By Jean Dubiel
Guardian Staff Writer
FORT POLK, La. — A dozen school friends from the New Iberia Senior High School Class of 1969 visited Fort Polk April 26 to attend a ceremony for the newly-named Lancon Soldier Centered Medical Home in bldg 1260. They wanted to be there for the official naming of the building because Spc. Larry Joseph Lancon, a Soldier and combat medic killed in action in Vietnam, was their classmate, and this year marks the 50th reunion for the class of 1969.
Lancon was born in New Iberia, Louisiana Dec. 22, 1950. After high school, he joined the Army and served in Vietnam with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Mobile). He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Lancon was accompanying a friendly force up a steep, densely vegetated hill when the lead element came under intense fire from a well-entrenched enemy. While under enemy fire, he skillfully applied first aid to a wounded soldier and assisted him to a rear position. Lancon then returned to the area of contact to retrieve two more wounded comrades. Though fatally wounded by enemy fire, he continued to treat his fellow Soldiers and assist them to safety until he collapsed.
Lancon’s other awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Combat Medic Badge. He is also an inductee into the State of Louisiana Military Hall of Fame in Abbeville, Louisiana.
Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank, commanding general, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, said the Lancon Soldier Centered Medical Home takes care of soldiers every day, primarily those for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
“There is probably no greater devotion than being a combat medic,” he said. “We have a theme here at Fort Polk which we call ‘Forging the Warrior Spirit.” Across the U.S. Army we call that the ‘Warrior Ethos,’ and inside that ethos we talk about never leaving a fallen comrade. Lancon lived the Warrior Ethos, which is why he returned (to the area of contact) to aid those men.”
Frank said that each day, when the soldiers of the 3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div enter the facility for medical aid, Lancon’s spirit lives on. “When the Patriot Soldiers enter here they will know this building is named after a hero, and they will be inspired by what he did on a battlefield half a world away in Vietnam many years ago.”
Robbie Leblanc was one of the alumni in attendance. He said he remembered Lancon as a quiet and reserved individual, down-to-earth and always friendly. Both men ended up serving in the Army. “After high school I came to Fort Polk in 1970 for basic training, and in my fifth week we found out that Larry got killed in Vietnam,” he said. “It really touched my heart because I was a classmate of his and I really wanted to be here today, and it just so happened that this is also our 50th high school reunion, and Larry got picked out of so many Soldiers to have his name on a building. That is prestigious.”
Ronnie Bodin was a close friend of Lancon. He explained that in 1969, there was a draft and everyone either went to college or into the military. “There was an early enlistment program that allowed you to sign up while you were still in high school. Larry did the early enlistment and shortly after graduation he went to boot camp, then came home briefly to marry his high school sweetheart,” he said. “Then he left for Vietnam — and didn’t come back.”
Bodin said he has thought about his friend often through the years, and wondered if anyone else would ever remember him. “This building being named after him means he will be remembered even after the rest of us are long gone, which I think is appropriate,” said Bodin. “He should be remembered for the great guy that he was.”