Nicknames were prevalent amongst the American GIs in WWII, but that tradition continues into today’s armed forces. One WWII veteran had his nickname well before the war, though.
When I first met Robert “Boots” Chouinard on the first day of the 79th Anniversary of D-Day Battlefield Return Program to Normandy, he leaned in close and said, “Do you want to hear how I earned my nickname?”
My first thought was it came from his time in the service. Soldiers wear boots, which seemed like an accurate guess, but Chouinard said, “Nope.” He first explained when he was a young boy, his parents called him by his first name, Robert.
“My mother would send me up to the store to get some groceries every once in a while from a neighborhood store,” Chouinard said.
During one of those grocery trips at the end of winter one year, he unknowingly earned his nickname. He would pull his toy boat with a string, letting it glide over the melted snow rushing towards the drain. Little did he know that he’d be pulling a 90mm anti-aircraft gun via an M4 Tractor.
When he arrived at the store, he docked his toy boat and walked in. A clerk who was familiar with Chouinard’s family noticed the wet boots on the young boy’s feet and, after a couple of trips, started calling him “Boots.”
When the clerk saw him with his parents out and about, he called him by nickname. From that point on, it stuck. What a fitting name for a WWII veteran.
Chouinard landed at Omaha Beach on June 28, 1944. Though it isn’t his nickname, Chouinard pointed out how proud he is to have a last name from the Normandy, France region.
Chouinard is one of the 43 WWII veterans in Normandy, France, for the 79th Anniversary of D-Day, as a part of the Best Defense Foundation’s Battlefield Return Program.