Cross

Published 03/18 2014 05:54PM

Updated 03/18 2014 06:40PM

RANDSBURG, CA -- In the far east corner of Kern County, in a sleepy little desert town that sees most of its homeowners only on weekends, a cowboy and shop owner, who died in 2009, just changed history.

"The military recognizes his act of bravery and it is now history," said his widow Pam Keiser.

Sergeant First Class Robert Keiser was better known in Randsburg as a cowboy with an Old West general store, but he's soon to receive the Distinguished Service Cross.

"Well, he had a saying, 'I only had one bad day in my life. And all the other days aren't so bad," said Pam Keiser.

Robert Keiser's bad day was November 30, 1950. Serving in the Korean War, Keiser and his convoy approached a roadblock of at least 20 cars on a narrow, mountain side road. The Chinese had come in the night before and overran their infantry division. While under heavy enemy fire, Keiser physically pushed each car out of the road.

"Nobody helped him. Nobody came to help him. He did it all himself," said Pam Keiser.

"He pushed vehicles over the side and got them out of there. Because of that action, he saved the lives of nearly 5,000 to 7,000 men."

Keiser's general nominated him for the Medal of Honor, but politics and a fire destroying war records dashed that recognition.

"That whole event was such an embarrassment to the United States government, because we were told 'oh no, the Chinese aren't coming. They won't help out the North Koreans," said Pam Keiser.

"It was a strategic retreat back to the south. Most of the command in the second infantry division was reassigned."

In 1952, time ran out for Keiser to receive the Medal of Honor, but in 1996, Congress changed the rules and opened the door for Keiser to finally be recognized for his heroic act.

"You have to have one of your representatives to Congress or a senator be the one to introduce into a bill the fact you'd like the statute of limitations lifted. It has to be a military bill," said Keiser.

Robert Keiser's advocate advertised in military and retirement magazines asking for Korean War veterans who were at "The Gauntlet" battle to tell their stories. The stories were sent to Congressman Kevin McCarthy's office. A month later, McCarthy's aide called Pam Keiser to say McCarthy would like to represent her husband.

"And I just cried. Just cried."

Pam Keiser will accept the Distinguished Service Cross on behalf of her husband in Washington, D.C. on March 25. Her next goal is to see SFC Robert Keiser receive the Medal of Honor.

"This whole event has changed history and for that moment in time. And that, to me, is the phenomenal part of it all."

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