Spc. Michael Arthur Fontaine, born in New Orleans on Sept. 4, 1950, served as an Army medic during the Vietnam War. While assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fontaine took part in a search and clear mission northeast of Quan Loi on Jan. 10, 1969.
His company made contact with the enemy, who were armed with rockets, mortars and automatic and semiautomatic weapons. Repeatedly exposing himself to hostile fire, Fontaine treated members of his platoon who were wounded and brought them to a central area where they could be evacuated. During his final attempt to aid the wounded, Fontaine managed to bandage two men and was en route to a third when the enemy’s fire suddenly intensified. He threw himself onto the man to protect him and was mortally wounded by the enemy, but saved the life of his stricken comrade.
Fontaine’s awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Combat Medical Badge. He was also inducted into the State of Louisiana Military Hall of Fame in Abbeville.
During the building dedication ceremony held March 29, members of Fontaine’s family and one of his battle buddies were there to help cut the ribbon.
David and Renee Fontaine are Michael Fontaine’s brothers, and they attended the ceremony with their wives, both named Linda. Another Michael Fontaine was also there — his nephew, son of David and Linda.
“The greatest thing my parents ever did was name me after my uncle,” he said. “I never knew him, but I try to live up to what he was. Being named for him is the greatest honor, and I wouldn’t have missed this event today for the world.”
Michael traveled from Oklahoma City to attend the dedication.
David and Linda came in from the Houston area to take part in the ceremony. David said the family is honored that his brother’s name is being memorialized in this way. “I think this dedication is not just in honor of my brother, but for all the combat medics — they save countless lives.”
His spouse, Linda, said the building is a legacy for the family.
“We are grateful to the Army for doing this,” she said.
Butch Watkins served with Fontaine in Vietnam. He attended as a representative of Charlie Company, 2nd Bn, 7th Cav Reg, and said everyone in the unit who met Fontaine fondly remembered “Doc Trip,” as he was called. “He was a good guy and always looked out for all of us.”
Renee and Linda live in the New Orleans area, and Renee said while the building dedication is important, he’d gladly trade it all to have his brother back. “It’s certainly an honor that the Army is doing this for him, but to be honest, I would trade this for him any day,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.”
Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank, commanding general, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, pointed out a group photo that was printed in the ceremony program. Fontaine and Watkins are in the photo along with a few other Soldiers in Vietnam.
“That’s a pretty awesome photo. It really captures the essence of what Michael Fontaine meant to his unit, to his Family, his Army and his nation,” said Frank.
“It is amazing when you see a hero like Michael in that picture. You can imagine what kind of hero it takes to respond, under enemy fire, to Soldiers in his formation.”
Frank also said it was fitting that the facility that now bears his name is at Fort Polk — the Home of Heroes.
“A combat infantry or cavalry unit will often refer to their medic as ‘Doc.’ That’s a term of endearment,” said Frank. “They’re not medical doctors. But they are going to respond under fire, when you are injured, when you are pinned down — they are there, not the doctor in a white coat and stethoscope, but the medic, and that’s what Michael Fontaine was. As Soldiers come through these doors, I think they’ll feel his spirit and everything he meant to his cavalry unit.”
DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published at the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System Hub (www.didvshub.net). The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
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