The Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Vietnam veteran Frederick Dacierno by flying an American flag in his honor through the month of March.
“The district is proud to honor Mr. Dacierno for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.
Dacierno was honored at a ceremony held March 17 at Hampton Bays Elementary School. During the event, middle school jazz band musicians performed and representatives from the eighth-grade class introduced him by reading his biography. Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman spoke in Dacierno’s honor. The ceremony concluded with the raising of the American flag.
Dacierno has a long history in Hampton Bays. His family first moved to the area from Freeport, where his father worked for Scopinich’s Freeport Point Shipyard, to work at the Scopiniches’ Hampton Shipyard in East Quogue. Dacierno’s graduating high school class was the first kindergarten class to attend the same building as the high school.
After graduation, he went to trade school in North Carolina to train as a heavy equipment operator. In December 1969, his number came up in the first draft lottery as number 5, meaning he would be drafted. He returned from North Carolina and got a job while waiting for his notice. Dacierno wanted to serve in the Army Corps of Engineers, so he volunteered and enlisted for three years. If he had accepted the two-year draft commitment, he would not have had a choice of military specialty.
After training in the Engineer Corps, Dacierno went to Vietnam in August 1970 and was assigned to the 137th Engineer Company, which was attached to the 39th Engineer Battalion, 18th Brigade. On his second day in-country, the company leadership designated him as operator of the month. He then went on to the battalion competition and was promoted to specialist fourth class about a month after competing, where he was tested in military knowledge, current events and anything else the examination board thought was pertinent to his service. He ran all equipment for the company, including driving tractors, bulldozers and he even had a chauffeur’s license. Dacierno also trained his fellow soldiers to operate the same equipment. His nickname was “D.”
In February 1971, Dacierno was assigned to operate a bulldozer in the field where they were building a road. His bulldozer drove over a land mine. He did not hear the explosion and was thrown into a rice paddy, losing his M-16 rifle. His fellow soldiers placed him aboard a MEDEVAC helicopter for evacuation to a field hospital. After he got out of the hospital, he was assigned to company headquarters. A month later, he was assigned to a rock quarry for the rest of his tour. Dacierno was awarded the Bronze Star of Valor; the Purple Heart; the Army Commendation Medal; the Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
He recalled his scariest day in the Army. His unit had to relocate from the field. When his unit arrived at the compound, it was past curfew and they had to stay outside the compound all night, vulnerable to attack. Everyone stayed in the trucks, and fortunately, nothing happened.
Since his time in Vietnam was coming to an end, Dacierno was able to request his assignment back in “the world.” He asked to be assigned near home and got an assignment as a drill instructor at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He was honorably discharged in March 1973.
When he got home, he went to work at Hampton Excavating. His boss was a Korean War veteran. He stayed there 11 years and then went to work for Chesterfield and Associates, doing marine construction, and then later to S.L. Worby and Son, Inc. in Westhampton Beach. He married his wife, Bonnie, in 1986; they had two children, Jenny and Neil.