Mike & H&S Companies
Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
died 15 June 2003
Following is the obituary printed in the Jacksonville Daily News last week.
Dennis Thomas Dinota, 61, of Jacksonville, died June 15 at Onslow Memorial Hospital.
Pretty short for someone who led a full life. I was privileged to meet the man at the reunion in LaGrange in 2001 and saw him again the next year. In between we corresponded a few times, fairly deep stuff for a couple of Jarheads. It's not a stretch to say that he impressed the hell out of me. There are a lot of you out there who knew him a lot better and for a lot longer than I did. All those that I talked seemed to feel the same way about him.
Denny retired from the Marine Corps and worked for over 10 years for the Jacksonville Police Department. Then he was a private investigator for several more years.
There are many that believe that Denny was the best combat Marine they ever knew. This was from his peers, the troops he led, and his CO. For a brief snapshot of his combat history, read his Silver Star Citation, or his Bronze Star Citation (both on this site, click on the underlined links).
There were a whole lot of folks at the services held for Denny on June 18th. Family, a squad of Marines, a detachment of police officers, friends from his PMO days in 'Nam and his police days in the U.S. A number of 3/5 Marines attended also. Marines who knew him in country, on his first tour with Mike 3/5, his Company CO, J.R. McElroy; the Company XO in '66, J.D. Murray; Bill Vandergriff, point man for 1st platoon in 1966 and 1967; and Jim Bisesi, the Battalion Adjutant. Marines from 3/5 who met him later, Mike Wilson from H&S, a radio operator in '68 with the CP group; me, a 1970 H&S (81s) radio operator; Tom Wolfe from India Company; and Conrad Vierow of Mike Company, 1967-68. Brenda Eidson, wife of Curtis (also India 3/5) also attended.
The services were conducted by the Reverend Aycock. Working under the handicap of not knowing Denny in life, he left the eulogies to J.R. McElroy and Bill Vandergriff, both of whom did an outstanding job. I will try and give you a brief synopsis of what they said.
Colonel McElroy spoke of his long friendship with Denny, and told about Denny's six month period with Mike Company 3/5 from late December 1966 through late May 1967, with emphasis on three major Operations, Desoto, Union and Union II. On Union, Denny moved the right side of the company perimeter at dark and new fighting positions were dug in. The NVA attacked later that night and moved into the flanking fires from the newly dug in positions, and were decimated. It is Colonel McElroy's belief that this one action was one of the main reasons the PUC was awarded to the Regiment for the two Operation Unions.
Colonel McElroy told us that Denny joined the Marine Corps without a high school diploma. He later got his GED, was a graduate of the FBI Academy, and went on to become extremely well read, versed in the classics, and a thinking man. I can attest to that.
Bill Vandergriff was next to speak. He also spoke of the combat prowess that Denny possessed. He told the story of how he was part of a reaction force that was setup to respond immediately to any enemy action. Denny was in charge of this force and he told his Marines to rest easy but to keep all their gear on. Bill said he was tired and took his gear off anyway. Well, later that night, they were called to immediate action and since it was pitch dark it took a few extra seconds for Bill to find his gear. Everyone could hear Denny cussing a blue streak about the delay and when Bill finally showed up he was greeted with a resounding slap across the helmet that he said probably gave him a concussion. Bill says he was pissed off for days and wanted to kill Denny but later realized that it was the best lesson he ever received. That is, in every thing you do, be prepared. And he credits that lesson for his survival in Vietnam.
I was speaking with a policeman who had served with Denny in the Jacksonville Police Department and earlier in Vietnam. Denny was given a battlefield commission after Operation Union and in June 1967 and moved to the newly formed Combined Action Group (a consolidation of all the CAPs) in DaNang. This policeman opined that Denny was the toughest man he ever knew.
After the services were complete we drove in a cortege to the North Carolina Veteran's Cemetery, just outside Camp Lejeune. There, everyone gathered around the gazebo-like structure where the flag ceremony and rifle salutes were conducted, impressively. Afterwards, just a few family members and the 3/5 Marines present, remained. Bill Vandergriff, a Lakota Indian, conducted a pipe ceremony, a celebration of both life and death. We were honored to participate in it.
The first three pictures are the beginning of the pipe ceremony, before the participants pass the pipe. The flowers were from veterans of 3/5. Pictures courtesy of Jim Bisesi.
For a picture of Denny Dinota at his last reunion, see Brenda Eidson's 3/5 reunion site at http://www.usmcvietvet.org.
In the last 12 months, Denny was asked to be a speaker at a couple of mess nights for the current generation of active duty Marines, specifically units of the 6th Marines. His accounts of those talks are on this site. Weapon's Company 3/6; and H&S 3/6, just this last March. (click on the underlined links).
Semper Fidelis, Denny, we were honored to have known you.