Ballard was born in Kansas City, Missouri and it was there that he enlisted in the United States Navy. Sent to Vietnam, Ballard served as a corpsman in the Quang Tri province with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines (Mike 3/4) of the 3rd Marine Division. On May 16, 1968, Ballard treated two Marines suffering from heat exhaustion, and when returning to his unit from the casualty evacuation helicopter pad he and his company were attacked by the North Vietnamese Army. While under fire, Ballard directed aid to other wounded U.S. Marines and when a grenade landed nearby, Ballard fearlessly threw himself upon the lethal explosive device to protect his comrades from the deadly blast. Grabbing the grenade and rolling upon one of his wounded comrades to protect him he threw the devise seconds before it harmlessly exploded. He calmly arose from his dangerous position and resolutely continued his determined efforts in treating his Marines. For his actions, he received the United States of America’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. In 1970, Ballard received the Navy Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon and General Westmoreland . He then left the United States Navy and enlisted in Army officer candidate school. Westmoreland offered Ballard a direct commission; however Ballard turned it down for personal reasons. Ballard later joined the Kansas National Guard, and served as an ambulance platoon leader, company commander, and was tasked with creating the new ‘Medical Detachment 5’, a unit which performs medicals on Guard members in order to save the cost of contracting outside medical help, and of which he was the first member and commander.
On April 5, 1998, Ballard was promoted to colonel by Major General James F. Reuger and served as Special Assistant to the Adjutant General until his retirement in 2000. Inducted into the National Guard Hall of Fame in November 2001, Ballard is the only living Kansas Guardsman to have received the Medal of Honor. He is also the subject of a memorial statue at the National Medical War Memorial in Kansas City, depicting Ballard during the action for which he received the Medal of Honor.