October 8, 1946 (Westport, CT) to December 15, 1967; 21 years old
Unmarried; engaged to Janice L. Aprea (1947-2021) of Stuart Avenue in Norwalk on April 4, 1967.
Last local address: Lyncrest Drive, Norwalk, and 5 Winker Lane, Westport
Enlistment date is unknown
MOS: 11B40, Infantry
Tour Start Date: March 24, 1967
Service number: RA11433127
Unit: 25th Infantry Division, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, A Company
Born to Alexander Z. (1920-1998) and Anne C. McMullen Paquin (1919-2008). One sister, Susan Paquin White (1954-).
Casualty Location: Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam (3 others died in the same incident)
Awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart Medal.
From The Norwalk Hour December 18, 1967
A 21-year-old Norwalk native died Friday in the Central Highlands of Vietnam hours after he suffered internal wounds from a Viet Cong shell barrage. Sergeant Michael Paquin, son of Mrs. Anne Paquin of Winker Lane, Westport, had returned to a U.S. Army base camp after a search and destroy operation along the Cambodian border when the barrage began. He had previously received the Purple Heart Medal for a wound suffered in September during a search and destroy mission. The five feet, six-inch, slightly built patrol leader had been in action almost continuously since arriving in Vietnam last March with elements of the 22nd Infantry Division. There had been several near misses before, according to reports received by his family. Mrs. Paquin was notified Sunday of her son’s death. One of the first people she notified was Miss Janice Aprea of 113 Stuart Avenue to whom her son had become engaged before leaving for overseas duty. They had planned to marry in April upon the conclusion of his tour in Southeast Asia. Sergeant Paquin is the ninth Norwalker to die in the Vietnam War, the sixth this year, and the fourth Army man. He was born the son of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Paquin and lived most of his young life on Lyncrest Drive in East Norwalk. He graduated from Fitch School and Nathan Hale Junior High. He attended Central Catholic for a short while before enlisting at the age of 17. He completed a three-year tour with the Army last spring and returned home for a brief period, but decided to reenlist so that he could serve in Vietnam. He had previously served overseas in Europe. Among the survivors are a sister, Susan, aged 13, maternal grandmother, Mrs. Bessie McMullen of 12 Larsen Street, and several uncles, and aunts. One uncle, Joseph McMullen, is the supervisor of mail at the Norwalk Post Office. Arrangements will be in the charge of Collins Funeral Home.
From The Norwalk Hour December 19, 1967
DEAD GI’S LAST LETTERS — “PLAN ON ATTENDING MY WEDDING”
“As I’ve learned, live for the present. Tomorrow, don’t worry about it. It may never come.” Sergeant Michael Paquin, a Norwalk native who died Friday in Vietnam, wrote those words to his mother in one of many letters over the course of the last nine months. He also wrote: “I don’t want to scare you. Charlie isn’t going to get me. Not as long as I can help it. So plan on attending my wedding on April 6th.” Mrs. Anna Paquin of Winker Lane, Westport, lived somewhere in between the extremes of those sentiments all during the period of her son’s overseas assignment in Vietnam. She vacillated, like the mothers of countless other GIs between periods of pessimism and deep depression and periods of optimism and high exuberance. Sergeant Paquin who hadn’t really “found himself” until he enlisted in the Army almost four years ago, wasn’t a soldier who could return to the U.S. and say he’d never seen a Viet Cong. He was out in the field on the front lines of the Cambodian border for 27 out of every 30 days. He had become battle-hardened to the complexities of his environment and the hardships encountered in it and yet, his letters showed compassion for the Vietnamese and knowledge of the world outside of Vietnam. He indicated a preference for the search and destroy missions rather than the waiting periods at the base camps where Charlie could sneak up and lob in mortar rounds or rifle grenades. “When you’re out in the jungle, anything ahead is Charlie. But in a village, you feed a kid candy, and the next minute he might get you.” The missions had other advantages: “The next time I get a bath will be when we’re on an operation and we find a bomb crater filled with water.” He spoke of the pains the Americans took to prevent killing innocent Vietnamese and the wanton massacre of those same people by the Viet Cong. He spoke of one occasion when he had seen two native women and a man drive by on a scooter, past his squad. Moments ahead on a dirt road the three were dismembered and killed by an exploding Viet Cong mine. “All this talk about us killing civilians (which isn’t true) then the VC plant mines hitting their own women. It makes you stop and think.” Sergeant Paquin also had something to say about the new rifle, the M-16, which caused such a ruckus in the press a few months ago. “Don’t listen to all that. If we keep it clean and the ammunition clean, it’s the most beautiful weapon in the world. I feel confident with it. There was only one time it didn’t fire and that was because it was dirty.” He mentioned the “Letters From Home” in reference to a story in it telling of a high honor awarded to Mark Brennan, another Westporter serving in Vietnam. “He and I used to have some good battles when we were kids. I’m going to look him up over here.” As for morale, he had this to say one day after coming back to base camp from 28 days of patrolling along the border. Many of the boys had nothing to look forward to except three days’ rest and back to the front. But Sergeant Paquin found a package from “The Folks Back Home.” “All this misery I’m going through. You wonder sometimes, is it worth it? Then something like this happens and you know it’s all worthwhile. They are really nice people.” He asked his mother to send another package and gave a hint to all those who have friends or relatives in Vietnam when he advised: “make it plenty of Kool-Aid and cans of soup that you can open and heat in the can.” Sergeant Paquin had become engaged just before going overseas to Miss Janice Aprea of 113 Stuart Avenue. He spoke of her with deep love, even reverence. His words reveal that this emotion sustained him even in the most difficult times. “I’m always thinking of April 6th when Jan and I will marry. I knew she was a great gal when I asked her to be my wife. I know now how wonderful she really is. Her faithful letters and packages have bound our love. April 6th can’t come soon enough for me.”
From The Norwalk Hour December 29, 1967
The lonely wail of a snow-muted bugle was heard in St. John’s Cemetery Thursday near noon as the body of Sergeant Michael B. Paquin was laid to rest. A large assemblage huddled beneath and around a small canopy near the gravesite as the city’s ninth victim of the Vietnam War was buried with full military honors. The son of Mrs. Anne McMullen Paquin of Winkler Lane, Westport, and Alexander Paquin of Terryville, died December 15 in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He had lived almost his entire life on Lyncrest Place where his mother still owns a home she planned for his eventual use. “Taps” was preceded by the traditional rifle volley of salute to the 21-year-old Army veteran of four year’s service who had planned to marry upon his return from Vietnam in April. A special burial detail from Fort Hamilton, New York, handled the casket, folded the flag, and performed the military rites. Earlier, some 200 mourners had attended a solemn mass of requiem at St. Thomas the Apostle Church where Reverend John J. Smalley was the celebrant. Mayor Frank N. Zullo and Police Chief Francis E. Virgulak were among those who attended the services and burial. Sergeant Paquin died two hours after being hit by shrapnel from a rifle grenade during a barrage upon a base camp by the Viet Cong. He had just returned from a 27-day search and destroy maneuver along the Cambodian border. The barrage came into camp just as he was alighting from a troop carrier with several buddies. Some of them received superficial wounds. The sergeant died at a field hospital to which he had been taken by helicopter after the Viet Cong had been flushed from the perimeter of the camp. He had told his mother in letters home: “Charlie won’t get me if I have anything to do about it.” The sergeant evidently didn’t have any chance to protect himself from the sudden grenade barrage from the brush.”
From The Norwalk Hour May 28, 1968
Sergeant Michael B. Paquin, son of Mrs. Anne Paquin of Winkler Lane, Westport, has been awarded posthumously, the Bronze Star Medal for outstanding meritorious service. Sergeant Paquin died December 15, 1967, in Vietnam after suffering fragmentation wounds during a Viet Cong shell barrage in the Central Highlands. The citation states:
By direction of the President, the Bronze Star Medal is presented posthumously to Staff Sergeant Michael B. Paquin for distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam during the period of March 24, 1967, to December 15, 1967. Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results. He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he was faced as a result of the ever-changing situations inherent in a counter-insurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems. The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States’ mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the Communist threat to its freedom. His initiative, zeal, sound judgment, and devotion to duty have been in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflect great credit on him and on the military service.”
Sergeant Paquin was hit by fragments after returning to base camp following a three-week search and destroy mission along the Cambodian border. He died shortly afterward. He was attached to the 22nd Infantry Division. In a letter to his mother, he had once said that he preferred search-and-destroy missions to assignments to base camps. “When you’re out in the jungle, anything ahead is Charlie, but back at base camp, Charlie can sneak up and lob mortar rounds or grenades in on us.” Sergeant Paquin had been in combat almost continuously from the moment he arrived in Vietnam until he died. He had been wounded in September and hospitalized for three weeks before he demanded reassignment to his old company. He lived most of his life on Lyncrest Drive in this city. His mother had moved to Westport only recently. He lived to be 21 years old.
A recollection received from his sister, Susan White via Facebook message on May 20, 2022
Michael loved the clarinet and used to take lessons to play. Michael could whistle with the best of them. He tried so hard to teach me.
From thewall-usa.com by Roger Cote September 8, 2001
With him when he died. A career soldier, Paquin was a dedicated hard working infantry squad leader at all times. He volunteered for Vietnam to do his duty to share in his countrymen’s burden of war. His death was a real tragedy. He was another of America’s heroes. I will never forget him. Roger H. Cote Vietnam 2/67 to 1/68 A Co. 2/22 Inf. 3rd. Bde. 25th Inf. Div.
NOTE: Also killed in action in the same incident were SP4 Thomas B. Chambers (53811098) of Memphis, Tennessee on 12/16/1967 from his wounds, PFC Hopson Covington (62002293) of Rockingham, North Carolina on 12/29/1967 from his wounds, and PFC Stephen J. Whipple (11914608) of Portland, Maine on 12/15/1967. Heroes, all.
Staff Sergeant Paquin is buried in St. John’s Cemetery, 223 Richards Avenue, Norwalk, Connecticut; Veterans Section, Grave 42. Photo by webmaster.