Dick Delphia served as a corpsman at a hospital in Germany.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — What an absolute pleasure to sit and interview veteran Dick Delphia recently. Delphia served his country stateside as a corpsman from Jan. 1, 1953 to to Jan. 1, 1956.
At the age of 86, he is tremendously fit (he and his wife, Teresa, ride their stationary bikes every day), honest and possesses an "old school" humility.
Delphia had to quit Pittsfield High School at the age of 14 because of the sudden death of his mother.
"I had to take care of the family ... there was six of us" he remembered.
He enlisted at the age of 19 and was sent to basic training at what was then Camp Pickett in Virginia. His first assignment was at the Army-Navy Hospital in Hot Springs, Ark.
"First couple of months we worked on kids coming back from Korea," he said. "It wasn't good … I worked in the emergency room, pediatric unit, dermatology clinic, pretty much, everywhere."
He would also sit in the gallery and watch operations so as to improve his skills. "Things like that never bothered me," he Delphia said. "Only thing that really bothered me was when a young kid was hurt ... never took it home with me, when I left, it [the situation] stayed there."
Delphia worked as an orderly at the former House of Mercy/Pittsfield General Hospital, which is now Berkshire Medical Center.
"I initially wanted to be an MP but the Army looked at my application and found out I had experience in a hospital," he said. It wasn't until he got out of the service that he was able to embark on a career in law enforcement.
Delphia was assigned to the 58th Evacuation Hospital in Germany.
"We set up tents and prepared for the worst … 75-100 people per tent," he recalled. Here he was promoted to private first class, then corporal and then sergeant.
I asked him the qualities of a good corpsman. "You could never let things bother you," he responded. "Our job was to take care of the soldiers ... plain and simple."
While on field maneuvers in Germany, he witnessed the horrifying sight of two planes colliding in mid-air. Sgt. Delphia raced to alert his colonel and they both proceeded to the crash. One of the planes was burning and the pilot and co-pilot were burned to death. Delphia had to put a blanket over both bodies and carry them to the ambulance.
"The most gruesome thing I've ever done," he recalled. "The smell was unbelievable."
I asked him what the holidays were like. "The holidays never bothered me … if my mom wasn't there, it wasn't a holiday," he said. Thoughts on his service? "It was something I really enjoyed doing … proud to be doing what I was doing."
Delphia also served on the Pittsfield Police Department for 25 years and retired as a detective. He and Teresa have been married for 69 years and they have three daughters. He is a proud member of Richard A. Ruether American Legion Post 152 in Williamstown and an avid outdoorsman who still goes four-wheeling.
Sgt. Dick Delphia, thank you for your service to our great country.
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