I was born in the Bronx on January 30th, 1944. I am one of 12 children, having five brothers and six sisters.
In 1949 my family moved to Farmingville, Long Island. A year later we opened a grocery store there. It took my father, who was a trumpet player and bandleader, an entire year to personally build the building. The store was called "Sandy's Pic & Pac." From 1950 to 1965 we all shared duties working in the store and watching out for each other. Looking back at those "roaring '50's and ‘60’s," they were both my good years as well as my not-so-good years.
I joined the U.S. Army in January 1967, taking basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and schooling at Fort Eustis, Virginia (Helicopter Repairmen 67N20). I remember filling out a questionnaire asking where I would like to serve my first duty?
I put in for France...
One Month later I did indeed arrived in a place half way around the world and stepped off the plane…. the view was sand dunes, large lizards crawling here and there and little people in black pajamas wearing funny hats! ... I looked at my buddy and said ... "Sam, this ain't France." The sand dunes were on the beach at Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam.
Oh well... In a few days it was north to Duc Pho and a "tour of duty" with the 174th AHC. My chopper was Dolphin #282, supporting America’s best in "I-Corps" and near the DMZ in places we simply called "Indian Country." I remember flying as fast as we could at tree-top level, which was a must unless you wanted to add your ship to the countryside's growing number of scattered aircraft wreckages. It seemed to me the words "hot" and "incoming" were used 24 hours a day.
The Battle for Kham Duc, May 12, 1968... I was there. We flew in support of the ammunition resupply and emergency evacuation of that Special Forces outpost against the heavily armed North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars. My door gunner and I were awarded the Air Medal with V Device and two oak leaf clusters. Our pilot, Mr. John Donahue (WO1) and the co-pilot, 2LT Chris Grabow, received Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Those 12 months as a helicopter repairman and crewchief are still in my mind as though it was yesterday, yet many years have past.
In 1970-71, my brother Paul (Sandy and Connie's #5 son ) served in the war also, in the infantry--Central Highlands.
E-mail Dennis at email@example.com
Webmaster note: Dennis is an artist in his own right and a Vincent Van Gogh researcher. In May 2004 Dennis was interviewed in the
Boheme Magazine, an online magazine of arts, literature and subversion, in their Special Anniversary Issue.
Visit Dennis' Art web site at http://sites.google.com/site/artistdennispelliccia1/.