For Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Dale Mertlich, helping others is a way of life.
He first joined the Navy after being inspired by his family’s legacy of service, including his father and brothers who served in the Army and his grandfather, who served in the Navy. When the Navy asked if Dale would serve as a Corpsman, whose job would be to perform emergency medical treatment to military personnel injured in the field, Dale readily agreed as a tribute to his own mother, who’d aspired to become a nurse.
During the Vietnam War, Dale provided critical medical services to injured service members on the battlefield and sustained life-threatening wounds himself — resulting in three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. In three separate incidents, Dale suffered multiple injuries, including a gunshot wound to his hand and shrapnel to his face, forearms, and lower body, but his mindset of helping those around him never faltered.
An excerpt of his Silver Star citation reads, “During the early morning hours on 15 January 1967, Hospitalman Mertlich’s unit was attacked by a numerically superior Viet Cong force … In the ensuing fire fight, Hospitalman Mertlich received serious head wounds when a satchel charge was thrown into his bunker. Disregarding his own painful wounds, Hospitalman Mertlich began moving through the intense fire in order to administer first aid to his wounded companions. For the next two hours, Hospitalman Mertlich continued administering aid despite additional wounds he received from a grenade blast as he ran across the fire-swept area. When the enemy assault had been repelled and rescue helicopters had landed, Hospitalman Mertlich assisted in carrying the wounded to the landing zone. By his courageous actions, outstanding professional competence and selfless devotion to duty, Hospitalman Mertlich minimized the suffering of numerous Marines and thereby upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.”
In 2020, Dale joined our LCpl Parsons Welcome Home Fund after hearing about it from two fellow wounded veterans. Thanks to The Fund’s partnership with The Home Depot Foundation, which provides our Nation’s injured and ill heroes with essential support and life-changing home modifications, he received grants to ensure his comfort and safety at home while dealing with the lifelong effects of his injuries. Dale’s nerve damage in his legs and balance issues made it unsafe for him to perform home repairs or walk inside of his own home. But with help from The Home Depot Foundation, The Fund paid for the entire outside of his home to be repainted to avoid regulation fees and replaced his home flooring to allow him to move without the danger of falling.
“You guys have been wonderful. You’re a real blessing. I never knew an organization existed to help Vietnam veterans like this,” he said. “It means a lot to us, and we are so grateful.”
With The Fund and The Home Depot Foundation beside him to provide life-changing support, Dale now spends his days alongside his wife, Sue, and their sixteen grandchildren and is always on the lookout on how to serve those around him.
“Always help anybody you can. If you can, help them,” said Dale. “And always smile.”