With a father, father-in-law and grandfather who were all dentists, Shelbyville resident Dick Fero was destined to become a dentist, correct? No. Instead, a fascination with aircraft and flying turned into a stint in the military. “I always admired flying and aircraft and was always interested in it,” Fero said. Fero said he and two others saw an ad for the U.S. Marines and went to Buffalo to sign up. “The next day, we cancelled. On Jan. 19, 1955, I was in the Air Force and was there when the B52s began and was a crew chief at the end,” Fero said.
Fero’s time in the Air Force - 3 years, 7 months and 21 days - came to an end when he took an “early out” and went to college. “I was at Houghton College and transferred to Alfred College. Alfred had Army ROTC and offered me a regular commission. I chose the Army because it had ROTC and I think there was always some desire after three years to get a commission,” Fero said. Fero immediately found himself in Fort Irwin, California. “At Fort Irwin, I ran the range and was a fire expert with a .45. I was always proud of that,” Fero said. However, an unexpected phone call would change his direction.
“I had orders to take over a command in Germany. I called the Army about Vietnam and volunteered,” he said. In 1964, Fero found himself on an advisory team in Vietnam. “The only way in was by way of an L19 airplane. At some point, I got a letter about being a pilot and going to school. I finished my first tour and went to Fort Rucker. I went back to Vietnam for my second tour and spent time repairing helicopters,” Fero said. During his time in Vietnam, tensions were so high back at home that Fero’s wife didn’t tell anyone where he was. “We got spit on and yelled at when we came back home. I appreciate the efforts in recent years to thank the Vietnam veterans, and I think things have changed,” he said. After Vietnam, Fero went back to school, spent a few years in Korea and decided to retire from the Army after 16 years and 11 months. “The Army gave me credit for 21 years,” said Fero, who earned several Bronze Stars during his time. Fero’s service to his country and fellow man didn’t stop there, though.
“When I got out, I felt an obligation to help others. I signed up with the Republican Party and was a precinct chair. I felt a calling toward the Republican side, and I served one term as chair of the party,” Fero said.
In addition, he has stayed active with the American Legion and other military events. “This is my country, and I feel I’ve done a reasonable effort to support my country and keep peace. I stand a little taller when the national anthem is played,” Fero said.