875 – Vietnam Vet family still seeking answers

Mark V. Dennis, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Vietnam Vet, Mark V. Dennis, memorial service in Miamisburg, Ohio

The Vietnam War legacy is filled with many gut wrenching stories of sadness and sorrow many families suffered when they discovered they had lost a loved one in that war. In this 875th episode of the “Vietnam Veteran News Podcast” the story of a fallen hero’s family and their excruciatingly painful experience will be featured. The story about the family of fallen Vietnam Veteran, Mark V. Dennis, and their quest to know who is buried in their loved one’s grave is found in two stories on WDTN Channel 2 News in Dayton, Ohio, one is titled: Buried truth: who was laid to rest at Hill Grove Cemetery? and a follow up story titled: Graveside memorial for local man killed in Vietnam.  Both stories were submitted by Katie Ussin.

Mark V. Dennis was a Navy medic serving in Vietnam with the US Marines. In 1966 at the age of 19 he was in a helicopter with fifteen others. It crashed and burned after being shot out the air and only three survived the disaster. The survivors did not include Dennis. The GR (graves registration) personnel apparently chose one of the burned corpses and assigned it the identity of Dennis.

The pick and miss identified remains of the brave and good Mark V. Dennis were sent home to his family at Miamisburg, Ohio and he was honored with full military honors and a graveside memorial at Hillgrove Cemetery. The grieving family and friends went on with their lives the best they could after the burial ceremony. Then something happened that stirred up the pot in reference to the disposition of the earthly remains of Mark V. Dennis.

In a 1970 edition of Newsweek Magazine that included an article about POWs, an image of an unidentified American POW was included in the story. Due to the remarkable resemblance of the POW in the story and their loved one, the family decided to dig into the matter literally. They had samples of the remains in Mark’s grave analyzed by laboratories in two different states. Both reported the remains in the grave were not those of Mark. Despite the findings of the independent labs, as of today, the DoD still stands by its position the remains in the grave are those of Mark.

Mark V. Dennis, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Mark V. Dennis, on at left and the mysterious unidentified POW photo in a 1970 Newsweek article on the right.

The remaining family members essentially said “to hell with it” and decided to put the matter to rest by holding a second memorial service for Mark at the same spot it was first held in 1966.

The pastor at the service said it best: “Today we lay Mark’s spirit and memory to rest.”


875 – Vietnam Vet family still seeking answers — 1 Comment

  1. The Mark V. Dennis case is a heartbreaking example of the sacrifices of war and of the devastating impact to family left behind. The case is potentially an example of misidentification of remains during the confusion of war, and certainly a case of sloppy journalism involving a photo of an “unidentified” American POW who looks like Dennis that was published in the November 30, 1970 edition of Newsweek Magazine. Life Magazine had already identified the POW as US Navy Lt. Paul E. Galanti in a photo, taken from a different angle, and with better resolution, of the same POW that Life published in its October 20, 1967 issue. These elements of misidentification would tragically combine to send Mark’s family through a torturous journey over the following 50 years.

    The Mark V. Dennis case forces us to wonder how many other American families may have buried misidentified remains from the Vietnam War. Such is the cruelty of war. Such is the sacrifice of HM3 Mark V. Dennis and his noble, patriotic American family.

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