USMC, VIETNAM, 1970-71
Larry DeVelvis was born at home, in 1949, in Findlay, Ohio. His family consisted of his father Harry, mother Betty, two older sisters, an older brother and a younger sister. All the children were born at home into a very humble setting. Larry’s father would leave the family when he was seven and his mother worked very hard at the local Country Market to make ends meet. She would raise her five children and then passed away at the young age of 52.
Larry graduated from Findlay High School in 1968. He was working for a local pizza restaurant called Jac and Do’s when he received his draft notice. (This would affect his life when he returned from Vietnam.) His physical qualified him 1A and knowing he was going to drafted, Larry made the choice to enlist in the Marine Corps. “I wanted to see if I was tough enough.”
He was at Parris Island for nine weeks of basic training and then went to Camp Geiger for another nine weeks of ITR, advanced combat training. He remembers how proud he was the day his D.I. called him a Marine and pinned on his eagle, globe and anchor on graduation day.
Being assigned as a rifleman he knew he was headed for Vietnam and combat. Larry headed home for a 20 day leave where he had his twentieth birthday. Next stop was Camp Pendleton for staging then on to Danang. He was in a group of replacement marines and was assigned to An Hoi firebase, where he joined the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine regiment. He would join India Company, 3rd platoon, Bravo squad. His first move into the field was to Hill 65, a fire support base, located in what was called “Charlie Ridge.”
After being acclimated to the country, assigned a weapon and trained on recognizing booby-traps and land mines, Larry was tasked to walk “point” for his squad for the next three months. It was his responsibility to watch for anything out of place, listen for any sounds and use his sense of smell to locate the enemy. He credits fellow marine Ray Otto for buddying up to him, being a mentor, teaching him how to stay alive. His squad was often assigned to “search and destroy” missions, many times spending up to fifteen days in the bush and five days of down time on the “hill.”
As with most veterans Larry does not discuss details. “I was shot at, I shot back. I did what I was trained to do. The enemy was doing his best to kill me.” “We had to be so careful, we owned the day, but the VC owned the night. “They were like ghosts”, as he recalled one ambush, his squad had set up around three VC bodies. “We had the area surrounded waiting for them to try and recover the bodies.” His unit waited all night. When first light came the bodies were gone, without a sound!
Other incidents he mentioned that were unsettling for him included when VC attacked their firebase one night. The next morning, among the dead enemy soldiers was a Vietnamese man who would cut the Marines hair during the day. “You couldn’t tell who the enemy was.” Women were also used to set up booby traps. Larry recalls, “One woman was badly injured, a short distance away from us while we were on patrol, when a bomb she was hiding accidently detonated.” (She was medi-evaced out and treated for her wounds.)
After walking point, he would rotate to be the squad’s radioman for three months and then on to be a fireteam leader. Larry was promoted from PFC, to Lance Corporal and after nine months he became a Corporal, assuming the position of squad leader. On February 4th of 1971, Corporal DeVelvis would leave country and “return to the world.” (He was awarded numerous individual and unit combat citations and ribbons.)
After completing his last five months of service at Camp Geiger teaching first aid to new marines he mustered out on August 25th, 1971. On September 4th he would marry Linda and set up a home in Findlay. They would have two children, Larry II, and Melissa. They would divorce eight years later.
Jack, the owner of Jac and Do’s Pizza, contacted Larry after his discharge, and after a brief meeting, Jack put Larry in charge as the new manager of the pizza restaurant. Larry was very happy and used his well-honed work ethic to work twelve-hour days, six days a week, to keep the restaurant running. He was twenty-one years old. One morning in 1972, Jack offered to sell Jac and Do’s to Larry. On February 1st, the papers were signed, and Larry would begin over fifty years of dedicated service to the people of Findlay.
In 1982, Larry and Virginia married and they have two children, Tiffany and Clay. Larry has eight grandchildren. With retirement looming in the next five years Larry and Virginia plan to continue to take trips west, to Las Vegas, Tucson, Colorado and visit family in Wichita.
Larry stays connected to the Marine Corps by serving with the Toys for Tots campaign for the past 15 years. He has been honored as the local Vietnam Veteran of the year in 2016, serves in the local color guard, and belongs to the James J. McClellan Marine Corps League Detachment.