“I wouldn’t take back that time for anything.” Roy Bechard, SRP client, highly values his time in the Navy serving in the Vietnam war because it helped shape his highest values. “I got a world of experiences in those 4 years.” While Roy definitely visited “the world” from Hawaii to Alaska, Hong Kong, Thailand, Bangkok, Okinawa, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Samoan Islands, Yokosuka and Vietnam, it’s not just his travels that gave him “experience.”
Roy graduated from high school in Pierre, South Dakota in 1966 and knew college wasn’t his next step. He and his brother, only a year and a half apart in age, both decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy. Roy was sent to San Diego to begin his bootcamp training, his brother was sent to Chicago.
Roy was then sent to extensive special training which included weapons training and survival training in Coronado, CA. This is where he was put on the USS CarterHall LSD3 (Landing Ship Dock) and was sent to the Philippines on temporary assignment. Not long after being stationed in the Philippines, Roy was sent to Yokosuka, Japan to be part of the NBG1 (Naval Beach Group #1.) For the next 3 and a half years, he would go back and forth between Japan and Vietnam on beach landing assault operations. His last assignment was the last month of his duty. In April 1970, he was on the USS Iwo Jima headed to the Samoan Islands to pick up Apollo-13 . Roy exited the Navy with these 4 ribbons: Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, National Defense Service Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal and Republic of Vietnam Ribbon.
At 25, he used his GI bill and went to trade school to become an electrician. He eventually became a master electrician which is the highest level of achievement in the trade. He recalled a conversation where he was told that “if he couldn’t last in the Navy, he’d never make it in the real world.” “I made it,” he said with a chuckle. He got his first electrician job in Gillette, Wyoming in 1974 and has lived there ever since.
After 18 years in electrical work, Roy suffered a life debilitating injury that led to permanent disability in 1994. He had stepped on 100 amps with one foot and 50 amps with the other which sent him into such extreme convulsions that he broke his own back. Roy has been fused from his T1 vertebrae all the way to his sacrum. “It broke my heart. I loved working and helping people.” Roy recalls visiting the grocery story parking lot, after his injury, where the crew would meet for carpooling. He’d watch the crew leave, one by one, in their cars towards jobs. He wept while he watched. That season was over and it was a grieving process to leave it behind.
“I always keep myself busy trying to help people. I also drink a lot of coffee with friends.” While Roy’s career had a sudden and premature ending, his heart for serving people didn’t. Even with an injury, he finds ways to connect and help whenever and wherever he can. Roy is one of the first SRP clients in Gillette and we give a lot of credit to him helping build our SRP community in that area. While retirement didn’t come in the way you had envisioned, Roy, you have made a wonderful life of impact, learning from your experiences and allowing that to benefit others. Thank you for your service, in and out of the Navy.