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Vietnam war veteran thrilled to be recognized at Pens game

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The Penguins and PPG are working together on a series of stories to feature the most colorful fans in the game.

Vietnam War Army veteran Jim Delmar knew he would be honored in some way at the Penguins' Veterans Day celebration during their game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena. But he never expected the reception he got.

During the first TV timeout of the first period of Pittsburgh's 3-2 shootout win, the Penguins honored Delmar, who has been a Penguins season ticket holder since 2002, on the video board with their Season Ticket Holder Stick Tap.  

"As a thank you to you and your family, we are pleased to present you with an autographed stick from Penguins Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux," PA announcer Ryan Mill said. "Jim, we salute you and thank you for your service and sacrifice to ensure freedom for the United States of America. Thank you, sir."

Video: Vietnam Veteran Jim Delmar is recognized in-game.

Both Jim and his wife Dreama were emotional about the recognition, saying they were surprised and thrilled.

"It's amazing. I still haven't digested it all yet," Dreama said. "We had no idea that it was going to be such an awesome time. It really is amazing."

The stick couldn't have been a more fitting gift, as Mario Lemieux was the reason that Jim and his wife Dreama got season tickets in the first place.

"We watched hockey for years on TV," Jim said. "But as soon as Mario came out of retirement, I said, we've got to see hockey live. So we've been season ticket holders ever since."

Jim, who is from Mount Washington, went to his first hockey game when he was 12 years old.

"I saw the Pittsburgh Hornets over at the Civic Arena," he said. "After that, I was hooked. That was when they didn't wear helmets. I didn't even understand the game but I liked what they were doing."

When Jim was just 21 years old, he began serving in Vietnam as an Army paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Just a month into his tour of duty, during the summer of 1968, Delmar and his platoon were on patrol one night when they tried to cross an abandoned campsite.

"We didn't know the whole place was booby-trapped," he said. "I was the fifth guy that walked in there. I wasn't in there for 30 seconds and I'm on the ground looking at the sky. I didn't even hear an explosion."

Delmar lost both of his legs in the explosion, and almost didn't make it, spending almost a year in the hospital.

"But there is a happy ending to the story," Delmar said. "Because I was recuperating in the Pittsburgh VA Hospital and that's where I met my future wife. Dreama and I have been married for the last 48 years. So sometimes, good things come out of bad situations. And even though I can't walk any more, I can still watch the Penguins play. I like that."

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