Medal for honor: Resident recognized by military for community service

Feb 4, 2023

One of the core values of the United States Air Force is “service before self” — something Dartmouth airman Chris Pereira has always taken to heart.

“I just try to always remember that and live it,” he said

In that spirit, Pereira has volunteered his time to help the Dartmouth Education Foundation, the Knights of Columbus, the town's Veterans Advisory Board and more.

Just prior to Christmas, Pereira was awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for living up to the Air Force ideals.

“It was a great honor to be recognized,” Pereira said. “There are so many people who keep our community going and a lot of them are volunteers. I kind of feel like I’m getting this on their behalf too.”

The medal, which was created via an executive order by then-president George H.W. Bush in 1993, is given to military members who perform substantial volunteer service to the local community above and beyond the duties required as a member of the United States Armed Forces. 

Pereira was officially given the medal in a private ceremony with members of his squadron.

“I didn’t realize they were going to do this,” he said. “My commander told me to come forward and my first thought was ‘uh, oh.’”

Thankfully, he said, it was just for the recognition of his decades of work for the people of Dartmouth.

Motivated by the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the beginning of the Iraq War two years later, Pereira joined the United States Army in 2003 before transferring to the Air National Guard in 2007. 

“It was always in my heart and in my mind that I’d join [the service],” Pereira said. “And the rest is history.”

His time in the Air National Guard would keep Pereira mostly stateside, but the Dartmouth native did serve a six-month stint as a tech sergeant in Qatar and Afghanistan in 2017.

This decision to join the service was made while  Pereira was a member of the Dartmouth School Committee, a board he served on from 2002-2008. He was elected to the committee at the age of 22, making him the youngest member ever to serve on the committee.

One of his top achievements on the committee, he said, was getting a group of volunteers to make some cosmetic fixes to Memorial Stadium at a time he said the School Department had a somewhat meager budget for full-scale renovations. 

Funds for the work were raised by the volunteers, Pereira said.

“Tax dollars do a lot, but a lot of what happens is behind the scenes and with volunteers,” he said.

Following his tenure on the School Committee, Pereira would go on to serve on the Veterans Advisory Board (most recently, as the chair) and was named the president of the Dartmouth Youth Football League in 2021.

Though he had a history of serving the community prior to his time in the armed services, Pereira credits the Air Force as a major reason for his continued dedication to service before self.

“It’s really ingrained in you there,” he said.

Helping his fellow veterans is a cause that’s especially close to Pereira’s heart. Ever since he was a kid, the Dartmouth resident said he’s admired veterans.

“I love military history and American history,” he said. “I just like the personal stories of these guys from small towns few Americans can find on a map, but they ended up being these incredible heroes.”

While Pereira said he is honored to get the recognition for his volunteer efforts, just being able to help out his hometown is enough of a privilege in his life.

“I love the town — I love the history and the beauty of it,” he said. “But ultimately, it’s the people that I love, that’s why I try to do whatever I can to help.”