Dan Mulvihill III, an Army veteran and native of Sag Harbor, will be the guest speaker at this year’s Memorial Day services. He spoke about his experience in the military, and how it shaped his life.
When did you serve in the military?
I was in the Army and I served during the Vietnam War, but I was fortunate enough to go to Korea instead of going to Vietnam. I was a lieutenant, and I went to the infantry school in Fort Benning, Georgia. And then I went to Korea in 1966 and served with the 7th Infantry Division, and I was a troop leader there for most of my time in Korea, which was a little over a year. I got the Army Commendation Medal, and then I came back to the States and I ran a training company in Fort Dix, so I was in for two years. I come from a family with a long tradition of military service. My great-grandfather served in the Civil War, and my grandfather was a career naval officer and I have three uncles—two from Sag Harbor—who were all combat veterans of World War II. So I think I was just continuing the military tradition, which I guess is one of the reasons I’m speaking on Memorial Day. And I’ve marched in this Memorial Day parade for more years than I’d like to admit.
Are you ready for your speech on Monday?
I am, and I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with it. Traditionally, everybody on Memorial Day says “We’re here today because of those who gave their lives and now we enjoy the freedoms,” and that’s a good point and I support that point. But I wanted to do something a little bit different, and I decided I’m going to talk about Sag Harbor exceptionalism. I think that it’s interesting to look at the history of Sag Harbor, which for a long time has been a leader. I think that you can make the case the people of Sag Harbor have never been overtaken by events, they’ve been proactive and have created things. And they have always had a view larger than just Eastern Long Island and thus they met the challenge of world wars, of the Civil War, et cetera. And I don’t know how valid that point is, trying to connect everything, but I thought it would be kind of fun to give it a shot.
And now you split your time between Bridgehampton and Manhattan?
After the Army I went to graduate school, I got an MBA and I had a career on Wall Street for almost 40 years and I retired in 2006. I have a home here in Bridgehampton and I spend a good part of the year out here—I’m a hands-on homeowner. I do my yard work, I run, play golf, and I love to spend time in the woods out here. I grew up on my grandparents’ home in Sag Harbor, which is now the Mulvihill Preserve. I grew up on that, I guess it’s kind of in my blood, I’ve been wandering around the woods out here since I was 3 years old. And when I’m not in Bridgehampton or in the city, I spend a lot of my time hiking and mountain climbing. That’s my real passion, what I really plan my year around.
How do you think your time in the military shaped you?
Most of my time in the Army was as a troop leader. And I think the thing I really learned was that you have to listen to people and learn from people. I went to college, I did ROTC, then I went to infantry school for 9 weeks, they send me to Korea, and now I’m a platoon leader and I have 40 people who are looking to me for leadership and guidance. Later on, I became a company commander and I had four platoons that reported to me—that’s 160 men—but fortunately, I had a first Sergeant, Sgt. Smith, and he had been in the army for 20 years. His experience was invaluable. I really learned that most people have some sort of expertise they want to pass along. That’s one of the big things I learned. I also had a battalion commander who was really good; he had a bunch of us who were new, and he knew he had to train us to be leaders. He used to say, and I’ll never forget the expression, “Respect the dignity of the individual.” I think that’s a good lesson to learn in life, whether you’re dealing with a peer or a subordinate, you have to show respect. I can still see him now, chomping on his cigar, saying “Respect the dignity of the individual.”