Veteran Spotlight: Spc. Dave DiMestico
FALMOUTH, Mass. — An extreme pleasure to feature this week's Veteran Spotlight guest Dave DiMestico, who served his country as a combat veteran with bravery and distinction in the Army in the Vietnam War as a specialist 4.
He graduated Lawrence High School then went to college and was drafted with friend and Falmouth native Steve Paltz when he was almost 22. He was sent to basic training in 1970 at Fort Dix, N.J.
"I was in good shape, really didn't find it hard but it was summer so it was hot," he said. "I took advice from guys that had experience. They said keep a low profile and don't let them know your name."
DiMestico was sent to Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Lewis, Wash.
"We spent little time in the barracks, we were out in the field in tents studying and learning weaponry and strategy for wartime. It rained during the day, cleared at night and the stars would be out," he remembered.
His next two assignments would be Airborne Jump School at Fort Benning, Ga., and two weeks of jungle training at Vietnam's Central Highlands above Cam Ranh Bay, where U.S. forces were based. He would serve with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
He was assigned to an infantry platoon and later became a squad leader.
"I had two guys on M-60 machine guns, two guys on grenade launchers and two ammo carriers," DiMestico said. "I adapted fairly easy, was one of the older guys at 22 and I ran it like 'everyone do their job and we won't have a problem.
"I carried a book in my pocket, just a simple book that I read whenever we had a break or had to stop ... kind of helped me."
He recalled his first firefight: "We were on helicopters and you sit on the edge of the copter. When the door gunner taps you, you go. I was leaning over too far and he touched me to bring me back in. I thought it was a tap and jumped about 10 feet onto the ground. It was definitely scary.
"Another platoon got hit. If it's a hot LZ [landing zone] they pop red smoke. My knee got a bit banged up from jumping out of the copter."
Was he ever afraid?
"Yes. We were in a firefight and they call it ' scary close' because you're about to be overrun by the enemy and they call in an airstrike. You're lying on your stomach, face down and they're dropping 500-pound bombs and the force was so great it would lift you off the ground, debris is falling all over you. I was praying that I made it through," he continued. "We also had to be on guard against scorpions and snakes — hate snakes — we're crawling through these vines that looked like a tunnel. You look up and it's a highway for snakes, all above us."
Holidays? "It was sad. We didn't have any Bob Hope shows. We stayed out in the field for three-four weeks at a time. They brought us back for three days, had as much steak and beer as you could consume — warm Pabst Blue Ribbon," he said. "I was about 20 miles from a guy I grew up with, Donny Silvia."
Thoughts on his service?
"I was proud that I served, thought Vietnam was a waste of time," he said. "You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to see what was going on. It bothered me that young kids would come back all mangled up. I had some animosity towards the protestors. When I got back home, I went out but never talked to anyone about where I'd been."
He is proud of the people in his family who have served — his father, Paul, was in the Army Air Forces in World War II, his brother Peter was a Marine during the Vietnam era and his son Mike has been serving in the Navy 13 years, as well as numerous other relatives.
Spc. Dave DiMestico, thank you for your service to our great country and welcome home.
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