Michael Gaudreau | MVH Caribou Veteran Stories | U.S. Army | 1967-1970

Author: MVH Caribou
Posted: February 01, 2019
Category: Maine Veterans of the Month

Michael Gaudreau was born in Fort Kent, Maine, in September 1947.  He was the youngest child of Alphee and Irene Gaudreau, with 2 brothers and 9 sisters coming before him.  Mike has many fond childhood memories from being part of a large loving Catholic family. 

Finding ways to keep busy during the long winters in Aroostook County and sliding downhill with his older brother Pete are some of his favorite memories.  At the age of 17, with permission from his parents, Mike joined the Maine Army National Guard and attended basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.   Like many others who left Aroostook County looking for work, Mike found himself having to leave the home he loved.  He was able to find employment with Pratt Whitney in Bristol, Connecticut.  The commute home every month to serve in his Maine National Guard unit proved to be increasingly difficult, so Mike requested a transfer to the Connecticut Army National Guard.  They were unable to accommodate his request, so he enlisted into the United States Army in February 1967.  Having already completed his basic training requirement with the Maine Army National Guard, he was sent to Vietnam to join the fight. 

Mike remembers that when he left home, it was 40⁰ below zero and when he arrived in Vietnam it was 110⁰ F, “quite a shock to my system,” he recalls.  His first few weeks in country was spent doing the usual tasks that was expected of the “new guy”.  He had to get used to the nightly bombardments, Mike writes in his journal, “the first two to three weeks I was very scared, but with time you learn to cope with it and you learn to be able to identify if they are incoming or outgoing, even when you’re sleeping.” 

When his CO found out that Mike could speak French, Mike was assigned to work with the doctors, translating for them, as many of the Vietnamese elders spoke French.  Mike’s ability to speak French also enabled him to work at the Officer’s Club.  One of his duties was making regular trips to Saigon to pick up soda, beer and liquor.   

Things changed for Mike one September evening, when his Section Chief asked for three volunteers. Mike and his friend Bill and Hector answered the call, and the next morning they received orders to go outside the perimeter and build themselves a bunker that was to be their “home” for the next week or so.  On the evening of the sixth night, Mike heard his buddy, Bill, call out “Halt, who goes there?”  The shooting commenced soon after, followed by a flash in the distance. 

Unsure of how long he was unconscious, Mike woke up to the sounds of his two comrades hollering.  Mike's friend Bill had received serious wounds, and Mike spent the next moments searching for his gun and phone.  He returned fire all the while trying to get help for his friend.  While waiting for the helicopter, that would take them to the hospital, Bill asked Mike to pray with him.  Mike prayed with Bill, and sadly, Bill died of his injuries on the way to the hospital. 

Mike and Hector had suffered only minor wounds and were sent back to the barracks in Cu Chi.  The day after their ambush, others in Mike’s unit, went to the bunker to retrieve guns and ammo left behind.  They told Mike they found two undetonated Vietcong grenades in the bunker.  Mike cheated death 4 times that night, and wrote afterwards that “the Lord was with me.”  For his actions, Mike received the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism, and the Purple Heart.  Mike was wounded a second time a few months later and received a second Purple Heart, first Oak Leaf Cluster for wounds received in action in December 1967.  Mike ended up serving one tour in Vietnam stationed at Cu Chi with the 25th Infantry Division. 

After his tour in Vietnam ended in 1970, Mike returned home and married his hometown sweetheart, Diane.  They recently celebrated their 50th anniversary and have 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren.  Mike has been the recipient of many military awards and has earned 2 Associate Degrees, one in Forestry (1974) and another in Accounting (1979).  Despite all these impressive accomplishments, proudly displayed in his room, alongside his Purple Heart, is an Honorary Kindergarten Diploma for “Pepere Mike” presented on June 18, 2007.  It states "You attended many of many days of kindergarten with your grandson, Isiac.  It was important for you and for him that you be close. We enjoyed having you with us … Isiac is lucky to have you.  I wish other little boys were as lucky.”

Mike considers his family as his greatest accomplishment in his life, and is a true hero, not only in service to our country but most importantly to his family.

Mike is a resident at Maine Veterans’ Home – Caribou and is active within the resident community, enjoying activities and making crafts.  Prior to his admission, Mike had begun a special project making key chains to honor fellow Vietnam Veterans and his granddaughters, one diagnosed with Autism, the other with Epilepsy.  He has continued this work bringing awareness to other causes.  Mike enjoys sharing these key chains with friends, family and other visitors to MVH Caribou.

Thank You, Michael, for your service to our nation!

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