Lareau is a hometown hero

MIKE LAREAU, currently is a member of St. Juvin Post 1336 Veterans of Foreign Wars based in Coal City. His Air Force uniform is currently on display in the Coal City Public Library’s Hometown Heroes display. Courtesy photos

U.S. AIR FORCE Sgt. Michael E. Lareau receives the Bronze Star Medal from Col. Joseph C Secino, commander of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang AFB, Republic of Vietnam in 1969.

In April 2017, the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, St. Juvin Post 1336 Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Coal City Public Library District partnered to honor veterans by displaying local veterans' uniforms and memorabilia just inside the library main entrance.
The first uniform displayed was Charles O. Brown Sr.'s WWI winter service jacket and overseas cap. This was followed by James (Hoppy) Phillips' Marine Corps uniform and Irv Dewald's Navy Chief Petty Officer dress blue uniform. Currently on display is the Air Force uniform worn by Vietnam vet and holder of the Bronze Star Medal, Michael E. Lareau.
The community is encouraged to stop by and see this display.
Raised in rural Reddick, Lareau graduated from Reddick High school in 1965 and enrolled in Caterpillar Tractor Company's four year tool and die maker training course. As the Vietnam War intensified Lareau saw some of his classmates and others he knew called up in the draft.
Checking with his local draft board he discovered that he would be inducted shortly and like many others he wanted a say in how he served and a chance to get some technical training in exchange for an additional two years of active duty service, so in June 1966 he enlisted in the Air Force for a four-year tour.
After basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, he was assigned to Lowery AFB near Denver, Colorado for technical training as a Weapons Systems Mechanic for the F4 Phantom fighter/bomber. On completion of his training he was assigned to the 366th Munitions Maintenance Squadron of the 366th Fighter Wing at McDill AFB Tampa, Florida.
When the U.S. involvement in Vietnam ramped up the 366th Wing was staged to Egland AFB Pensacola, Florida for movement to Da Nang AFB Republic of Vietnam.
Shortly after Lareau's arrival at Da Nang the North Koreans shot down a U.S. Navy EC-121 surveillance aircraft operating in international airspace about 90 miles southeast of Chonjin, North Korea, resulting in increased tensions on the Korean peninsula. Portions of the 366th Wing, including Lareau's maintenance unit, were sent to Kunsan AFB, South Korea in the event of armed conflict with North Korea. After seven weeks at Kunsan it was back to Da Nang and the more immediate conflict.
On Aug. 22, 1969, during one of the many rocket attacks by the Viet Cong on the Da Nang complex, which were a nearly daily occurrence, Lareau led firefighting efforts which saved a large supply warehouse, materials stored in the building and several vehicles.
For his “exemplary leadership, personal endeavor and devotion to duty” Lareau was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the nation's fifth highest decoration given in a combat zone.
He completed his tour in Vietnam and was discharged at Norton AFB, California in April 1970.
Lareau married Sharon Joyce in 1968 and when he returned from service they settled in Coal City and he went back to Caterpillar where he worked for 33 years. The couple raised four children— Mark, Denise, Kimberly and Brian.
His service didn't end with his discharge from the Air Force. He served 20 years with the Coal City Emergency Squad and 19 years with the Coal City Fire Protection District. He also served on the Boy Scouts Rainbow Council Board, Jaycees, the Coal City Park Board, was president of the Little League Board and the village of Coal City Economic Counsel.
Presently he is a Braceville Township Board member, president of the Braceville-Gardner Cemetery Association and chairman of the Coal City Police and Fire Board and is a member of St. Juvin Post 1336.