Dietrich has done it all at Greenville VFW

Don Dietrich spends a lot of time in this office at the Greenville VFW as he serves as quartermaster and judge advocate. (Linda Moody photo)

GREENVILLE—Don Dietrich keeps busy at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7262 in Greenville in his position as quartermaster and judge advocate.

And, it keeps him occupied.

A Vietnam veteran, he served in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) from June 10, 1966 to Aug. 16, 1967.

“I turned 21 in Vietnam,” said the 1964 graduate of Franklin-Monroe High School.

He first joined the Arcanum VFW in 1968, became a life member in 1974 and transferred his membership to Greenville VFW in 1974.

In Greenville, he first held the office of surgeon, which is basically a hospital chairman according to him.

“I was commander nine times, first in 1983-84,” he said. “I was post commander for one year in 1982, and served another one year term as commander, as well as from 1995-96 after my son died, then in 2000 when he began the seven-year stretch as the top officer.

“We made All-American Post when I was commander in 2005,” Dietrich said. “I’ve held every position in officership a person can have in the VFW.”

In addition to the VFW, he is a member of the Greenville American Legion, Disabled American Veterans as well as the Elks, Moose and Eagles lodges.

He resides in Greenville with his wife, the former Mary Jane Campbell, whom he married Feb. 7, 1975, after meeting her through his sister, the late Ellen Shields.

They are the parents of two children, Tommy, who died in 1994 and Julie, who has a daughter, Kali, a college freshman.

Don is the son of Glen and Florence (Sluterbeck) Dietrich, who died in 1998 and 2015, respectively.

Don also has a twin brother, Ron, who was unable to serve in the military.

Don farmed for his father before going into the military, and afterwards, he farmed and worked for Gilbert Lease Farm Equipment, then for Frank Girbert Implement in the new parts department for 23 years and, lastly  for Miami Valley International Trucks in Dayton as an outside parts sales rep, traveling to eight counties, until he retired in 2013.

When he’s not doing VFW-type things, he loves bowling, traveling with his wife especially to the Ohio River and Mississippi Gulf Coast and listening to his three favorite singers, Connie Smith, Emmy Lou Harris and Rhonda Vincent.

“They sing anything from country to folk to bluegrass,” he said. “While in Vietnam, I started listening to Connie Smith and Roy Orbison, and when I came back to the states, I attended a Connie Smith concert.”

In fact, the ring tone on his phone is Smith’s song “Once A Day.”

Why did Dietrich choose the USMC?

“Technically, I was drafted,” remarked Don, who was a 50-caliber machine gunman. “They needed 10 guys for the Marine Corps. I was put in the Marines and the other guy in the Army. That other guy was killed 16 days later.”

Dietrich said he went to boot camp at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 16, 1966, and did his Advanced Infantry Training in San Mateo, north of Pendleton.

“I then came back home for 30 days before going to Okinawa for a day and then heading for Vietnam,” he said. “We had no friends from Vietnam; we went over individually and came back individually. We were in the South China Sea in DaNang, down by Saigon. On Jan. 5, we landed in the Mekong Delta called the Iron Triangle. It was my first experience dropping off a helicopter which was three feet off the ground.”

He said there were supposedly 10,000 Viet Cong troops.

“We set up perimeters and staff, and one of our own group was shot coming back from patrol. We then went back to DaNang.

“It was a three-week excursion in the Mekong Delta,” he said. “I got a hernia repaired in Okinawa and then was taken back to DaNang. I drove a Deuce and a Half, hauling beer and ammo. About July, they were ready to send us to the Chu Lai demilitarized zone (DMZ). I was temporarily  assigned duty all over DaNang, starting out with the 3rd battalion 3rd Marines.”

He said after he got back to the United States, he finished his time in Albany, Ga., as part of the military police from August 1968 to January 1969. It was Jan. 17, 1969, when he came back to Ohio.

He said he received two commendations for serving his country, one of which was the Vietnam Service Medal with One Star.

He said the hernia he suffered made him eligible for DAV membership. How did he do that?

“My feet slipped on a mango tree,” he said.

“We had combat, fun times, party times…a mixture of whatever you made of it,” he said, reflecting on his life in the military.  “Probably one of the most important things I ever did was when a 14-year-old girl was shot in the leg. The lieutenant came up to me and said, ‘Sergeant, take this girl and get her help.’ I hunted all over DaNang and finally carried her into a  hospital and left. I wished I would have stayed with her.”
He said he did a little bit of everything over there.

But, he was glad to get back home.

“I knew I wasn’t going to make the military a career,” he concluded. “I like red tractors and was tired of USMC green.”