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He was inducted into the Army on June 9, 1966, going to Fort Bliss, Texas, for basic training. On Aug. 7, 1966, Ricky was assigned to advanced infantry training until Dec. 3, 1966, at Fort Polk, La.
He served in Vietnam from Dec. 3, 1966, to Dec. 2, 1967. He was with the Rifleman Co C 4th Battalion 9th Infantry 25th Infantry Division. He fought in the Cu Chi region of the Mekong Delta. He carried the M60 machine gun and did so proudly.
During his tour of duty, he was captured twice by the Viet Cong, escaping both times. He received wounds from shrapnel. Some shrapnel was never removed.
Ricky rarely spoke of one escape from capture. He would not elaborate on the second escape. During his tour of duty, his parents were told that he had been killed in action; his mother, Helen, saw her son on the news that same night. She did not believe that he had been killed. A few days later, he contacted his parents by mail that he was fine.
Richard Grant Girardin was awarded the following medals: National Defense Service Medal, Expert Rifleman Badge with rifle bar, Marksman Badge with automatic rifle and machine gun bar, Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Star attachment, Republic of Vietnam Campaign with Device and Combat Infantry Badge.
After his separation from active duty on Jan. 4, 1968, he returned to Pagosa Springs to begin his life as a civilian. He remained in the Army Reserves until 1972. Upon his return, he worked for the San Juan Lumber Company as a log truck driver. He also worked on the family ranch east of Pagosa. He later worked for the Town of Pagosa Springs in the water department before taking a job with Archuleta County Road and Bridge. He worked as an equipment operator until his retirement.
Ricky dearly loved to fish and hunt. He also had a passion for taking long hikes in these majestic mountains he knew from birth. Ricky was known for his long stride and endurance. We all tried so hard to follow that stride when hunting, fishing or hiking in the forests that he so loved. His daughter Rebeccah and nephew David Girardin laugh about the times they, as children, tried so hard to match his stride and step in his footprints.
Ricky married Pam Swietzer on Jan. 29, 1974, in Pagosa Springs. To this union, three children were born: Rebeccah, Rachael and Richard. He was preceded in death by his parents, infant daughter Rachel in 1974, and teenage son Richard in 1999.
He is survived by his daughter, Rebeccah, and son-in-law, Russell Apodaca; grandchildren, Justin and Michael Apodaca, of Pagosa Springs; aunt and uncle June and Faye Sweat, of Aurora, Colo.; best friends Mencor and Janet Valdez, of Arboles; brother and sister-in-law Raymond and Susan Girardin, of Pagosa Springs; brother Robert Girardin, of Pagosa Springs; nieces Yevonne Boren and fiancé Dan, of Durango; Kerri Hawkins, of Branson, Mo.; nephew David and Suzanne Girardin, of Pagosa Springs; nephew Bobby Girardin, of Pagosa Springs; and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews and cousins … too many to list but, everyone was important to him.
Ricky was a devoted life member with 28 years of continuous membership in the American Legion Post 108 of Pagosa Springs. During this time, he served as post commander in 1987 and 1988. He was post adjutant in 2000. He was on many committees to include bingo, flag disposal and highway cleanup.
He single-handedly made it his mission to volunteer to locate every veteran’s grave in Archuleta County’s 14 cemeteries.
For so many years, Ricky made sure that, on every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, a flag was placed at the grave of each located. If a veteran had no family to clean their grave, it was Ricky who worked long hours doing so. Traveling thousands of miles crossing the county and surrounding area yearly never deterred this man from his mission … to make sure that every veteran is honored. Today, we honor you, Ricky.
Ricky carried with him the demons of war and things he experienced. In true Ricky fashion, he never told anyone much at all, if anything, about those demons. He shared them only with God. He did not believe in burdening others with his problems. This is so true in the manner in which he chose to not share the diagnosis of cancer or how badly his body was being ravaged by it. Most of us learned only a few weeks ago about this battle he was in. His battle with cancer ended Feb. 18.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Richard, which will be held on Saturday, March 1, at 1 p.m. at the American Legion Post 108 and Pagosa Springs Town Park. Everyone is invited to join the family for a potluck dinner. Please bring a dish, chair and a story to share. If the weather is bad, services will be at the CSU Extension building.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to American Legion Post 108, P.O. Box 1655, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147.
Thank you for all your support.