TROY — In Troy resident Mick DeHart’s home, two shadowboxes display items from his service in Vietnam. DeHart is highly decorated, having earned — among other awards — two Silver Stars and an induction into the Hall of Valor.
On Nov. 5, DeHart received a new honor: he was inducted in The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
His military career first began in 1967 after being drafted. He spent a year training in the United States before going to Vietnam as an infantry soldier. DeHart said his job in Vietnam was simple — as a recon platoon, he and his group looked for signs of the enemy.
After a year in Vietnam, he came home and was discharged from the military.
“When I got home, like a lot of the returning Vietnam veterans, it wasn’t popular to say that you had been to Vietnam or that you had been to the service,” he said. “So in my particular case, it remained on the lowdown for about 30-some years.”
In 2003, he and his wife Carol talked about reuniting with his brothers from Echo Company 2/5 Cavalry — the unit he had served with in Vietnam — and began their search in 2007.
DeHart said it had been so long since he had last seen anyone he served with that he wasn’t sure if they were still alive.
“You could see faces, but you couldn’t tell, were they ghosts?” he said. “A lot of Vietnam vets buried it pretty deep. A few years back, we’d talk about the suitcase, where we’d put all of our stuff in, put it in the closet and not to be a part of our life. Around that time for me and other fellows, they began taking those suitcases down to see what was in there.”
He was able to find 226 men that year and organized the first company reunion in Memphis, Tennessee in 2008. It was the first time these men had seen each other in 38 years.
He realized after the first reunion that nearly all the men suffered from some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder or other Vietnam-combat related issues. The families of the veterans, especially their wives, were also effected by PTSD.
“Back then we didn’t even have that word,” he said. “They didn’t call it PTSD until sometime around the mid-eighties, but just the reunions themselves were healing in a way, because they were around their peers and their comfort zone was very high. If you’re around those who walked the same dirt as you did, you’re a lot more comfortable.”
With this in mind, he began bringing in National Service Officers to counsel the men. They answered questions, filed claims and gave hope to the men who previously had none. The majority of his platoon had received a Purple Heart, so DeHart decided to invite the president of the Military Order of Purple Heart (MOPH) and two MOPH national service officers to one of the reunions.
Many of the VA claims that were submitted during the reunions were successful and DeHart said that many of the wives received counseling to better understand the mental and physical issues their husbands were facing.
DeHart called himself fortunate and gave credit to Carol for the role she played to help him reunite with his brothers, for working alongside of him to help veterans and for getting inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
“She is the start and finish of it all,” he said. “Without her I would have never gone to the VA, would have never gone to have a reunion, I never would have found over 200 of the fellows that were in my company, I probably wouldn’t be in either one of the halls of fame.”
The bronze plaque honoring the Veterans Hall of Fame Class of 2015 will be on display in the Ohio Statehouse 3rd Street lobby just inside from the Veterans Plaza through May 2016. An Enshrinement Ceremony will be held in early May when the Class of 2015 will be added to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame permanent display on the second floor of the Riffe Center for Government and the Arts at 77 S. High St. in downtown Columbus.
Reach Allison C. Gallagher at [email protected] or on Twitter @Troydailynews.