By Jackie Rybeck

Feature Writer / Photographer

Seventy-year-old Henri St. Pierre, of Auburn, has two military discharges: one from the Air Force and one from the Army Reserves. He is a humble veteran who values our flag, is committed to protecting the principles of our country and is an inspiration to those who meet him.

Growing up in the 1950s, St. Pierre was no different from any other young boy.

“Most of us dreamed of becoming a soldier,” he explained. “We would play war games, running through the neighborhood defeating the imaginary enemy.”

He added, “We perceived ourselves as heroes. Unbeknownst to me, the war games we played were in no way near the reality of combat that was to become the real deal later in my life.”

After graduating from Lewiston High School, St. Pierre had a choice to make.

“There was no question mark,” he smiled. “You either enlisted or you were drafted. My uncle had been in the Army and told me the Air Force was the best branch to get into. I was mechanically inclined as well, so the Air Force it was.”

St. Pierre began basic training in Amarillo, Texas, and upon graduation from mechanic’s school was sent to Larson AFB in Washington State. Upon its closure he was transferred to nearby Fairchild AFB.

This training took St. Pierre overseas to Okinawa and Guam where their mission was supporting the ground troops.

“I was with the B-52 Stratofortresses and I was a specialist in flight control and landing. I found myself performing multi functions such as changing explosives on ejection seats and loading bombs.”

St. Pierre said, “The saddest job was loading body bags to bring back to the states.”

In 1967, this veteran came home and then enlisted in the Army Reserve nine years later and rose through the ranks to become a senior sergeant and platoon leader of the 619 Transport Company based in Auburn.

“My tenure as a reservist carried me all over the world, to such places as Turkey, Honduras, Germany and Canada,” he said.

At 48 years old, while in flight to Saudi Arabia for his first combat campaign, it all sunk in.

“My departure made me realize that my childhood fantasies of war games were about to come true, and I had left what I cherished most — my family — not knowing if I’d return,” said St. Pierre.

Their mission: to transport bombs to the airfields as American troops pounded the Iraqi forces.

“That is when my worst fears kicked in,” he said. “Awaiting our first convoy to Kuwait, I found myself sitting on a dock, noticing how the moon reflected on the ocean. I asked the good Lord to give me the strength to persevere in the mission. We had stepped out of a civilized world and into one of pure hell. These men’s lives were in my hands and every decision I made could spell disaster or success and it all hinged on the military training I received over the years.”

St. Pierre said, “I promised my men and their families that I would bring them all home safe.”

They all came home, but with a totally different welcoming from that of Vietnam.

“Be it Vietnam or Iraq, as soldiers, our duty was to not question why,” he added, “but to answer the call of duty. We were following orders and doing our part to preserve freedom.”

St. Pierre exudes pride.

“I took my service seriously,” he said humbly. “A veteran belongs to the largest fraternal organization in the world. There is a bond there that only another veteran can understand, an everlasting bond.”

Not a day goes by that he doesn’t recognize what a blessing it is to be alive.

“Some gave the ultimate sacrifice. The flag is not a piece of cloth … it represents every soldier who ever served or died and a lot of blood has been shed to keep it flying strong. I hope generations to come will appreciate that our freedom was not free, it was earned.”


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