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Green Bay Navy veteran receives seven medals for service

Veteran and Rep. Mike Gallagher
On Aug. 7, Rep. Mike Gallagher presented seven medals to Vietnam Era Veteran Richard Proulx, at left, for his years of service in the United States Navy, as Gallagher’s daughter, Grace, 2, cheers them on. Kris Leonhardt photo

By Kris Leonhardt


DE PERE – On Aug. 7, Rep. Mike Gallagher presented Green Bay resident Richard Proulx with seven medals for his service to the country in the United States Navy during the Vietnam era.

“The war in Vietnam has left painful memories permanently seared into the American consciousness. Even in the face of political controversy and a lack of support from a large percentage of the American public, Dick served both his country and his fellow sailors with honor, grit, and true professionalism – I would argue that there simply is no higher calling than this,” said Gallagher.

“I’m really amazed. Serving in the military was a pleasure,” said Proulx.

“I learned a great deal, and I told my father who challenged me before I went to the military. He said, ‘What are you going to do?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m not planning on doing anything. I’m going to rest. I just spent 12 years in school.’ (He said) ‘Well, you have two choices — go the military or go to college. Well, I’m not going to school. So I went into the Navy, and I went to nuclear power school for two and a half years.”

Proulx graduated from the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Power School.

He then qualified as a nuclear reactor plant operator at the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in Idaho Falls and completed his Basic Nuclear Engineering Qualification.

He was later deployed to Southeast Asia aboard the USS Enterprise.

“During this tour, he served as a reactor plant operator and reactor control equipment operator aboard the world’s first-ever nuclear aircraft carrier,” Gallagher stated.

“Dick drew upon his extensive training and experience to ensure the safety of day-to-day operations aboard the carrier, as he performed maintenance and repairs to the nuclear propulsion plant instrumentation. His attention to detail and mechanical skill were essential in enabling the USS Enterprise and her embarked air wing to aggressively pursue and execute highly effective strikes against military targets in South Vietnam.

“From April to August of 1970, then-Electronics Technician Radarman Second Class Proulx once again took to the sea and returned to the conflict in Vietnam aboard the USS Saint Paul.

“During this time frame, the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser was frequently engaged in combat against enemy forces, and her gun crews were kept busy supporting U.S. and allied troops in South Vietnam and bombarding coastal targets in the North.

“Dick served as the petty officer in charge of the ship’s entertainment system. Maintaining a complex naval communications system in any environment is a difficult task, but doing so on a ship’s fifth consecutive combat deployment, in hostile territory, when that system consists of over 100 speakers throughout the vessel in need of frequent repair or replacement — that speaks volumes about Dick’s technical skill, work ethic, and care for his fellow sailors.

“Dick’s diligence enabled the crew to remain informed of shipboard developments, allowing critical information to be shared and mitigating the confusion and disorientation inherent in heavy naval combat operations. Even when the USS Saint Paul’s five- and eight-inch guns were not firing, Dick maintained the ship’s sophisticated electronics equipment in a high state of readiness, allowing the crew to view training videos and even feature-length films, raising morale and providing solace to these young men amidst the turmoil of war.”

For his service, on Aug. 7 Proulx was presented with the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy Unit Commendation (with One Bronze Star), Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Vietnam Service Medal (Three Bronze Stars).

“It was a wonderful adventure. I learned so very much. So many wonderful people that I got to serve with. And you know, it was always left with a smile on my face. There weren’t too many of the things that I didn’t like at all. The Navy is a great organization and (I had) the ability to serve on two beautiful ships,” Proulx added.

“Now the enterprise is being decommissioned — that’s being taken apart — and it’s hard to believe that that thing’s 50 years.

“I don’t know, it got old and I didn’t.”

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