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Richard Couture
Army Historical Foundation
Arlington, Virginia

It Was Time to Say Thank You!

Richard Couture

Dick Couture is currently the Director of Donor Marketing and Database Management at the Army Historical Foundation, where he is responsible for the direct mail program, grassroots fundraising, and donor services support. Additionally, Dick has designed and developed the Registry of the American Soldier to recognize the service and sacrifice of soldiers at home and around the world, at war and in peace, from 1775 to the present.

Dick's relationship with the military dates back to 1970, when he joined the U.S. Army and served at the USA Computer Systems Command at Ft. Belvoir before transferring to the 94th Engineer Battalion in Germany.

After military service, Dick received his BS and MBA degrees from George Mason University. He began his career fundraising for the American Lung Association. After promotions to the New York headquarters, he relocated to the Washington, DC area and established the Fulfillment Center for the American Red Cross. Managing the national data and operations center in development, Dick helped grow their program from 100 chapters to more than 700 that participated in direct mail fundraising. The Fulfillment Center also supported national disaster fundraising, processing donations for Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew, as well as the California earthquake. For his efforts, Dick received the national staff Tiffany Award.

In 1998 Dick's career path led him to the American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) to spearhead the marketing efforts of a campaign to build a World War II memorial to honor the 16 million who served in the armed forces, the over 400,000 who died, and all those who supported the war effort at home, The idea for such a memorial was born in 1987 when a retired postal clerk in Cleveland, Ohio, asked his U.S. Representative why there was no memorial honoring the men and women of World War II. After confirming his claim, Congresswoman Mary Kaptur introduced legislation to create such a monument and it was signed into law in 1993. The design competition and approval process continued through 2000. Construction on the memorial began with a groundbreaking ceremony the fall of 2000, with 15,000 veterans in attendance. With over 1,000 WWII veterans dying every day, timely completion was critical.

Dick Couture not only led the direct marketing campaign for the Memorial, but also developed the World War II Registry of Remembrances, established to tell the stories - for the record and in their own words - of all who participated in the war - a war to fight tyranny and preserve the freedoms we enjoy today. Boys from the farms in the nation's heartland were fighting from the islands of the South Pacific to the North African Desert with the goal of stopping the cruel despot in Germany. Names and images from the many battle sites appear at the Memorial and online as well. Dick is proud that steps were taken to include this dynamic virtual monument and to make it free to honor the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans in uniform and on the homefront.

The dedication of the World War II Memorial and the Registry of Remembrances was a happy - and solemn - occasion that was the culmination of a four-day veterans reunion on the Washington Mall in May 2004. With more than 150,000 celebrants in attendance, it was the largest seated event ever held on the Mall, and it was a fitting tribute to the accomplishments of the men and women who helped win World War II and a defining event in the 20th century. The Memorial's placement, between the Washington Monument of the 18th century and the Lincoln Memorial of the 19th century, was most appropriate. Dick was instrumental in making the monument, the reunion, and the dedication a reality. Veterans, surviving spouses, and children of World War II veterans gathered for one last great roundup. Senators Dole and Inouye spoke of their experiences, as did Bob Feller, Mike Wallace, and ordinary soldiers who shaped, in so many ways, society today. Tom Hanks, in promoting the World War II Memorial, effectively used the campaign's slogan, "It's Time to Say Thank You," and echoed the gratitude felt for all who participated in the war.

Dick's work with the World War II Memorial was, in part, a tribute to his father, Al Couture, who joined the Army in 1943. Fresh out of high school in Norwich, Connecticut, he found his wings stateside and, with five other flight crews, joined the 456th bomb squadron out of Stornara, Italy. The other four planes were shot down, attesting to the dangers the men routinely faced in battle and the bravery they displayed as the losses mounted. They did what was necessary, and they succeeded. "Dad flew 28 missions before the war ended. At the 60th anniversary commemoration of the end of WWII, the bomb group had its 61st anniversary celebration in Washington, DC. Sixty-five surviving members enjoyed the engaging ribaldry and camaraderie. Families attended with great pride in what our fathers had done so many years earlier. During the banquet, my father had me stand to be recognized for my efforts to raise money and help build the Memorial. That made all my work worth it."

To capture for posterity the experiences of the common soldier, Dick Couture joined the staff of the Army Historical Foundation in July 2005. He is working to create the National Museum of the U.S. Army. Dick is also designing the Registry of the American Soldier as an important and powerful element of the commemorative mission of the Museum - to represent the 230-year history of all involved with the Army.

Dick's passion and talents not only serve to honor those involved with America's armed forces and the missions they accomplished, but also to preserve for America's future generations the individual names and faces behind those efforts.


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