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Staff Photo / JT Whitehouse Navy veteran Richard Duffett, former Mayor of Canfield, holds the plaques of the two ships he served on in the 1980s.

CANFIELD – US Navy veteran Richard A. Duffett knows how important teams and working together can be. He learned it on the football field and while serving on two Navy ships in the 1980s.

Duffett grew up on Neff Drive in Canfield. He is a member of the Canfield High School Class of 1977 and was known for his skills on the football field. He served as a quarterback for the Cardinals, which caught the attention of Navy scouts.

“After my freshman year, the Naval Academy in Annapolis recruited me for football,” Duffett said.

He jumped at the chance and was happy to serve. He said he had a lot of influence when it came to pursuing a career in the Navy.

“My late father Cecil Duffett was in the Air Force,” he said. “My Uncle Daryl “Jim” Duffett was in the Navy and a WWII veteran, my late Uncle Bill Beiltz was in the Marine Corps. My older brother Dr. Ray Duffett attended Virginia Military Institute and graduated in 1979, and a good friend, Milton Kochert, served in the Navy.

Right after graduation, Duffett traveled to Annapolis and for the next four years he took classes and took to the field, always eager to see the infamous Army-Navy game. Duffett served his Navy team as a quarterback.

“In my freshman year we lost to the military, but we won in my sophomore, junior and senior years,” he said. “I always like to attend these games to encourage the Navy.”

After his four years at the Naval Academy, Duffett continued his education at the Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island. He graduated in 1981 and got his first posting aboard the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower, CVN69.

“I was a division officer in charge of 50 men,” Duffett said.

He said the Eisenhower had been deployed as part of the IKE operational campaigns in Grenada, Libya, the Mediterranean, Beirut and Lebanon.

“In Beirut, we were a key part of President Ronald Reagan’s multinational peacekeeping force,” Duffett said. “We responded to the terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.”

Duffett remembers being at sea for 93 straight days and arriving in Naples, Italy, where the crew was given three days off to disembark. On the first day off, October 23, 1983, Duffett recalled seeing one of the Eisenhower helicopters flying with its sonobuoy dangling.

“It was code to say, get back to the ship now,” he said. “That’s when we heard about the attack in Beirut. No sooner had we started than we were launching planes.

In 1984, Duffett said the Eisenhower was asked to be the ceremonial ship when President Reagan spoke at ceremonies at Point-du-Hoc near Normandy, France, for the 40th anniversary of D-Day. .

“The president’s helicopter flew over the Eisenhower,” Duffett said.

Duffet served on the great carrier for 2½ years.

His second tour of duty was aboard the USS Francis Hammond, which was sent to the Philippines as part of a peacekeeping mission for the transition from Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos to President Corazon Aquino.

While in the Philippines, Duffett said the Hammond participated in joint naval exercises with South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.

Duffett’s next step was to train as a navigator and was then transferred to the Hammond as a navigator and lawyer. He said that as a lawyer he would represent sailors who got into trouble and were brought before the captain to be punished.

The only highlight for Duffett and the crew of the Hammond was the day they found a secret Soviet submarine.

“Our ship had a 600ft (sonar) tail that we could launch,” he said. “We used it and were the first ship to follow the Russian Akula-class submarine.”

By 1987, Duffett had taken on the role of the ship’s athletic director and was playing in a tackle football game. He suffered a serious knee injury that ended his naval career. He received an honorable discharge that year.

“I grew up in Canfield and have always loved the community,” he said. “So I moved back to Canfield and moved to a house on Neff Drive, not far from where I grew up.”

Upon his return to civilian life, Duffett coached football and baseball at Canfield High School and served as a special education teacher at Mahoning County High School.

Around 2002, Duffet found work in the security field and has been there ever since.

In 2005 he married Brenda Corbin Duffett and together they raised three children and now have five grandchildren.

As with his service aboard the aircraft carrier and the Hammond, Duffett was always keen to serve others. In 2018 he became mayor of Canfield and served until early 2022 after being defeated in the November election.

He also became involved with the American Legion Post 177, where he serves as a chaplain.

“I think the positive thing that I took away from my experience in the Navy is serving others and being part of something bigger than yourself,” Duffett said.

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