MISSOULA — MISSOULA - A St. Regis man was honored with the Bronze Star for his bravery during the Vietnam War in Missoula's Rose Park on Tuesday.
October 7, 1967, is a day that Ed Fontaine will remember for the rest of his life. “When that fire opened up… I said ‘Oh, suicide,’ we just got told to go up on a hill,” Fontaine recalled
It was a hill that exposed him and his unit to enemies, and at just 18 years old, the machine gunner in the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division, was faced with a choice.
“And he knew what I was saying," said Fontaine. "He says,’ I'll go if you go.’ We both know that meant, ‘I'll die if you die.’”
As he was 20 meters away from the enemy, he shot and all went quiet, buying his unit valuable time to go on fighting.
It was Fontaine's bravery more than 50 years ago that earned him six military honors, including a Purple Heart — and now the Bronze Star, given to those who show heroic service in a combat zone.
But Fontaine says he couldn’t have done it without the grace of God, describing his actions that day as a miracle.
“Specialist Fontaine said to me that ‘This medal is important to me because it documents a miracle,’” said Father Griego, who accepted the medal on behalf of Fontaine.
Montana's U.S. Representative Matt Rosendale presented the Bronze Star to Fontaine.
“Giving honor to a gentleman who risked his life against all odds to make sure that other people were saved is really an incredible honor," Rosendale told MTN News.
The woman who has stood by Fontaine's side for 50 years says she is overcome with pride by her husband’s actions.
“So proud of him," said Fontaine's wife Debbie. "I know you're not supposed to be prideful, but I'm just overjoyed that this has happened…the miracle got recognized.”
Once he left the US Army, Fontaine continued to serve his community as an educator for at-risk students.
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