Norman Beaudoin is a disabled Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War. He has used his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran as motivation for creating a community of service, charity, memorial, and connection. It is for these traits that we chose to tell Norman’s story in this series of Duke Cannon’s Good Folks Project.
DC: You and your wife created a memorial site for fallen veterans in your hometown. Tell us a little more about that.
NB: In our hometown of Leominster, MA, we lost a young soldier named Jonathan in the Global War on Terror. He was K.I.A. on February 9, 2009 in Mosul Iraq. At that time my wife Diane was a news reporter for our hometown paper, and of course, she had to cover all the events from that day forward. There was a 3/4 acre of land at the bottom of the street Jonathan lived, and that piece of land was designated to be a park commemorating Johnny Appleseed, who had Leominster connections. A small group approached the city and asked to change that designation to be a memorial park to Jonathan. The family agreed, with one stipulation, that the park be named after their son, but it would honor all the fallen from our Commonwealth.
Everything in the park means something to the military that served, and continues to serve there. Jonathan was a tank driver, and after a few years, we were able to secure an Army tank, that we raised the funds for. We got it to a local business who helped us clean it up, and we matched the exact color of the current Army tanks. The next phase was constructing 'blast walls' which are made of poured concrete, and are similar to those in Iraq. The names of each of Massachusetts fallen are hand painted on one wall, and on the facing wall, a photo of each hero is there. That is what makes us a one of a kind park.
DC: As a veteran of the Vietnam War, you must deal with a lot of physical and emotional hardships. How do you keep that from holding you back?
NB: As for my physical and emotional hardships of my military disabilities, I must say the physical part is the toughest for me to deal with. I have had an arterial transplant on one leg 6 years ago, which gave my walking abilities a tough road. I have lost most of my hearing from working on the planes without ear protection, and have developed spinal stenosis from not being able to walk correctly. I fought long and hard to be able to be mobile again, and even though I will never be able to do many of the things I always loved to do, it "is what it is".
I continue with physical therapy to help ease the constant pain I am in, and I find I have to sit more than I ever did before. I cannot lay down in bed, and spend a lot of time in a recliner with my legs up. I am grateful to the Boston VA healthcare system for working with me to be able to keep my leg on, and a constant check to make sure my blood flow to that leg is the best that it can be. My family has suffered because of this, as my wife and I are a bit more limited than I hoped we would be at this stage of our lives, but I continue to do the best I can, and tremendously enjoy what we get to do. Emotionally I feel I do all right as I don't let the things I saw in Vietnam creep in. That is why it is important to me to stay in touch with other veterans as "they get it ". I enjoyed most of my military time, as it made me a stronger and better man for those I love.
DC: What is one thing you’d like fellow Americans to know about veterans? We know you focus on charitable donations and giving them a sense of community. Expand on that a bit.
NB: I would like the American people to know that serving in the military is an honor. Men and women of all generations made the decision to sign that blank check for everyone, and each veteran is someone's hero. When I returned from Vietnam, we were not welcomed home like veterans before and after us. It was a tumultuous time for our country, and we fought a horrendous war with little to no support from home. However, I made the decision to enter the Air Force and serve my country to the best of my ability, and it is heartwarming to now, 50 years later, have people say, “Thank you for your service, and welcome home". I feel that each vet deserves that. My time serving was something I can never forget, and you learn to live with that decision. My children and grandchildren have learned that this world is bigger than themselves, and you do what you need to do to make it a better and safer place.
DC: Which parts of Duke Cannon’s mission and values resonate with you the most? Why?
NB: Both [my wife] and I admire a company like Duke Cannon that honors men that are hardworking, get your hands dirty kind of guys. You set an example for giving back to the military in so many ways. We are familiar with the Honor Flight network and giving the older vets the opportunity to do something, and go somewhere they could not do on their own. To me, as a veteran, that is so important. Both my wife and myself were raised to give back when and where you can, and we raised our children and four grandchildren to do the same. Your profile fits in with our family and our desire to give back, and support something that is important to us. We are not wealthy people, we always worked hard to get what we have, but we've shared what we have with others less fortunate, and it's what we look for in companies we like to do business with. We appreciate your commitment to giving back to our military on so many levels.