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Public encouraged to come show support for Pearl Harbor survivor

Posted at 4:44 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 18:37:52-04

Members of Church Point’s VFW Post 9903, American Legion Post 225, and Legion Rider Post 225 have organized a special trip for the state’s last known survivor of Pearl Harbor, Sunset’s Joe Richard. At 97 years old, Richard remains a fixture at meetings and his fellow veterans are taking him on a road trip to the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

“They got a bunch of them motorcycles escorting me all the way, I can’t wait,” said Richard. “I’m really proud to be going, they say it’s something to see.”

Richard will depart Thursday morning from Church Point in a motorcade fit for a hero. Organizers say along his journey, he’ll have an escort provided by Louisiana State Police, legion riders, patriot guard motorcyclists, and Texas Highway Patrol.

“Initially we’ll probably have ten motorcycles and maybe six vehicles, but I think it will progress as we go down the road,” said organizer and fellow veteran Ted Stout.

Richard enlisted in the Navy at the age of 16 and shortly after he was assigned to the USS Rigel, which was docked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941- a day that would change Richard’s life forever.

“I did my duty for my country,” said Richard. “It’s like yesterday, you don’t forget that. You try but you can’t.”

In the weeks after the attack, Richard, who was trained as a welder, went boat to boat searching for survivors. He’s credited with helping rescue 33 from the USS Arizona and 3 from the USS Oklahoma.

“The saddest part is the ones we couldn’t save to get out of there,” said Richard. "That just breaks my heart.”

His storied life of service is an inspiration for his comrades. A conversation a few years back with legion rider Ted Stout prompted an idea.

“He was asking me about places I had been on my motorcycle, and I was telling him about the museum in Fredericksburg and he had a desire to go there,” said Stout. “He’s just a great fella and I’m just so glad our paths have crossed, and I can spend some time with him.”

Richard is still active at the VFW and American Legion, and says he has no plans on slowing down. When asked what his secret to longevity was, he replied “Good loving, good whiskey, and good food. You can’t beat that!”

The public is encouraged to come out and show support for Mr. Richard as the motorcade leaves Thursday morning. They will meet at Rod’s Thrifty Mart in Church Point at 7:30 a.m. and depart at 8:00 a.m. sharp.

“You can’t say enough,” said Richard about the support he’s receiving for the trip. “It’s unbelievable, who’d dreamed that. Country boy done good!”

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