Omega Frater John Dillahunt named Unsung Hero
Quite a few years have passed since John Dillahunt of New Bern learned he would be forced to battle cancer.
There would be surgery, hormone therapy and 32 treatments of radiation to come for Dillahunt, a Vietnam veteran who enlisted at the age of 22 in the U.S. Army.
The thought of 32 radiation treatments seemed a huge burden and not just for medical reasons. It would mean four hours of driving every day for nearly six weeks to the Durham VA Medical Center.
Though Dillahunt had served two combat tours in Vietnam, he had never once thought about the group he now volunteers for — the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
“I was in Bridgeton one day when I happened to walk outside and see a DAV van. I never really thought about what they did,” he said. “But, I decided to contact them and see if they could help me travel back and forth for my treatments.”
That call changed his life. He accepted the help and the ride, got through the trying time, and decided after regaining his health that it was time for him to give back.
Dillahunt now serves as the DAV van coordinator. He’s the one responsible for making sure disabled veterans needing a trip to Durham or the VA Clinics in Morehead City or Greenville receive the help they need.
And he’s made the trip many times taking veterans to their medical appointments.
“They took care of me — 32 times, five days a week,” he said. “I wanted to give something back to those who gave to me. Helping the guys and gals that fought for this country — there’s nothing better than that.”
Dillahunt said he, too, is disabled because of his service, but he keeps going. Perhaps he thrives on each opportunity he has to serve others.
Not only is Dillahunt the DAV van coordinator but he is also a service officer for the DAV, assisting many veterans in submitting disability claims — a process that can be cumbersome and time-consuming.
He’s also a dedicated member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and has been for 38 years. In 2011, he received the Founders Award for exhibiting best qualities of fraternity founders. In 2002, he received the award for Omega Man of the Year for outstanding leadership, dedication and support to the Nu Alpha Chapter of the New Bern fraternity.
On top of volunteering his time in his community, he is most proud of his family. His wife, Elner, is a volunteer driver, and his children are successful college graduates.
An active member of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, Dillahunt serves as chairman of the deacon board and as a Sunday School teacher. And, in his free time, he volunteers for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina by distributing food to participating churches.
“When I was going through surgery and treatment (for cancer), I just felt like if the Lord chooses to keep me around, I would dedicate my life to helping others,” he said. “Anything I can do to help someone in need — that’s where my ministry is.”