Veterans Day Program: Lt.Colonel Jacques Michienzi

The commemoration of Veterans Day opened with a recognition of club members who were veterans followed by a stirring medley of songs from each of the branches of military service sung by our Rotary Veterans Day Chorus led by George Deaton.

This year’s Veterans Day was especially significant because it marked the centennial of the armistice concluding World War I—fighting ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.  Originally known as “Armistice Day,” the name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.

Steed Rollins and Don Stanger worked hard to organize this outstanding program.

Few Americans could better personify a military “veteran” than today’s speaker, Jacques Michienzi, who served in World War II, the Korean conflict, and two tours in Vietnam.  He is ninety-five years old, vigorous, sharp as a tack, modest and shares Past President Don’s passion for fly fishing.  He was born to immigrants from southern Italy in St. Paul, Minnesota.  His father had originally come to Montana, but when World War I broke out he returned to Italy for his fiancé, came back to the U.S. through Ellis Island and—Jacques learned much later in life—enlisted in the Army and was gassed while fighting in Europe.

As a platoon sergeant In World War II Jacques’ unit was pummeled during the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944-early 1945.  He himself suffered frostbite from the snow and bitter cold.  Soon after, his airborne unit parachuted into Germany to secure a bridgehead over the Rhine River for British tanks.  In the Korean conflict—I learned from the internet—his level headed leadership and bravery, despite serious wounds, saved his combat patrol from annihilation.

Prior to seeing combat in Vietnam he served as a regimental infantry adviser to South Vietnamese troops—whose colonel was originally from North Korea, had fought the French but had joined the South Vietnamese army because “the pay was better.”  After American troops were committed to battle in Vietnam, Lt. Colonel Michienzi served as battalion commander.  His courageous leadership was most notably on display—again, I learned from the internet—during an intense three day battle in 1969 with North Vietnamese forces.

Jacques is a highly decorated veteran—several bronze stars, several silver stars, several purple hearts, the Legion of Merit and, most significantly, the Distinguished Service Cross.  The DSC, second only to the Medal of Honor, was awarded to him following the fierce 1969 firefights in Vietnam for—according to the citation—“his extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty.”

The club saluted Jacques Michienzi with a standing ovation.

Submitted by Allen Cronenberg

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