Richard “Bud” Allen was a veteran’s veteran, a proud Marine, a survivor of the Vietnam War, a lifetime member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Patriot of the Year in 2018 and 2019, Commander Emeritus of the local Aaron Weaver Chapter 776 MOPH.
He was all about service, to his family and friends, his fellow veterans, his community, his country and to God.
“I knew Bud for well over 25 years, mostly through the Veterans Foundation and before that, the Veterans Day parades,” said Janice Warren, Citrus County Tax Collector and longtime friend. “He was always there. I always thought of Bud as somebody that, if you had a need, you could pick up the phone and call him and he’d be there for you.”
Richard “Bud” Allen died Sept. 10. He was 75.
The making of a patriot
Two days after he graduated high school, as soon as he turned 18, Bud joined the Marines.
It was 1965, and the Vietnam War was just getting started.
In July of that year, Bud was off to boot camp and training as an aircraft electrician. He would later serve as a helicopter gunner, flying medivac and resupply missions.
He arrived in Da Nang in 1966 in South Vietnam, serving aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier.
His first few months were quiet, he told the Chronicle in 2015. “After that, the last nine months I was there, between flying and the air bases getting bombed on a regular basis – you only get so many chances when you can skip out and not get nailed,” he said.
During his 13 months as a gunner on UH-34 Sikorsky helicopters, he flew 108 missions.
The crew’s main duty was delivering ammunition, food supply, water, and bringing back the killed and wounded.
One of his memories of being fired upon was when a SAM (surface-to-air) missile went right over them.
“The pilot saw it coming,” Bud said. “He dropped the helicopter down, thank God, and it exploded not too far up. We took some shrapnel wounds to the aircraft, but we managed to fly back.”
He was eventually wounded, but not while flying.
As he recalled, it was in April of 1967 during a mortar and rocket attack on an air base at Kyha.
“It was 3 o’clock in the morning and I was trying to get some sleep,” he said. “When they started coming in, you knew what it was. At that point our main thought process was get to the nearest bunker and get on the ground.
“While I was racing to a bunker, one went off nearby. I like to tell the kids (during Veterans in the Classroom programs) – ‘You think people can’t fly? Let me tell you, if something like that blows up near you, you fly. The landing is terrible, but you fly.’
“I got banged up when I landed, I think I got knocked out for a while. I got a Purple Heart (from that), I was out of commission for a few days, but it was nothing major, nothing broken, some gray matter scrambled,” he said. “I was bandaged up, that’s all I know.”
After Vietnam, Bud returned to the states and was stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, and Marietta, Georgia, where he met Joann, his wife of nearly 53 years.
She and a group of friends used to go to the enlisted servicemen’s club on Friday nights for its weekly steak dinner and dancing, and there she met Bud.
However, they didn’t start dating then, but went out as part of a group.
Then one day Joann took a friend’s 13-year-old daughter to Six Flags Over Georgia as a birthday gift and Bud was also there with a group of Marines and a group of Eastern Airlines flight attendants.
“We ran into each other, and he decided he wanted to spend time with me,” Joann said. “We got married Oct. 30, 1969. I had three children from a previous marriage and we had one child together, but he treated all of them as his own.”
“He was only 22, and he adopted us,” said son, Troy Allen. “I was 7 and worshiped the ground he walked on. He was a hero to me.
“I had a troubled time as a teen and gave my parents a super hard time, and as negative as I was at that time, they never gave up on me,” he said.
After Bud got out of the Marines, he and his new family moved to Massachusetts, where Bud had grown up.
Originally, Bud wanted to get a job with the state police working on their helicopters, but instead joined his father in the funeral service profession, his career for 40 years.
He had seen a lot of death and dying during his time in Vietnam and considered it on-the-job-training, he told the Chronicle in 2015.
In 2007, Bud retired and he and Joann moved to Citrus County.
Years earlier, they had bought a home in Homosassa and asked their son, Troy, to live in it until they retired.
However, by that time, Troy and his wife were raising four children and they didn’t think it was right to ask them to move out, so they purchased a home in Pine Ridge, Joann said.
“When they moved here, we started having Friday movie nights and Sunday dinners together,” Troy Allen said.
Story of the ’stache, veterans’ causes
Bud Allen’s signature look was his handlebar mustache, carefully curled at the tips with Pinaud Mustache Wax.
“That was his pride and joy,” Joann said. “When he worked for the funeral home, he had to keep a short haircut and a clean-shaven appearance. But he always wanted a mustache.”
As soon as he retired, Bud not only grew a mustache but he also grew his hair out, and when it got long enough, he had it cut so he could donate his hair for charity.
The mustache came first, and Bud’s involvement in veterans’ causes followed.
“He was never much of a joiner until he moved here,” Joann said.
Richard Hunt, current commander of the Aaron Weaver Chapter 776 MOPH, said he met Bud about 10 or 15 years ago.
“We clicked,” Hunt said. “We were ‘brothers from another mother,’ and the relationship we had was extraordinarily rare. But when he first joined our Purple Heart band of brothers, he was quiet and reserved. He was in the background for a while, kind of in his shell, but then his personality started developing with us.
“Leadership is always hard to fill, and at one point folks started talking to him about serving as a leader,” Hunt said. “He’d say, ‘Nah, I don’t like to get up in front of people and talk,’ but over time a transformation started and he really came into his own with us.”
After that, Bud started getting involved, not just with the local Purple Heart chapter, but with other organizations like the Veterans Coalition, helping veterans and their families who are in need, and the local DAV, helping disabled veterans.
In 2015, he was the Grand Marshal in the Veterans Day Parade and spoke at the post-parade 11th Hour Memorial Service where he said: “Many of our veterans struggle with life and the effects of war, and unless you’ve been there ... you have no idea how real those struggles are.”
In 2019, he was chosen to represent Florida in the Inaugural Purple Heart Patriot Mission # 1, one of 50 Purple Heart recipients chosen from around the country to participate.
The Patriot Mission, an all-expenses-paid trip to New York, honors Purple Heart recipients with visits to historic landmarks, such as West Point, George Washington’s original headquarters, and the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. They also attend ceremonies where they are honored for their service.
“It was a fantastic two days,” Allen told the Chronicle in 2019. “We were so well-received as combat-wounded veterans.”
His passing leaves a vast hole in the community, Janice Warren said. “I think that because of the respect and the love other veterans have for him, I think they will do what they can to fill the void he leaves, but it’s vast.
“Those of us who have been in the community for such a long time, we’ve been fortunate and blessed to know some of the best people,” she said, “and Bud was one of them.”
Richard “Bud” Allen was laid to rest Monday, Sept. 19 at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.