101st Congress (1989-1990)
LEGION OF VALOR HONORS TOM BOUCHARD, VIETNAM WAR HERO
(Senate - May 24, 1990)
Mr. COHEN. Mr. President, it has been said that genuine heroes are those who do not seek out glory but who, acting in the moment, unwittingly achieve their distinction.
Mr. President, Tom Bouchard is a genuine hero.
On December 7, 1967, U.S. Army troops began an assault on a heavily fortified North Vietnamese post. As the battle begun, an American armored personnel carrier was struck by enemy fire, wounding all of the crew-members. According to the Army's official report on the action, this 19-year-old private "fearlessly raced 20 meters, through an intense hail of bullets, to the stricken vehicle. Under withering fire, he put all the casualties aboard, took the controls and drove the vehicle to safety, plowing through a North Vietnamese machine gun bunker, killing the occupants."
Three months later, the Army awarded Bouchard the Distinguished Service Cross "for dauntless courage in close combat that inspired his fellow soldiers to an overwhelming victory."
Now, more than two decades later, Tom Bouchard's heroism is again being recognized through induction into the Legion of Valor. This century-old brotherhood consists of the elite of the elite. Membership is limited to Americans awarded one of the Nation's two highest military honors: the Medal of Honor or the Distinguished Service Cross.
On Independence Day, in celebration of its 100th anniversary, the Legion of Valor will be dedicating a new wing of its museum devoted to the Distinguished Service Cross. Tom Bouchard will be among those honored at this historic ceremony.
Twenty-two years ago, Tom Bouchard stepped into action to save his fellow soldiers and, in doing so, became a hero. Today, Tom continues to follow this same path, serving his fellow veterans as a volunteer service officer for the Disabled American Veterans in eastern Maine, helping to ensure that veterans receive the medical care and benefits they have earned.
Mr. President, I know Tom Bouchard personally, having worked with him over the years on veterans' issues, and I can say with all sincerity that Tom continues to inspire those around him as much today as he did on that faraway battlefield two decades ago.
Mr. President, I ask that an article from the Bangor Daily News discussing Tom Bouchard's induction into the Legion of Valor be printed in the Record.
From the Bangor Daily News, May 16, 1990
[FROM THE BANGOR DAILY NEWS, MAY 16, 1990]
Vietnam Vet's Heroism To Be Cited — Maine Man Listed for Induction Into Legion of Valor
(BY BRUCE KYLE)
Perry. — While most of the country celebrates this Fourth of July with picnics and parades, Thomas Bouchard will be in Chattanooga, Tenn., for a more solemn ceremony: his induction into the Legion of Valor, a century-old organization with a most exclusive membership. The organization is limited to those who have won either the Medal of Honor or the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's two highest medals for heroism.
Bouchard was a 19-year-old private on Dec. 7, 1967, serving in Vietnam with the 8th Cavalry near the village of Dai Dong, when he heard that his former company was engaged in a fierce firefight. He left the security of headquarters, where he had been assigned as a cook, boarded a helicopter and flew to the battlefield.
According to the U.S. Army's official report, Bouchard joined the unit as it began an assault on a heavily fortified enemy position. In the first minutes of the attack, one of the company's armored personnel carriers was hit, and the entire crew was wounded. Bouchard, the report reads, "fearlessly raced 20 meters, through an intense hail of bullets, to the stricken vehicle. Under withering fire, he put all the casualties aboard, took the controls and drove the vehicle to safety, plowing through a North Vietnamese machine gun bunker, killing the occupants."
Bouchard returned to the front when a second assault was unleashed, personally charging several enemy bunkers, destroying them with grenades and rifle fire. At one point, he engaged in face-to-face combat with three North Vietnamese soldiers.
In March 1968, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, "for dauntless courage in close combat that inspired his fellow soldiers to an overwhelming victory." For that action, he also received the Cross of Gallantry, the Republic of Vietnam's highest military honor.
During his two tours of duty in Vietnam, Bouchard also received the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the Air Medal, and finally the Purple Heart, for shrapnel wounds that have left him disabled.
The Legion of Valor was formed in 1890 by Civil War recipients of the Medal of Honor. The Army's Distinguished Service Cross was added in 1918, joined later by the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross. To commemorate its 100th year, the Legion will open a special wing this Fourth of July in its Chattanooga museum for the Distinguished Service Cross. The new section will include a copy of Bouchard's citation, a photograph of his decoration ceremony and his biography.
Bouchard, a native of Eastport who now lives in Perry, presently devotes his time as a volunteer for two special causes: the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.
As the DAV's service officer for Eastern Maine, Bouchard's job is to advise veterans of the benefits available to them, especially medical care. "There's a lot of veterans who need help getting prescriptions filled, getting to a doctor, getting to the (Veteran's Administration) hospital in Togus. We're all volunteers, doing what the government should be doing, but the important thing is that it gets done."
The DAV bought a van last year to transport veterans to Togus. In one year, volunteers put more than 120,000 miles on the van, and contributed more than 6,200 hours of their time. Bouchard and John Leighton of Pembroke are the volunteer drivers for this area. "That van's been all over the state, wherever it's needed," Bouchard said. "There's a lot of veterans out there, from World War II to Vietnam, who never asked their government for anything. They're proud people, but they need help." The DAV added a second van last month.
The POW-MIA issue is a personal one for Bouchard. "One of my best friends when I was a kid in Eastport — John Huntley — was shot down over Laos in ’69; he's one of Maine's 17 POW-MIAs. They might never come home; we might never know what happened to them; but we'll never forget them.
"There's 2,317 unaccounted for," Bouchard said, "and a lot of families who wonder every day what happened to their sons, their fathers, their brothers. All we can do is keep people aware."
Thinking back to that day at Dai Dong more than 22 years ago, Bouchard said, "I was just a kid. I didn't plan anything, I just acted, reacted, just like a lot of other guys. There just happened to be other people around to write down what I did. One thing I do remember: Afterwards, an officer asked me how I knew how to operate an APC (armored personnel carrier). I didn't. If it had been a stick shift instead of an automatic, I'd still be out there."