As a lifelong military historian, and an experienced military history author and researcher, I have sought to actively share the importance of military history and heritage to my fellow Americans. As a Soldier, I did the very same during my many years serving as a Drill Sergeant, and a Drill Sergeant Leader. Now, as a seasoned Military Science (MS) collegiate instructor at the University of Dayton (Ohio), I passionately teach, impart, and extol the powerful lessons of military history and leadership to my Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Cadet students.
In order to provide my developing future Army Soldiers and officers more substantial and palpable benefits than what academic and class studies allow, I have resolved to invite to our class persons that would bring history alive, give us a unique window and portal to the past, and speak directly about relevant lessons of leadership, dedication, and honor demonstrated by Army Soldiers.
With this goal in mind, I invited a local friend and a Gold Star wife, Cindy LaPointe-Dafler, to my MS2 sophomore class in November 2020 to share her stories, memories, and insights of her late husband, U.S. Army Specialist 4th Class Joseph Guy LaPointe, Jr.
In early 1968, Guy applied for entry into a local college, hoping to enroll in the Fall semester. But soon after, in April, he received his draft notice for military service. He would receive his college acceptance letter only two weeks later. As the son of a WW2 Veteran, Guy was determined that he would serve and not avoid what he considered was his solemn duty, but he maintained personal reservations about being trained as a combatant since he did not believe in taking lives.
Courtesy photo: Cindy LaPointe-Dafler
Soon after arriving at Army Basic Training at Ft. Benning, Ga., in early May 1968, Guy declared himself a Conscientious Objector and was reclassified to become a Combat Medic, rather than an Infantryman.
Following Basic Training he was granted a short leave period, and he and Cindy were married in Englewood, Ohio. Following, he was sent to AIT at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, to be trained as a Combat Medic. After AIT and another short leave period at home, Guy deployed to Vietnam in early November 1968, and was eventually assigned to 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, of the 1st Cavalry Division. As a completely dedicated and utterly selfless Medic, he performed exceptionally, and was soon awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star for valor.
In late May 1969, Guy was eligible to take his allotted week long break from combat, and he planned on flying to Hawaii to see Cindy and their infant son. On 02 June, he was scheduled to depart his basecamp to begin his combat break, the same day his unit was to begin a combat sweep mission. When the incoming replacement Medic was delayed in arriving, Guy ignored his orders and instead joined his unit heading to the field to ensure they had Medic support.
Early into the mission heavy enemy contact was made, and Guy again selflessly ran to the aid of two seriously wounded Troopers, shielding them with his own body, but he was mortally wounded by enemy fire and grenades, and died. For this act of superhuman valor and utter selflessness he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, which his family received in January 1972. Upon Guy’s death in Vietnam, Cindy was a 19-year old widow, and the sole parent of the son Guy would never meet.
After processing and carrying the grief, sorrow, and loss of Guy over the next 30 years, Cindy now actively speaks about Guy, his vivacious spirit, their time together, and his Army service. Additionally, as a proud and active member of the Gold Star Wives of America organization, Cindy also shares the difficult experiences and challenges of families who lose a loved one in war, saying, “Not everyone mourns the same, not everyone feels the same, not everyone takes as long as it does others to start living again.”
In her visit to my MS2 class, I asked Cindy about Guy’s intent to serve honorably in the military, not as a combatant, but as a Medic. She replied this decision was a direct extension of Guy’s selfless spirit to help others in any way or form, and shaped him in being the exceptional Medic that he was, and one of the most loved and admired Soldiers in his unit.
Unforgettably, at the end of her visit, Cindy also graced and humbled us by showing Guy’s original encased Medal of Honor, which the students were able to inspect closely. It was a magical moment that perfectly personified Cindy’s powerful testimony, and also fully symbolized the life, service, and valor of Guy.
Courtesy photo: Cindy LaPointe-Dafler
After the class, I asked my students for feedback on their thoughts and reactions to Cindy speaking to them about Guy. One replied, “Guy being a Medic really stood out to me, because as someone who hopes to make a career in the medical field, it is incredibly inspiring to see heroism from a Medic.” Another student stated, “We have talked about brave warriors all year, but listening to Cindy really brought to light the fact that they are all human beings just like us. It is important for us to remember all who have served; however, I personally feel that it is equally important to care for the Family members of those veterans and Soldiers.”
And as I had hoped and expected, by inviting Cindy to personally and intimately share with my students her firsthand, impactful, and vivid testimony of Guy’s amazing life, and directly relate stories of his heroic service as a Soldier, she clearly demonstrated and imparted to my future Soldiers and Leaders the timeless and powerful lessons of history, heritage, leadership, and the Army Values.
So perhaps as my students grow as citizens, Soldiers, and Leaders, these stories and insights from Cindy LaPointe-Dafler will place small pieces of integrity, courage, and selflessness from SP4 Guy LaPointe, Jr. into their personal rucksack of character, that they will carry and use the rest of their lives.