Dennis Leroy Nelson
Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: Private First Class
Status: Died of wounds
Date of Service: Vietnam War
Home Town: Holst Township
Dennis Leroy Nelson
Dennis Leroy Nelson was born April 7, 1945 in Holst Township, Clearwater County, Minnesota to parents Milton M. and Helen Shelquist Nelson. He had one sister, Marlene, and a brother Daryl. Milton farmed in Holst and lived there his almost his entire life. He worked maintenance for the county and for Community Oil in Clearbrook. Helen was also a lifelong resident of the Clearbrook area, having attended school in Leon Township. She was a nurse’s aide at the Good Samaritan Center in Clearbrook for 26 years.
Dennis attended high school in Clearbrook and played football all four years. Following graduation he worked in Montana for a year and sailed the Great Lakes on the boats for a couple of years before entering the Army on September 20, 1965. He became a paratrooper in B Company, 327th Infantry, 2nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles.” After training he was sent immediately to Vietnam on April 21, 1966.
The 2nd Battalion earned the reputation as an outstanding combat unit in Vietnam because of their “No Slack” fighting spirit. Dennis’s unit fought for seven consecutive years without respite in the Vietnam War Theater, but Dennis was there only one month. His military details say, “Died of wounds, gun small arms fire, ground casualty, hostile,” on May 20, 1966. No further information is available about his death. He was Clearwater County’s first casualty of the Vietnam War. He was awarded the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Purple Heart.
Dennis’s body was returned to his family and military funeral services were held at Clearbrook High School auditorium on Wednesday, June 1 at 2:00 p.m. with the Reverend Richard Larson officiating. He was buried in Silver Creek Cemetery near Clearbrook. He was 21 years old.