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Flag Flies for John Constantine Dekas

Flag Flies for John Constantine Dekas photo thumbnail161968

In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to U.S Air Force veteran John Constantine Dekas by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of January. 

“The district is proud to honor Mr. Dekas for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen. 

Dekas was recognized at a ceremony on Jan. 24 at Hampton Bays Elementary School, where middle school students in the district read his biography. The middle school jazz band performed “What’s Cookin’” by Victor Lopez, and Kelly Velasquez read her winning Patriot’s Pen essay, “What Makes America Great.” The event culminated with the raising of the flag on the school’s flagpole. 

Dekas was born in 1936 in Boston. He attended Boston Trade High School, which he completed in two years. Upon graduation, he decided to use his intellectual capability in the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force tested him extensively, and they allowed him to enlist in 1954.

Dekas entered the Air Force at the Boston Army Base and was transferred to Sampson Air Force Base in New York. He received a top secret, cryptographic, “eyes only” government security clearance because of his training at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi in highly specialized technical areas such as cryptography, ground/airborne/intercept/radio training and radio maintenance training. 

In 1955, he was assigned to classified missions that included Shiroi Air Force Base in Japan, working with the British in Kowloon (Hong Kong), China, and working at Da Nang Air Base in Vietnam (his first of two assignments to Vietnam). Dekas was one of the first U.S. military personnel to enter Vietnam before the original U.S. involvement. After these assignments, he found himself on the island of Guam. This remote assignment with a Mobile Communications Unit for a classified project — "Green Moon" — was compounded by the fact that in their area, Japanese holdouts from World War II were still active. Ultimately, the Air Force increased its personnel from 13 to 40 to address these concerns.

Dekas also volunteered with the 54th Weather Squadron as a flight engineer and airborne radio operator on a B-50 aircraft, tracking typhoons between Guam, Okinawa and the Philippines. On one mission, they lost two of their four engines and made an emergency landing on Kwajalein Atoll, a U.S. Naval base. After repairing the engines, Naval personnel attached two jet-assisted takeoff bottles to lift the giant aircraft back into the sky for a safe return to Guam.

In 1957, Dekas returned to the States to Edwards Air Force Base in California as an air traffic controller assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center. From there, he reported to Loring Air Force Base in Maine as an air controller. In the mid 1960s, Dekas was back for another assignment in Guam in air traffic control and single sideband operation, which also included a second classified mission to Da Nang Air Base.

Back in the U.S., Dekas was assigned to Suffolk County Air Force Base (now Gabreski Airport) with the 52nd Fighter Wing. While running base housing, and in keeping with military tradition, he became the ultimate military scrounger, doing his best to accommodate Air Force personnel and their families’ needs. He even conjured up a swap with the U.S. Navy at Norfolk, Virginia, resulting in a court-martial that ultimately proved him innocent of any wrongdoing. The officers (a lieutenant colonel and a captain) who signed the court-martial were removed from the Air Force.

Dekas' career continued with classified assignments at NORAD and the Air Defense Command at Ent Air Force Base in Colorado, and the 6th Allied Tactical Air Force (NATO) in Turkey. While working with CIA operatives during that time, Dekas was wounded in Cyprus by a Greek Cypriot. The Turkish military treated him and returned him to mainland Turkey.

Following training for industrial and management engineering at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado, Dekas was assigned to Plattsburgh Air Force Base in New York and to Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts for engineering studies. He also conducted engineering studies, on loan from the Air Force, for the Coors Brewing Company in Colorado and the Alcoa Aluminum Company in New York. Dekas served more than 20 years of active duty and was honorably retired in 1974 with the rank of technical sergeant. Returning to Long Island, he completed his education as a certified financial planner at Adelphi University. 

Dekas is a past commander of the American Legion, an active member of the Suffolk County American Legion and a member of the board of governors of the Veterans Administration Volunteer Services.

Dekas and his wife, Patricia Ann Micari-Dekas, have a daughter, Dione, and a son, John Jr. Including twin daughters, Brenda and Bridget, from a previous marriage, he has a total of 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.