Veteran Nick Bacon memorialized
Nicky Daniel Bacon, a true American hero, was memorialized on Saturday, July 23, at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.
Family, friends and comrades gathered at the committal shelter at the cemetery to pay tribute to Arkansas last living Medal of Honor recipient. The five fellow MOH representatives present included Leo Thorsness, Robert Patterson, Walter Marm, James Fleming, and Gary LIttrell.
The memorial service began at 11 a.m. at the Veterans Cemetery on West Maryland Avenue and was followed with a reception at the Professional Education Center Militia Hall at Camp Joseph T. Robinson.
"Nick (Bacon) could have had his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery with all the honors and status that came with it," Retired Colonel Tom W. Thomas said. "But he wanted his services held here. As former Arkansas Veterans Administration director he played an accentual part in bringing the cemetery to this area. This place meant a lot to him. He also requested that the Arkansas National Guard to be in charge of the services."
In April 1993, Bacon was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs by Governor Jim Guy Tucker. He was re-appointed by Governor Mike Huckabee and served until February 2005. Both former governors were in attendance and praised Bacon for his untiring zeal on behalf of servicemen and veterans.
"Nick (Bacon) not only earned the Medal of Honor, but his life reflected it in the way he wore the medal," Governor Mike Beebe said. " Until the day he died he was doing all he could to help others. It was horrid and despicable how the Viet Nam veterans were treated when they came home. We will never be able to right the wrong for the way they were treated. We come today to pay tribute to honor a true hero of that war. Through all he went through, he had a good sense of humor and was optimistic about America's future. Nick was a close personal friend of mine and I will miss him."
Preceding the service Gov. Beebe presented Bacon's widow, Tamara Himmerick Bacon, with a Pat Matthews print titled "Our Flag." All six of Bacon's children were present for the presentation and services. They included Kristy DeKort, Kempner, Texas; Kim Beck, Gatesville, Texas; William Bacon-Tonika, Bella Vista; Staff Sgt. James Bacon, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Wyatt Bacon, Russellville and Britt Bacon, Rose Bud.
Col. Tom Thomas provided the eulogy at the memorial, with reflections from MOH Leo Thorsness, former State Senator Stanley Russ, Former Governor Jim Guy Tucker and Governor Mike Beebe. Full military honors were provided by the Arkansas National Guard.
"Nick had the right stuff," Russ said. "He had ambition, a fitness to guide and was a true leader. He had a servant's heart."
After a 21-gun salute and the presentation of the flag to Bacon's widow, four Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters flew over the committal shelter in "Missing Man Formation," per Bacon's request.
The State Military Order of Purple Heart Commander Tom Vaughn presented Mrs. Bacon with a commemorative medal from the organization on behalf of her husband, who was a Purple Heart Medal recipient.
"Nick was a very religious man," Pastor Gene Cunningham said. "He read and studied the Bible. He was a dear friend to me in every way. I felt honored that he selected me to bring his service message today.
"Many people knew Nick as a legend, but I knew him as a brother. God had a plan for Nick Bacon. He was a warrior but he had a sense of humor. He stood by me always. He was a loving husband, a loving father, and a great friend."
"Nick saved my life in Viet Nam," Retired Army General Bob Griffin said. "He wouldn't leave me there, even though I was wounded and near death. He refused to go. Anything I have ever done, or hope to do, I owe thanks to Nick Bacon. He believed in doing things right."
"Nick made a long trip from his home in Rose Bud in November 2008, even though his health was failing," AVA Director David Fletcher said. "He went back to his hometown to speak to Riverside High School students in November 2008 and continued on to Buffalo Island Central High School to do the same. He was completely fatigued when he left but was so proud to shake the hands of students and encourage them.
"He was born in Caraway and never forgot where he came from. He had a brick engraved and put at the Jonesboro Veterans Memorial downtown. Judge Dale Haas had two "Home of MOH Winner Nick Bacon" signs placed at both entrances to Caraway. That was what Nick was all about, loyalty and encouragement."