While my brother, Air Force Col. Dean Edward De Tar, did not die in combat, Memorial Day is a fitting occasion to honor him. His own words do this best. He witnessed death in combat and was haunted by it. In what he wrote about his own life he honors those who died in battle.
In February 2010, he sent his sisters a birthday greeting by email. (Dean was the only one of the five of us not born in February.) In his message he wrote:
I wish you all a happy, happy year. I am reasonably healthy albeit disabled with Parkinsons, PTSD, COPD and ED. I am attaching some explanatory pieces.
The “explanatory pieces” were what Dean had written about his life: “My Life Post-High School”; “Combat Incidents Resulting in PTSD”; and a list of names honoring Legion of Valor members, combat losses of pilots in his unit, and two of his Vietnamese students post war. With the permission of his son, Dean II, I’m publishing these documents.
Dean died on National Vietnam War Veterans Day after a lengthy battle with Parkinsons disease — and ‘battle’ he did!
(Veteran Tributes posted an obituary for Dean on March 30, 2017.) http://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=441
My Life Post-High School
I was born to Hazel M. and Eli E. DeTar on November 18, 1932 at the family farm on the Avery Road. I attended Maxon Elementary School and White Elementary School before entering Albia High School. I graduated number 22 of 77 graduates. Due to farm chores, I had little time for other school activities. My honors were from the FFA, Chapter Farmer and State Farmer. I could not get away from farming fast enough. I was not the only classmate to flee to other fields.
1950-1959: BS-Industrial Economics; Commission as 2/Lt, USAF; Pilot wings; Marriage to Nancy Marie Gowen of Dallas, Texas; First child; Iceland tour of duty; promoted to 1st Lt.
1960-1969: Assigned to Sioux City AB; Fuchu, Japan; Second child; A-1E Combat Crew training; Posted to Pleiku AB and Danang AB, Vietnam; flew combat in Vietnam and Laos; decorated with Silver Star, DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), and Air Medal; promoted to Captain and Major.
1970-1979: Commanded a force of 39 aircraft to rescue a downed airman; awarded Air Force Cross; shot down in Vietnam and was rescued same day; my tour ended with having flown 265 combat missions logging 560 combat hours; reassigned as gunnery instructor and to the Pentagon as a staff officer; suffered a brain hemorrhage ending my flying career; attended Air War College; posted to US Embassy, Madrid, Spain, as Air Attaché; reassigned to HQ, Defense Intelligence Agency; promoted to Lt Col and Colonel.
1980-1989: Retired from USAF; settled in DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth); worked on Reagan campaign; entered Executive Search Industry; established a search firm; entered temporary employment business; paid off all mortgages, at last debt free; welcomed Patsy Gomez to the family when she married our son, Dean II.
1990-1999: Welcomed first grandson, Devin; business flourished; welcomed second grandson, DesTin; Son David left the house, was assaulted spent 6 weeks in coma, recovered, disabled; I became involved in veterans affairs; served on various councils and boards.
2000-2009: Closed the business; elected National Commander, Legion of Valor of USAF; had breakfast at the White House; place on dais with President Bush; did a lot of trout fishing on San Juan River in New Mexico; member of committee to fund a Fisher House at Dallas VA Hospital, raised $7.2 Million, funded Fisher Houses in San Diego and Minneapolis; son David succumbed to ravages of drugs and lousy style of living.
My life has been a success in my eyes. I achieved nearly all my goals and was feted and decorated for many of my actions and activities. I have enjoyed a wide variety of assignments in the military and the satisfaction of building a very profitable business. I spent 26 years in military service and 17 years as a sole proprietor. I traveled widely and lived in several countries. I have enjoyed 53 years of marriage to the same woman who is my support and my most avid supporter.
Combat Incidents Resulting in PTSD
I flew 264 combat missions in eleven months from May 69 to April 70 logging 560 hours of combat flying. This is a listing of combat incidents I believe caused my PTSD.
23 Jul 69, two of my squadron mates crashed and burned on a combat mission. Bill Picking, an experienced combat pilot, was flying with Tom McCarthy on Tom’s first combat mission. Their plane burst in flames and both rode it to the ground. It was my first smell of death in the cockpit in combat.
15 Aug 69, I challenged five NVA (North Vietnamese Army) gun emplacements so my wingman could attack and silence them. We succeeded. I was awarded a Silver Star.
In Sep-Oct, my wingman lost control of his aircraft on an emergency landing and was badly burned. We all went to see him in the hospital which sobered us all. We also went to see a navy pilot we had rescued. He had a set of ice tongs to keep his broken neck aligned and lots of tubes from his body. The four of us were shocked. A few years later he and I lunched at the Pentagon and found we had nothing to talk about.
12 Nov 69, Gerry Helmich crashed on a smoke laying run while supporting a rescue effort for a downed F-4 pilot. Another of my classmates gone.
21 Nov 69, Jim Herrick, a classmate, crashed on a mountain in Laos, remains not recovered.
17 Dec 69, Glen Manning, classmate and squadron mate was killed when GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) misidentified him and he crashed in the mountains.
On 6 Apr 70, an explosive round penetrated my aircraft and exploded in the cockpit. I refused to go to the hospital. The flight surgeon said he could not, or would not approve a Purple Heart medal. I told him very forcefully that I did not want a PH medal. Three of our A-1 aircraft were shot down on this rescue mission. John Deier, Ed Whinery, and Dave Friestad, all were recovered by us.
On 21 Mar 70, after recovering a downed F-4 pilot, my wingman, Ed Hudgens, crashed and burned. He was a good competent pilot whose aircraft was on fire. He did not get out. I remember him every day. I had never met him before that mission put us together. Somehow, I felt responsible for his death. (Dean received Legion of Valor Award for this.) http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=3617
On 25 Apr 70, while striking a NVA force trying to take control of a major road intersection managed to strike my aircraft setting it on fire, I headed for higher mountains. When the fire grew more intense, I ejected. I ended in a tree from which I could lower myself. I got down, collected my thoughts and decided to wait for rescue as my chute was not visible from the ground. After a couple of hours an army helicopter came, lowered a jungle penetrator which I mounted waiting for a lift. Finally, the helicopter began to move with me still in the trees. A two inch diameter vine got between me and the lift cable putting me in danger of being crushed. With great effort, I freed myself and the rest was routine. I was safe again. The flight surgeon grounded me ending my combat career.
From Sep 69 to Mar 70, I was awarded five DFC’s (Distinguished Flying Cross) and five Air medals for actions in support of special operations teams operating in Laos. Those were missions with lives at stake.
Those are the incidents I remember.
LOV MEMBERS IN DFW
(Legion of Valor Members in Dallas-Fort Worth)
JESSE NAUL, WWII
BILL WILHOIT, WWII
JIM MEGELLAS, WWII
COMBAT LOSSES OF PILOTS OF MY UNIT
MY VIETNAMESE STUDENTS POST WAR
LI XUAN CHAU
NGYUEN VAN DANG
Acknowledgements: THANK YOU to Dean Edward De Tar, II for reviewing this post and helping with his father’s acronyms and to Danny Gordon who provided the photos of his uncle in his Facebook posts.