Rich Risner was born on February 23, 1932, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on January 26, 1953, and completed Officer Candidate School at MCS Quantico, Virginia, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Marine Corps on February 19, 1955. After completing the Basic School and additional training at MCS Quantico, Lt Risner served as a Platoon Commander and then as Executive Officer of F Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division in Japan and on Okinawa from October 1955 to August 1956, and then with Headquarters Company of the 3rd Marine Regiment on Okinawa from August to November 1956. His next assignment was as a Platoon Commander, Executive Officer, and then Company Commander of C Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, from January 1957 until he left active duty and went into the Marine Corps Reserve on June 15, 1958. Maj Risner remained in the reserves until returning to active duty with the Marine Corps on July 3, 1966, serving as Commanding Officer of the Schools Company in the Schools Battalion at Camp Pendleton from July 1966 to July 1967. His next assignment was as Base Defense Coordinator and Group Ground Defense Officer with H&MS-12, Marine Aircraft Group-12, at Chu Lai, South Vietnam, from August 1967 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War on August 20, 1968. Maj Risner managed to escape from his captors and make it back to friendly lines 2 days later, on August 22, 1968, and he returned to the United States in early September 1968. His next assignment was as Executive Officer of 3rd Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment of the 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton from October 1968 to July 1969, followed by service on the staff of the 5th Marine Division from July to November 1969. Maj Risner served as a Technical Training Coordinator and then Executive Officer with Marine Aviation Training Support Group 90 at NAS Millington, Tennessee, from December 1969 to August 1972, and then at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, from August 1972 until his retirement from the Marine Corps on July 1, 1975. Rich Risner died on January 27, 2005, and was buried at the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For courageous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Civic Action Officer with Marine Aircraft Group Twelve, First Marine Aircraft Wing in connection with operations against insurgent communist (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam. On 26 April 1968, Major RISNER and the civic action noncommissioned officer were enroute to the village of Long Phu when they were ambushed by the Viet Cong. In the initial burst of fire, the windshield on the jeep was shattered, spraying particles of glass into the faces of both men. Reacting instantly, they jumped from the vehicle into a nearby ditch. Quickly returning fire with his .45 caliber pistol at the source of the enemy ambush forces who were located in the surrounding trees, he and his companion crawled to the protective cover of the damaged vehicle, despite the continuous hostile fire striking around them. Obtaining another pistol from his fellow Marine, who was also armed with an M-16 rifle, he prepared to assault the enemy positions when he observed a hand grenade land nearby. Completely disregarding his own safety, he picked up the armed grenade and threw it toward the Viet Cong. Retrieving the pistol he had momentarily discarded, Major RISNER then aggressively advanced into the dense undergrowth, firing both weapons as he moved and causing one of the enemy to flee. Returning to the vehicle, he found that his companion had been wounded and that they had nearly expended their ammunition. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the two men successfully started the damaged vehicle and departed the area before the enemy could reorganize and launch another attack. His heroic actions and presence of mind in aggressively countering the Viet Cong ambush undoubtedly saved his life and the life of his companion and prevented the enemy from benefitting from the propaganda of the ambush attempt. By his courage, bold initiative and selfless devotion to duty at great personal risk, Major RISNER upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.