TOPEKA (KSNT) – Vietnam veteran John Dietrick celebrated his 21st and 22nd birthday overseas. In that time, he would serve in an almost million dollar aircraft – undertaking the responsibility for protecting his fellow soldiers that came with him.

John was inspired to join the armed forces in part from his father, who served as a pilot himself during World War II.

“He liked the fact, as well as my mom, that I was joining the service and going into flight school,” Dietrick said. “My mom was obviously very distraught that I was going into Vietnam. Back in the day every article it started out with two sentences, one how many men were killed, and how many helicopter pilots were shut down. My mom would read that, not knowing if I was one of those people.” 

John took part in not just one, but two tours in Vietnam.

“My first tour was pretty much all combat,” Dietrick said. “Our mission was to search for the enemy, and once we engage with the enemy we would drop our own troops infantry troops in.”

As a helicopter pilot, John heavily impacted the battlefield, and decided the fate of fellow soldiers.

“Our infantrymen literally depended on us for medical evacuation, for ammunition, for food, and if a helicopter could not bring those things in, they went without,” Dietrick said. “It was critical that we were able to help them with those things. That’s probably one of the most rewarding things about my service in Vietnam.” 

Through his time overseas John would be honored with a multitude of medals, ranging from the Bronze Star Medal, to the Air Medal for Heroism.

“The two that I’m probably most proud of, one I rescued a pilot who had been shot down, myself and my crew rescued him under heavy automatic weapons fire,” he said. “Another one a pilot went down in his helicopter, and we pulled him out as well. Making those rescues under intense hostile fire situations I’m probably most proud of those.”

After his time abroad ended, John continued flying with the Kansas Army National Guard at Forbes. He would go on to plant his roots in Topeka, where he practices law to this day.