TROY — A Miami County resident’s heroism in combat has been awarded 49 years after his release from the U.S Army.
On May 7, Troy native Staff Sgt. Michael “Mick” L. DeHart was presented the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military decoration to be awarded to a member of the U.S. Army behind only the Congressional Medal of Honor.
DeHart was drafted at age 25 in 1967, and served two years, going to Vietnam in August 1968 and coming home in August 1969.
“I turned 27 in Vietnam, and in my outfit, that was old,” DeHart said. “Most of the people under me were what I’d call kids. I think the closest to me might’ve been 22 or 23. Most were 18-20. We were a small outfit compared to others, and we kept our act together better than some because of it. We couldn’t afford to do anything foolish or careless.”
The award was given to DeHart based upon the actions that took place on April 10, 1969, when DeHart’s outfit, while in the Tay Ninh Province on reconaissance, was ambushed by the enemy.
According to a citation read at the presentation, DeHart “exposed himself to enemy fire and repeatedly moved man-to-man to direct the defense, redistribute ammunition and water, and give encouragement. With the enemy within 25 yards and threatening to overrun his platoon, Staff Sgt. DeHart, at extreme risk to his life, rose up atop the crater fully exposed to the advancing enemy and delivered a devastating volume of fire from M-60 machine gun that killed a number of enemy soldiers, broke the forward momentum of the attack, and forced the enemy to pull back.”
The citation went on to state that DeHart was the last to board a helicopter, continuing to fire as they lifted off.
For his efforts, DeHart was initially awarded two Silver Star medals, the third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat, awarded primarily to members of the Armed Forces for gallantry in action.
“I got one for meritorious service, which means being a good soldier,” DeHart said. “And then the other one was for actions done in combat.”
Beginning in late 2014, Mick’s wife, Carol, and several others combined their efforts to seek the possibility of a medal upgrade for DeHart’s wartime actions.
“It started with Congressman Boehner’s office,” DeHart said. “His veterans outreach man, Tristan Weiss, knew my situation and got together with my wife, and they started exploring the possible upgrade. They contacted my battalion commander from Vietnam, Col. Jerry Burcham, and he got heavily involved.”
“Jerry spearheaded it, but Tristan and John Boehner did the government side of the investigation,” Carol said. “They requested all the battalion reports, all the company reports from the first camp archives. My part of it was to contact the men who were actually in the firefight with him to get statements from them. We got 12 back. All 12, in their own words, shared the same account of what happened that day.”
In all, 75 pages of documentation were submitted for review.
“John Boehner submitted it to the office of the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, on Sept. 11, 2015,” Carol said. “From then on, it was under review. It went from Fort Knox to the Pentagon, then back to Fort Knox. Fort Knox is the Army Awards and Decorations division, so that’s where the final decision was made.”
The DeHarts were contacted about the upgrade decision on May 4, and the Distinguished Service Cross was presented the following Monday to DeHart at 8th District Congressman Warren Davidson’s satellite office in Troy.
Family and friends were present as DeHart was recognized by Davidson and Army Col. Carter Price from Fort Knox.
“Col. Price we’d known a long time, and he was a real bright spot,” Carol said. “He was in full uniform and was very impressive.”
During the presentation of the cross, Davidson referred to DeHart as “an American hero,” and described the award given to DeHart for his actions as “long overdue.”
“We’d been waiting three years, which was a good anxiety for the potential it held,” DeHart said. “I personally wasn’t concerned at the time whether it was turned down altogether, as I had two Silver Stars, and that was enough notoriety. It hasn’t really hit yet, but I’ve gotten some extraordinary comments from people who know me, and that has been super.”
DeHart was inducted in 2009 into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for valor, and was inducted in 2015 into the Veterans Hall of Fame.
Mick and Carol have four children, and continue to reside in Troy.