By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Dennis DeWine recently received the ultimate birthday gift.
The same day the Xenia native turned 71, he was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for his voluntary actions during the Vietnam War in 1968. He celebrated with family, friends and other inductees from the various military branches.
“It’s an amazing honor,” DeWine said from Texas where he now resides. “I had attended one of my high school classmate’s induction three years ago. I just thought it was a really great thing. I was truly honored to be there standing amongst those other honorable men.”
Established in 2000, the hall honors those who served in the US Military and who distinguished themselves by displaying extraordinary heroism while engaged in combat against an enemy of the US, receiving a medal of valor for their efforts.
Extraordinary heroism is the perfect way to describe what DeWine, a warrant officer, did. While serving as pilot of the command and control helicopter for the squadron commander 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry, cavalry elements became heavily engaged with a well dug in enemy force, reinforced by recoilless rifle and anti-aircraft companies, near Tam Ky. The enemy defenses were arranged in depth with at least six .51 caliber anti-aircraft companies integrated into their position. DeWine, disregarding his own safety, flew at low level to help spot enemy positions, enabling door gunners and helicopter occupants to place suppressive fire on the enemy.
Although the aircraft sustained numerous hostile .51 caliber and smaller caliber hits and was in danger of malfunctioning, DeWine disregarded the danger and continued to fly in order to allow the squadron commander to control the action and land the aircraft to evacuate four critically wounded troopers. Despite the adverse conditions, he managed to fly while overloaded and with critical damage in order to evacuate the injured. When the leading edge of the rotor blade took a .51 caliber hit, DeWine brought the aircraft to a safe landing.
As a result, DeWine was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.
“People were injured and they needed to be evacuated,” DeWine said. “Being young, we used to call it young and dumb. It was certainly dangerous and we knew that. You’re just doing a job. If somebody needed help, you just went in and did it. You just knew what your job was. My biggest fear was not doing it right.”
That was just part of the story, DeWine said. The hostilities went on for two full days before the U.S. was able to suppress the enemy forces.
“All the details are fresh in my mind like it happened yesterday,” DeWine said. “It wasn’t just a rag-tag, bunch of Vietnamese. They were North Vietnamese who were trained to do battle. The whole day involved, just an amazing bunch of heroics by people on the ground and other people in the air. No one on my aircraft was injured which was absolutely amazing. They were able to kill more of the North Vietnamese soldiers that were entrenched in front of us … because they were trying to shoot us down. We were very fortunate to somehow have not been injured on that aircraft. Bad shots I just guess.”
DeWine is a 1963 graduate of Xenia High School and the oldest of six children born to Thomas and Pearl DeWine. He and his wife, Cheryl, live in Harker Heights, Texas.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.