This Memorial Day, Yahoo News invited family and friends of American service members who died during military service to share memories and photos of them. Here's one story.
FIRST PERSON | I learned about Dennis Koepp, who died while serving as an Army medical corpsman in Vietnam, from my father-in-law Bob.
Knowing my interest as a writer in military history and that I'm a military veteran, Bob showed me a large scrapbook documenting Dennis' military career. I was flattered that Bob, himself a World War II Army veteran, shared this deeply personal collection of letters, photographs and official military documents, since (as my wife Kathryn told me) he was devastated by the death of his younger brother and rarely spoke of it.
Dennis, born on Oct. 3, 1940, in Primghar, Iowa, was inducted into the U.S. Army on Jan. 19, 1962. Following basic training, he was posted to the Army Hospital at Landstuhl, (in what was then West Germany) with the 583rd Medical Corps. There he met Rosemarie Wischnat, a local woman whom he married in November 1965. Two years later, he received orders rotating him to Vietnam, where he arrived in early February 1968.
Eight months later, on Oct. 6, Dennis died from acute glomerulonephritis, a fast-moving kidney disease that often affects young males within hours after contracting bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. Countless soldiers throughout history have lost their lives to battlefield infection, and anything from an insignificant scratch to exposure to a sick comrade under Dennis' care might've been the cause.
Knowing firsthand what letters from loved ones can mean to lonely, homesick servicemen, the most moving component of the scrapbook for me were the letters Dennis wrote almost daily to his "Dearest Darling Wife Rosie," entreating her to write back and covering entire pages with "I love you," written over and over. Adding pathos, Rosemarie's infrequent replies (as she later explained) were due to her very limited knowledge of English.
During his service, Dennis earned the National Defense Service and Vietnam Service medals and the Vietnam Campaign Ribbon. On Nov. 18, 1968, he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Good Conduct medals. Rosemarie received war widow's benefits and a pension until her death in Landstuhl on Sept. 5, 1996.
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