Veteran of the Week: Gene Dekich ran his own race

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Gene Dekich sit next to his medals and holds the small Bible that he carried in Army uniform shirt pocket filled with his personal notes from his combat tour during the Korean War. He is a mustanger, the military term for entering the U.S. Army as an enlisted man and retiring as an officer. (Contributed)

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Gene Dekich sit next to his medals and holds the small Bible that he carried in Army uniform shirt pocket filled with his personal notes from his combat tour during the Korean War. He is a mustanger, the military term for entering the U.S. Army as an enlisted man and retiring as an officer. (Contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

Korea War Veteran Lt. Col. (Ret.) Sherlie Eugene “Gene” Dekich singly summed up his life’s philosophy: “Every man has to run his own race.”

The Dekich men have served our nation with honor: father Mike served in WWI, brother Milan served in WWII, Gene served in Korea and grandson Lucian served in Afghanistan.

Dekich joined the U.S. Army at age 21 on Jan. 31, 1951.

“I wanted to go to combat and see what it was all about,” said Dekich. “Basic training was tough but it was necessary. We knew we were going to war.”

Private Dekich was transferred to Seattle, Wash., where he boarded a ship bound for Japan. At the base of Mt. Fuji, Dekich took advanced infantry and arrived in Incheon, Korea, on Aug. 14, 1951.

“I was one of the first off the ship,” said Dekich. “I advanced to the front lines with my weapon, ammo and some C rations where the combat was intense. We were so short of officers.

“I became a master sergeant in eight months leading a platoon. We fought in the Iron Triangle, Punch Bowl and Heartbreak Ridge campaigns. It was so cold, sometimes 54 degrees below zero. On the front lines, you had to be alert at all times. We lived like rats and slept wherever you could.”

Dekich served with the 25th Infantry Division and 14th Regimental Combat Team in Korea.

He came back to the states and joined the U.S. Army Reserves where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

He graduated from Auburn University with a B.S. and M.S. in education and earned his law degree from Jones University, Montgomery.

Dekich was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge. Some of his medals include: Army Commendation, Army Good Conduct, Army Reserves Components Achievement, American Defense Service, American Occupation, Armed Forces Reserve, National Defense Service, Korea Service (three stars) medals.

He retired in Sept. 30, 1982, as Lieutenant Colonel, 87th MAC Training Unit, U.S. Army Reserves.

While in the reserves, Dekich became a successful insurance businessman. He and wife Nena have two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

About Phoebe Donald Robinson

I am President of Donald Real Estate and Ins. Co., Inc., a company that my grandfather , Charles J. Donald, founded in 1925. I am the third generation owner of the business. I am also the Columbiana Columnist for the Shelby County Reporter.

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