ABC6 Honors: Tom Suprock, a Vietnam veteran for the ages
SOUTH KINGSTOWN (ABC6- WLNE) – Vietnam veteran Thomas G. Suprock was laid to rest February 17 with full military honors at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery. HE died at the age of 66 of an unspecified heart incident on February 9.
Tom was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, a family man and a fierce advocate for veterans.
"Today is like Superman passed away. Superman's not supposed to die because that's the type of man Tom Suprock was. To friends, to veterans, to family,” said Gary Larroe, a close friend of Tom’s. “He was the greatest man I've ever known in my lifetime."
Gary and Tom met when they were serving in Vietnam together. Tom was the LOACH helicopter pilot and Gary was his right-hand-man as his gunner.
In the LOACH it was their job to fly into enemy territory first and their goal was to be fired upon so the Viet Cong would reveal their position.
Tom was shot down many times. One time it was with Gary and that experience not only brought them closer, but showed Gary what type of man Tom truly was.
"He was shot up and his first words, his first concern, was for me. That was Tom Suprock," said Gary. "Just the greatest pilot I ever flew with."
Tom earned 24 medals of valor in his time in the service, including the Purple Heart, the Rhode Island Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
But he also came home with other markings of his time in Vietnam. Tom suffered from PTSD and many injuries that took their toll on his body.
Tom had a morphine pump constantly helping with the pain in his mutilated spine.
“Tom was in a lot of pain all the time, but it never stopped him from helping anybody who asked him for help,” said Tom’s wife Susanne Suprock. “He got calls in the night and he'd go out and help somebody."
Tom was perhaps best known for his willingness to help anyone and everyone.
He was especially dedicated to veterans affairs. Tom was instrumental in helping build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Rhode Island and he spoke there every Veterans Day and Memorial Day, using his speeches to motivate others in the veterans community to step up.
Tom also spoke at countless schools, sharing his war stories that he believed were so important for kids to know.
For the newer veterans, he saw a particular need.
"When he got out of Vietnam, they weren't as nice to Vietnam vets and he wanted to make sure that the Iraqi kids got a good welcome home. That was important to him," said Susanne.
He was important to so many others, even more than he would ever admit. Everyone ABC6 spoke to about Tom emphatically called him a “hero.”
"He hated the word, he hated hearing it, he hated being called it. And it was something that was spoken constantly because he truly was" said Tom’s daughter Ingrid Suprock.
Tom’s legacy will now live on in all those whose lives he touched.
His family has asked for donations to be made in Tom’s name to the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 325 Scholarship Program: PO Box 3637, Peace Dale, RI 02883.