September 09, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

One of Northeast Oregons most dedicated National Guardsmen received a lifetime salute Saturday.

Col. Jim Bovard of Union, who is retiring, was honored at a changing of the guard ceremony at La Grandes National Guard Armory. Bovard has been the commander of the Oregon National Guards 8th Battalion Defense Force since 1994.

Maj. John R. Richardson of Pendleton was named the new commander of the battalion on Saturday. Richardson is in his eighth year with the battalion.

The state defense force fills in when members of the regular National Guard unit are called out for things such as overseas missions. The 8th Battalion State Defense Force is responsible for filling in for National Guard units in La Grande, Hermiston, Burns, Pendleton, Milton-Freewater, Ontario and Baker City.

Bovard has been with the State Defense Force since 1970 and commander of the 8th Battalion since it was formed about eight years ago.

Whenever I think of James Bovard I think of community service, said Maj. Dan McCabe of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry.

Bovard said that the friendships he has made while serving in the National Guard are incomparable.

The men of my battalion have always stood behind me. They have meant as much to me as my own family, Bovard said.

Bovard has served a total of 35 years in the military. During World War II he served in the Coast Guard, working on a convoy which conducted anti-submarine patrols and escorted troop and cargo ships.

He is the kind of person we need in America. A person who is willing to give time to serve, McCabe said. He is a husband, father, volunteer and patriot.

Bovard was promoted from lieutenant colonel to full colonel at Saturdays ceremony. He also received the National Guards prestigious Exceptional Service Medal and the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalrys Cavalry Man award.

This is a lot more than I expected, said Bovard, who said the ceremony was an emotional one for him.

Richardson has been with the 8th Battalion State Defense Force since 1994. He has been in the military a total of 15 years. He was a combat engineer in the Army during World War II.

Richardson said that serving under Bovard has refreshed his memory.

What Id learned in World War II Id forgotten, but I learned it again from Col. Bovard, Richardson said.

Bovard said that the 8th Battalion State Defense Force will be in good hands under Richard- son.

He is a very loyal, hard-working man with a high level of integrity and dependability, Bovard said.

Bovards is a familiar face in Union County not just because of his involvement with the National Guard. He is a member of the Blue Mountain Barbershoppers and is an artist.

One of his paintings is displayed at the Union Family Health Center. He plans to remain active with the barbershop chorus and as an artist.