1LT James Robert “Bob” Kalsu was born 13 April 1945 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and raised in Del City, Oklahoma, where he developed the character, patriotism, and athleticism that he called upon in high school, college, and subsequent voluntary military service.
Kalsu graduated from Del City High School in 1963 where he lettered in three sports. Today’s football teams play in Robert Kalsu Stadium.
At the University of Oklahoma, he enrolled in the university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program and was elected captain of the 1967 Sooners football team that was ranked third in the nation.
Upon graduation, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery telling a teammate, “I want to serve.” After a successful season in professional football, Kalsu voluntarily set aside his fame and potential fortune to answer his country’s call to serve on active duty in Vietnam. When a team official talked with him about his decision, he said “John, I gave 'em my word,” referring to his ROTC promise to serve on active duty. “I'm gonna do it.”
In November 1969 Lieutenant Kalsu completed his field artillery training at Fort Sill and joined A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. The unit was at FSB Ripcord delivering supporting fire on 25,000 enemy soldiers in the A Shau Valley. Soon the 4 1/2-month Battle for Ripcord began. It was one of the deadliest battles of the war, and its last large engagement. The heaviest fighting was from 1-23 July when Ripcord was assaulted by 5,000 enemy and 600 mortar rounds per day.
On 21 July, a mortar salvo blast killed both Kalsu and his good friend, SGT David Earl Johnson. Kalsu was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service in a combat zone and the Purple Heart. He was 25 years old. Today he rests in Resthaven Gardens Cemetery, Oklahoma City and is memorialized on the Vietnam Wall at Panel W8, Line 38.