33 bombings taught veteran to value each day
Richard Giroux survived 33 bombings as a combat engineer in the Army, and the experiences taught him to value each day.
“One false move, and boom,” he said. “You can’t be afraid to die. It’s one of those selfless service things, and that’s what I had to live by. This could be the last day, but I’m just doing my job and not stressing over it.”
Now a resident in northern Marion County Giroux maintains that same dedication, as a volunteer firefighter with Ramona Fire Department.
“I always liked helping others in need,” he said. “It’s like that heroism act from when I was in the military. When I’m in the fire department I just want to be there to help others.”
Giroux served 11½ years, achieved a rank of staff sergeant, and was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
A Bronze Star is the third-highest honor for servicemen, behind Silver and Gold Stars. Purple Hearts is awarded to those who are wounded or killed in combat.
Serving as a combat engineer meant Giroux had to locate and disarm bombs for the convoys he was with. His job as a staff sergeant only increased his responsibility. The two roles taught Giroux about having other people depend on him in important situations.
“I had a lot of leadership goals,” he said. “It instilled better morals and discipline. It’s still instilled in me to this day. I always have that military haircut, too.”
Giroux was motivated to join the military after watching both his grandfathers and multiple uncles serve.
“It was just one of those things I wanted to do, a life goal,” he said. “That factored into my decision.”
Giroux was a role model for his daughter Almeda and younger cousins, who also showed interest in serving.
His daughter, who is 18, wants to join the Air Force. Being able to share a common experience while having differences in which branches they serve excites Giroux.
“It makes me feel good,” he said. “Join the military, absolutely. She said, ‘It’s because you did Dad.’ ”
Two of the best places he visited were Iceland and Shannon Island in Greenland. Neither visit was very long, but both made significant enough impacts that Giroux wanted to visit again.
Spending much of his time overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan, one of Giroux’s favorite experiences was learning about other cultures.
“I learned a lot about the Muslim culture,” he said. “It was good to learn about other cultures, languages, and dialects.”
It also meant traveling to third-world countries. Seeing people living in unsanitary situations, or dealing with polio or tuberculosis taught Giroux to appreciate how good life could be in the U.S.
“What we have here in the U.S. is a huge thing to have and be thankful for what we have here,” he said. “Not many people can experience that. It’s pretty bad there.”
His time in the military came with bumps in the road. Giroux was forced to retire because of injuries over the years, including bulging discs in his neck.
“I have to be careful of what I do on a daily basis,” he said. “There are some health issues I worry about but I just take it one day at a time, so I just try to live life to the fullest.”
Finding regular activities he enjoys is one important way for Giroux to make the most of his time. He enjoys coin collecting as well trapping for coyotes and bobcats.
“It’s an old trade that’s whittled away but it’s conservation, too,” he said.