If you go to the commissary on Carlisle Barracks, you’ll see a badge on the wall that reads #1 bagger. Not your average employee recognition, it’s an ode to the almost 51 years Dave Dellinger served military families as a volunteer commissary bagger. Liked, loved and respected by many, this badge symbolizes the retiring of his number.
At the age of 16, Dellinger and five other special needs young adults started working at Goodwill, which was a trades facility back then. Later, they were moved to the commissary on Carlisle. Maxine Bond, Dellinger’s younger sister, recalls being eight years old and watching her brother leave for work.
“He loved his job. It gave him purpose and a reason to get up every day,” she said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average person has 10 different jobs before the age of 40. Of the six people who started out with Dellinger, he was the only one with staying power.
One can only imagine the changes that take place over the span of half a century. Dellinger has seen them build a new commissary, but the changes he remembers most are the people who PCS in and out.
“A lot of changes. A lot of new people,” he described.
After being there for so long, he admits to missing it. His favorite part was the people he worked with. Bond references her brother’s employees with appreciation, “They were always very kind and sensitive to his needs.”
Lee Glasser, assistant head bagger, remembers Dellinger’s dedication.
“He would always go out of his way to help and do things that weren’t even a part of his job. The customers still ask about him,” Glasser said.
Commissary secretary, Elizabeth Walton, worked with “Davie”—his nickname, for 16 years.
“Davie was great. He got along well with everybody and was always here, always dependable, and always a hard worker,” she said.
But being a hard worker was easy for Dellinger who enjoyed what he did and was supported everyday by his family and co-workers. He was also clever and found ways around the system. Bond’s husband laughs as he remembers a funny story.
“There was a rule that if something got broken or opened, everyone could share it in the break room. Suspiciously, a lot of cookies and donuts were broken into. They found out that Dave did it on purpose so he could have the sweets. They had to let him know not to do that anymore,” he said.
On the 50th anniversary of Dellinger’s employment, a flag was taken to the post garrison and flown in his honor. His fellow baggers, in a gesture of respect because they liked him so much, put the flag in a case for him to keep.
“The flag is a big deal to him. He keeps it in his bedroom,” Bond added.
Dellinger’s days are now filled with tasks like walking to get the mail, feeding the animals, watching birds and helping to cut wood. He gets emotional when Bond speaks lovingly to him, “you’re just a big helper around here aren’t ya?”
Serving the military community completes Dellinger’s circle because he also comes from a family of service members. Both his sisters served in the Army. Bond, who retired after 24 years of being active duty, expresses pride for her brother’s support of the military community for all those years.
Dellinger sometimes goes back to visit his friends at the commissary, but after five decades of commitment, he says, “I’m retired and it’s time for me to take it easy.”