News - Sauk Valley

Oregon barbershop a place where veterans can get a little off the top, a lot off their chests

Patriot Barbershop owner Erin Dietrich wants her shop to be more than just a place to get a trim. It will be a place where her fellow veterans can talk about their experiences in the service if they want. “The barber shop isn’t about me,” she said. “It’s to honor others and love on people, especially veterans, so they’re not forgotten.” Here, Erin, who joined the Army right out of high school, displays a photo of her as a fresh new recruit in 1999.

When Erin Dietrich watched the 1997 film “G.I. Jane” in high school, a thought entered her mind.

“I was like, ‘I could do that,’” she said. “I had a difficult time in high school and I was athletic. That’s the way I wanted to be.”

Dietrich enlisted in the Army after graduating from Oregon High School in 1999 and went to Fort Leonard in Missouri for military police training. From there, she signed up to be a paratrooper and ended up at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. During her five years in the service, she would spend time in Kosovo, in 2000, and in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks..

Now a mother of three – Houston, 15, Coralynn, 8,and Daniel, 6 – Dietrich tries to instill in her children the lessons she learned in the service

“I think just don’t give up,” Dietrich said. “Don’t quit. Persevere. You go through physical fitness, especially as a paratrooper. Discipline, treating people well, the whole thing.”

Dietrich recently took ownership of Short Cut Barber Shop at 114 N. Fourth St. in Oregon, taking over from Cherie Slack, who had run the barbershop in three Ogle County towns during the past 35 years.

Dietrich will reopen it as the Patriot Barber Shop, a nod to her time in the Army. She held a grand opening Nov. 3.

The shop will be more than just a place to get a trim. Dietrich wants it to be a place where veterans can talk about their experiences in the service.

“The barber shop isn’t about me,” Dietrich said. “It’s to honor others and love on people, especially veterans, so they’re not forgotten. Not everyone will share, but they’ll have the chance to.”

She also wants to feature service photos of clients’ friends and families on the wall.

“I think through osmosis, they’ll be able to come alive and talk about things,” Dietrich said. “And I’ll be able to relate. That’s one way it’ll help me. They could see a friend on the wall.

But sometimes, finding those photos is easier said than done.

Dietrich has met some veterans who don’t even have their pictures. Why? Because, she said, some weren’t always welcomed home with open arms after their time in the service, and some have even been mistreated, especially Vietnam vets. She hopes she’ll be able to provide an open and accepting place for veterans.

“Barbering is not all about the cut,” she said.“A lot of it is conversation.”

When the idea of running a shop came up, Dietrich’s mother told her she’d be great at it. Dietrich has been a stay-at-home mom since she got out of the Army. That night after the conversation with her mother, she went home and set up a Patriot Barber Shop email address – and the rest is history.

Veterans Day has a special meaning for Dietrich. She thinks of her family members who served and the people she served with.

“It’s a lot,” Dietrich said. “I think of all the people that sacrificed more than I can even fathom. I think it’s important for families and veterans. I know it isn’t Memorial Day, but I feel like it is. I remember the guys I lost from my unit. I think about my grandfather who got shot down in World War II. They saw things I can relate to, but not fully. I’m just grateful.”