Bob Dickerson, Wilmington DE

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Bob Dickerson, Wilmington DE

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Our military veterans sacrificed so much to serve for us; and Delaware Hospice staff and volunteers are grateful for the opportunity to serve our veterans now–such as WWII Veterans, Bob Dickerson, Sergeant in the Marine Corps, and Sam Smith, Warrant Officer in the Army and the Merchant Marines.  Both gentlemen now reside in Sussex County and both have found a helping hand through Delaware Hospice’s Transitions Program, which offers non-medical support to individuals with serious illnesses who are not hospice appropriate.

Bob Dickerson had never heard of Delaware Hospice or what hospice care was all about until his wife was diagnosed with COPD.  “Her doctor informed us that with her limited lung capacity, she had a very short life expectancy.  A friend suggested we call in Delaware Hospice to help keep her at home.   They agreed to admit her, and then Delaware Hospice’s care team started coming in!  The nurse, C.N.A., and social workers seemed to take care of everything.  I couldn’t figure out where so many good people came from.  I never saw anyone who wasn’t a very dedicated person.”

About the time Bob lost his wife, he had become eligible for the Transitions Program with his own declining health. His wife’s Delaware Hospice volunteer, Carrie, remained with him, visiting once a week and he appreciates her friendship and help.  “Carrie is such a lovely person.  We go to the store every Wednesday, and then have lunch.  Afterwards, we return home and Carrie helps me put away and organize the groceries.  I consider her a very close friend, and she will never leave without saying, ‘Bob, if you need anything, you just call me.’”

Bob grew up in Wilmington and was attending P.S. DuPont High school when war broke out.  “I was so afraid that I wouldn’t get to serve that I went to Philadelphia during my senior year to enlist in the air corps.  They said I was too small.  As I went down the hall, the Marine recruiter called me in.  He said that I appeared to be a little on the short side, but to come over to get measured.  The requirement was 5’6” and I was then 5’5 ½”.  So he stuck a pencil under my heels and said, ‘You’re in!’”

As the train pulled away from the Wilmington Station in January 1943, I met other new Marine Corps recruits, all heading to Parris Island, South Carolina.  A fellow next to me asked where I was from, and I said, ‘Wilmington, Delaware.’  He said, ‘Oh, you’re a square from Delaware.’  So for the next four years, I was known as Square.”

At boot camp, all recruits were given a test to determine where they would go.  Most wanted to be in the infantry, scouts, and sniper school, because that’s what they had heard about.  Bob said, “When I was preparing to take this test, the fellow next to me advised, ‘Square, get the best grade you can on this test because it will determine what you’ll do the rest of the time you’re in the Marine Corps.  He said you don’t want infantry—just get the best you can.’  Since I had still been in high school, it was easy.  Upon leaving boot camp, I was sent to a new school for radar, being organized by a Physics professor.”

The Marine Corps decided they needed a regular army type of coastal artillery, which meant 155 millimeter guns and radar similar to that of the Navy’s ships.  Bob recalled, “They took 30 of us and said, ‘We’re going to make electrical engineers out of you in six weeks!’  We had very extensive schooling in an empty house at a seashore resort called Onslow Beach, North Carolina, and we had a test at the end of that time.  We were told that the man with the highest score would get a Master Tech Sergeant’s rating and would be in charge of everyone else.  The next two high scores would get a Sergeant’s rating.  Well, you had never heard of a Sergeant in the Marines Corps with much less than 30 years, but there I was—a Sergeant after little more than a year of service!”

Bob became a radar technician, and spent the rest of the war supporting the Marine Corps efforts to enhance their radar capabilities.  His tour included Quantico, Aberdeen, San Francisco’s Treasure Island, Hawaii, and the South Pacific islands.  During this time, he also attended a JASCO (Joint Assault Signal Company) school, where he learned to swim underwater, invade an island and place markers on the island which were radio signals.

At the end of the war, Bob rotated back to the U.S. and finished his service at an ammunition depot in New Jersey as Sergeant of the Guard.  Upon discharge, he returned to Wilmington where he worked, owned, and operated Huber’s Sporting Goods in downtown Wilmington for many years.

Fortunately, Sam and Bob were among those veterans who returned safely from the South Pacific, married, raised families, and retired in Sussex County.  Delaware Hospice is honored to have the privilege of caring for them now.

Story Credit: Beverly Crowl, of Delaware Hospice

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