Richard Kisamore never planned to make serving his country and its veterans a lifetime job. But he is still traveling down a path he started on 51 years ago and recently was named Ohio Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Member of the Year at the 2017 state conference in Columbus.
A DAV member since the 1970s, Kisamore never attended the state convention before this year.
“It was the first time in my life that I went to the state convention and I told my wife that one time in my life, I should probably go,” the 72-year-old Leesburg resident said. “I was kind of shocked when they announced it. I just figured I was doing my job. I didn’t think it was something outstanding. I don’t do things for the accolades. I do them because they need to be done and because I care about the chapter.”
It all started when Kisamore was 20 years old and enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a sonar technician in 1966.
“I grew up in Fairborn and with Wright-Patterson it was an Air Force town, and I didn’t want to go in the Air Force. It was Vietnam time, so I went in the Navy,” Kisamore said.
He spent most of his three and a half years of service time aboard the nuclear submarine USS George C. Marshall, including its maiden voyage in 1966. He also completed the challenging task of qualifying as a submarine specialist and was deployed on five deterrent patrols. The USS Marshall was a vital element of the nation’s Nuclear Strategic Missile Force. It was one of the “41 for Freedom” submarines – a stabilizing component for world peace and a dominant part of that deterrent during the Cold War. Kisamore was also a Seaman on the USS Northampton and the USS Basilone during the Vietnam War, earning the National Defense Service Medal before returning home to Ohio in 1969.
Kisamore severely damaged a knee during his service time and said that some time in the mid 1970s it was pretty much his wife that signed him up for the DAV. But he was not active for several years.
It was in the mid 1980s that Kisamore first landed in Highland County. He was working for a fertilizer company that transferred him to a facility in New Vienna. He worked there for a couple years until the plant closed down, then went to work for the federal government at the Defense Supply Center. During that time his kids enrolled in the Fairfield schools in Leesburg and Kisamore decided to drive back and forth to work rather than move his kids.
Eventually, he become involved in village government, first serving on Leesburg Village Council and then a term as mayor in the late 1990s.
“I was serving on village council with James Priest and one of his last requests, when he was sick and about ready to pass, was that I take his place on the Highland County Veterans Service Commission,” Kisamore said. “It was something that interested me and I felt it was a good way to continue to serve the veterans of Highland County at the time.”
In April of 1992, he was appointed to the commission to fill an unexpired term, then was re-appointed to four more five-year terms, serving as president of the board for many of those years. He finally stepped down when he was 66.
“I decided that when you spend that much time on a board you become rather ineffective. You’ve used up most of your thoughts and ideas and I felt it was time for younger people and younger veterans to give their input,” Kisamore said. “I just had a desire to serve veterans more than anything else, and do what was right. We moved us from the pencil days to the computer age. I felt as long as as you’re a viable asset to the community and was helping us move through the changes, it was great.”
But Kisamore was already helping local veterans.
In 1991, he was contacted by Lloyd C. Ludwick, a charter member of DAV Chapter 123 in Hillsboro.
With very little persuasion, according to current DAV Commander Gary Smaltz, Ludwick recruited Kisamore into the local chapter, now known as the DAV Lloyd C. Ludwick Chapter.
“It didn’t take long for him to learn and acknowledge the needs and responsibilities of both the DAV organization and the organization’s beneficiaries,” Smaltz said.
Today, Kisamore is the chapter’s adjutant treasurer, which he jokingly described as a glorified secretary’s position.
“Throughout his membership to now… Richard has dedicated his heart, knowledge and organizational skills to both the welfare and livelihood of American veterans with disabilities, in and outside of our Highland County community,” Smaltz said. “He has remained deeply loyal to the responsibilities of his long-standing position of treasurer/adjutant within this organization for more than 25 years now.
“Richard Kisamore has diligently served his country more than just with his military service in the late 1960s. His philanthropic disposition has helped accommodate the well-being of countless individuals, both veteran and civilian, through his memberships with charitable organizations for many, many years.”
Kisamore is a life member of the DAV Lloyd C. Ludwick Chapter, American Legion Post 129 and AMVETS Post 61, long-standing member of the Leesburg Lions Club, including being a board member and past Ohio District Governor (District 13J), and in 2002 was named a Kentucky Colonel.
“I just thought I was doing my job,” Kisamore said.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected]