Category 26 – Original Writing – Featured Story
– By Ryan Berry – The Early Bird Newspaper –
GREENVILLE – The ceremony unveiling Pfc. Douglas Dickey’s Medal of Honor on Nov. 21 was more than an opportunity for visitors to get up close and see the prestigious medal in person. It was a small glimpse into what it takes to earn this medal. It was a chance to learn what is meant by “going above and beyond the call of duty.” It was an opportunity to discover the true meaning of love of country and fellow man.
The story of Darke County’s only Vietnam era Medal of Honor will never be lost thanks to the efforts Garst Museum and the individuals who put the display together.
On March 26, 1967, at the age of 20, Pfc. Dickey was serving with Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division during Operation Beacon Hill in the Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. The radio man was injured in the fight with Viet Cong forces and Dickey was called up to replace him. Standing in a crater with the radio man, a corpsman and a lieutenant, Dickey heard someone yell grenade. Those who witnessed the valiant act all had the same recollection. Dickey looked at the lieutenant and then at the injured radio man and corpsman. Without hesitation placed his body over the grenade saving those around him from injury or death.
Several of those who served alongside Pfc. Dickey in Company C were in attendance for the unveiling ceremony, including an eye witness to heroic act. Greg “Doc” Long, of Fairacres, NM was the corpsman in the crater and was the last person Dickey saw before he jumped on the grenade. It has been 47 years since that day, but Long admits he still gets choked up when he talks about it. “It was a rough day,” he said. “It was a gruesome way to go, but he never felt a thing.” He added Dickey had talked prior to that day if the need ever arose he would be willing to lay down his life.
Lionel Lawson also served with Dickey. Choking back tears, he said “He was a damn good Marine.” Lawson pointed out that day now seems very surreal. “It feels like it couldn’t have happened, but it did. It’s hard to talk about,” added Lawson.
Getting the Medal of Honor to display at Garst Museum rested on the shoulders of Lt. Colonel Tom C. McKenney (retired). He originally heard of Pfc. Dickey in 1968, but it wasn’t until 2009 when Col. McKenney was visiting Greenville for a book signing that he was reminded of the story he heard 41 years prior. After a visit to the museum, the wheels were set in motion to properly honor Dickey and the medal. Since only one medal is given to the family when it is awarded posthumously, McKenney began searching his contacts for a second medal. After being turned down one after another, McKenney finally learned there was a chance the museum could get a display medal. He was finally successfully. McKenney said, “On 14 Nov. 2014, the dreams of the Dickey family, and the Marines who knew Doug, fought with him and have remained faithful to his memory in the Doug Dickey reunion group, will at last be fulfilled after 47 years. I was a late comer to the project, but it has been greatly satisfying to me.” McKenney noted the display he had in mind was pale in comparison to what Dave Mangas and Dustin Nealeigh were able to achieve.
Also helping to unveil the display was Maj. General James Livingston (retired), one of 77 living Medal of Honor recipients. Livingston praised Dickey, his family and the Marines he served with for their love of country. “The Marines I know were there because they loved America,” he said. “That’s the same reason we are a great country. As long as we have 18 and 19 year olds willing to raise their hands we will be a great country. We love America, but most of all we love what Doug Dickey represented.”