Fort Kent native to receive national recognition for military service

8 months ago

FORT KENT, Maine — Fort Kent native James Bouchard, a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (HM2), will receive national recognition for his military service during an upcoming tribute tour in New York, courtesy of the National Purple Heart Honor Mission.

Bouchard, who has a Purple Heart, now lives in Granby, Massachusetts. He will represent the state’s Purple Heart veterans for the Honor Mission’s 2023 Purple Heart Patriot Project. The national project annually selects veterans to represent all the Purple Heart recipients in their state.

Bouchard and other veterans across the country will receive an all-expenses paid trip to New York for a four-day tour that features ceremonies, tributes, and visits to historical locations, including Washington’s Headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, and even a private tour of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, a museum that is dedicated to veterans who were combat wounded or killed in action.

FORT KENT, Maine — James Bouchard, a Fort Kent native who now lives in Massachusetts, was recently selected to represent Massachusetts as part of the Purple Heart Patriot Project. He is pictured here during his time serving in the Vietnam War. (Contributed photo)

He said on Thursday that he felt honored to receive the designation, and that he was recommended by his friend John Hurley, who served with him in Vietnam and now lives in Massachusetts near Bouchard. 

“He remembered me treating him when he had gotten wounded,” said Bouchard.

He said he believed his upbringing in Fort Kent and Aroostook County had a positive impact on his life.

“In my graduating class of ‘66, quite a few of my classmates were sent to Vietnam,” he said. “Some of my friends are still up there.”

After his service, Bouchard attended classes at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and also worked as an EMT and EMT instructor at Northern Maine Medical Center.

While in the service, he said he treated at least 20 people. He treated the wounded during combat as well as on board an aircraft carrier.

Bouchard said childhood experiences in Fort Kent inspired him to get into the medical field.

“When I was 12, my brother came down with sugar diabetes, and I used to help my mother with the insulin and gave him his shot,” he said. “And also, in Boy Scouts, we did advanced first aid. So that’s when I figured out my priorities for what I would like to do in the Navy. I ended up choosing a hospital corpsman.”

Fort Kent native James Bouchard, who now lives in Massachusetts, will receive national recognition from the Purple Heart Patriot Project. Bouchard will represent the state of Massachusetts and receive an all-expenses paid trip to New York, which will feature veteran ceremonies, tours, and events. (Contributed photo)

Bouchard later moved from Maine to Massachusetts, primarily because, at the time, he said the VA clinic in Leeds was the best in the nation for handling PTSD. Before moving, he said he considered getting into the construction business. 

“I had problems with it, with PTSD, and I figured that I needed to get into another profession,” he said. “At the time, in the early 70s, the only veteran outreach program was at Togus. It was too much of a ride to go down to Togus to get treated.”

Bouchard’s son, Joshua, also has a Purple Heart. He said being near his son and family is part of the reason he has chosen to stay in Massachusetts.

In the 12 years since his son was wounded, Bouchard said he has been working with other veterans who have survived Vietnam.

Bouchard first enlisted in the Navy in February of 1967 and served as a member of the 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Division. His service includes a tour in Vietnam. In 1969, while rushing to help a wounded Marine in the Hiep Duc Valley, Bouchard was hit with AK-47 rounds while leaping over the Marine to protect him. Despite being hit, he continued to treat the wounded Marine while radioing for help.

He received several commendations and medals, including the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm. He also received both the Bronze Star and Navy Commendation Medal with “V.”