NEW MADISON — On the eve of the 50th anniversary of PFC Douglas Eugene Dickey’s death in Vietnam, the Friends of the New Madison Public Library memorialized him in a special presentation on Saturday afternoon in the Historical Heritage Hall [the former Masonic Hall].
The life of the Marine, a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his heroics that day in Vietnam on Easter Sunday, March 26, 50 years ago, was shared by his brother, Dennis Dickey; Robert Sharp of the Darke County Educational History Inc.; and the viewing of a video of the unveiling ceremony that took place at Garst Museum for the Douglas Dickey exhibit in November 2014.
“Three in Darke County have received the Medal of Honor, but Doug is the only native Darke countian to have received it,” Dennis said.
The exhibit memorializes Douglas Dickey, who had resided in the Rossburg area and died in a valiant act, which saw him land on a grenade, saving the lives of some fellow platoon members of Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, 3rd Marine Division. The U.S. Marine was posthumously received the Medal of Honor for heroism during Operation Beacon Hill 1, while serving as a rifleman.
Speaking at the 2014 unveiling were several men who made this exhibit possible. Lt. Col. Tom McKenney, Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC-retired and Dave Manges. Among the platoon members attending were Larry Alley of Tipton, Indiana, Jerry Idciak of Michigan, Lionel Lawson of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, and Greg “Doc” Long of Fairacres, New Mexico, all of whom were there the day Dickey sacrificed his life for them in Vietnam. It was said that 12 walked out of there that day.
Dickey’s platoon members, it was stated, have come to Darke County for reunions to commemorate the memories of Doug on several occasions.
Relatives, classmates, friends and quite a few others attended the event in New Madison on Saturday, which was moderated by Marilyn Fritz, the library’s genealogist specialist.
Before the program began, Sharp held up the 800-page biography that was written about Doug Dickey by Dr. Terrence W. Barrett.
“This book already has the script to make a movie,” Sharp told them. “The book is at public libraries in Darke County.”
In the book, Barrett takes a closer look at Dickey, one of America’s unsung heroes. The book is comprised of 24 chapters and four pages of praises by those who knew Dickey.
Sharp went on to explain that local, Dustin Nealeigh, is the one who constructed the exhibit, which includes photos and relics donated by the Dickey Family.
The film, which is also in a monitor at that exhibit, and shown on Saturday talked of what Dickey was like in high school and how he was with those around him before his death. He managed a basketball team and he played football.
Interviews were done with people who expounded on those qualities Dickey had. Those in the interview were brother Dennis; Douglas’ classmates Tim Barga and Bob Birt; and Sunday school teacher at church; not to mention his mother, Leona, who is now deceased.
“I’ve never seen him angry or mad,” Barga said.
“He was very affectionate, always complimentary and was thoughtful and considerate….the kind of son every mother would cherish,” were the words of Dickey’s mother. “He was unselfish in everything he did. He had three younger brothers. He volunteered for the service and volunteered to give his life and saved his friends. I can feel no bitterness. It hurt me a great deal, but I can’t feel bitter.”
Medal of Honor recipients are recognized for extreme courage above duty.
“The Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,491 times,” said Dennis. “Today only 79 are living. We can never say thank-you too may times.”
At the end of the presentation, Heritage Hall owner Charles Reynolds presented Dennis with the book, “To Hell and Back” penned by actor Audie Murphy.
Dennis went on, “I didn’t talk about this for 35 years. Now I have to talk about it. The first time was when a portion of State Route 47 was dedicated in Doug’s name, and this is the second time I spoke on Doug and his actions. On Dec. 13, 1965, Doug enlisted in the Marine Corps and I wasn’t aware of it, but when I enlisted four years later, it was on Dec. 13. We had a lot of things in common. I walked through a lot of his footsteps in California.”
Dennis said the Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously at Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 16, 1968, with his family in attendance. The awarded was handed to their parents, Harold and Leona Dickey, who died Oct. 28, 2004, and in April 2013, respectively.
“Two Marine Corps barracks have been named after Doug; one in Subic Bay in the Philippines and the other in Okinawa. The last I heard the one in Okinawa is still in use,” he said. “He has had State Route 47 named after him, and there have been two books written about him; the one by Dr. Barrett and another one of which I have a rough draft at home. And, Ansonia American Legion Post 353 has now been named after him. It was the Eck Ary Post, named for a man who was killed in World War I.”
Dennis said it was in 1992 that Doug’s name was added to the American Legion charter. So, now it is the Eck Ary-Douglas Dickey Post.
“I’m proud to be the brother of someone who did what he did,” Dennis concluded. “Someone said he jumped on the grenade and scooped another one underneath him that day. Doc Long is the only one living survivor of the outfit, and he is planning on coming here this weekend from Phoenix, Arizona.”
It is Long who reportedly was working on a wounded radio man right beside Dickey, and was the last person alive who was in that bomb crater when Doug, looking into Long’s eyes, deliberately laid down his life for his friends.
Doug’s brother, Norman, had been wounded on in Vietnam during that time, and said in an early interview, “I was wounded on St. Patrick’s Day, and Doug wrote me a letter on the 18th. I was to go there and send him home. They never got the paperwork done. He was killed Easter Sunday.”
Another one of Doug’s brother, Steve, died in June 2010.
Doug, a 1965 graduate of Ansonia High School and resident of the Rossburg area, was born on Christmas Eve and died on Easter Sunday.
This writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.
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