Dennis Ahrendsen - Specialist Four

Rank: Specialist Four
Date Of Birth: Nov 23, 1946
Date Of Death: Sep 6, 1968
War / Conflict: Vietnam
Hometown: Olin, Iowa
Gold Star Hall - Wall Location: Southeast Wall (Top Portion)
Service Ribbons Awarded:
  • Bronze Star with V (for valor)
  • Purple Heart
  • Viet Nam


Specialist 4th Class Dennis Lynn Ahrendsen exemplified the "All-American" young man. He was honest, loyal and true to his convictions. His passions were the farm where he was born and grew up, and raising Black Angus cattle.

Dennis was born November 23, 1946, the second child of Norman and Marge Schellin Ahrendsen. He attended Olin Consolidated School, graduating with the Class of 1965.

His favorite activity outside of school was the Olin Hawkeye 4-H Club. In school he lettered in football, baseball, and basketball. He was on student council and in his senior year he was class president and Homecoming King. He attended Iowa State from September 1965 to February 1967 and majored in Animal Science.  

On Aug 9, 1967 he married his high school sweetheart, Sally Cruise.

In October 1967, he was drafted and sent to Fort Bliss, TX for basic training. His supervisors pushed his company's training so they could be home for Christmas. After the holidays, he was sent to Louisiana for further training. At some point, Dennis signed up to become a Ranger.

In March 1968 he had two weeks leave before being sent to Fort Lewis, WA and on March 28, 1968 he departed for Vietnam.

In June of 1968 he sent his older sister a package and letter for her soon-to­ be born baby. Since there were two nephews in the household already, a niece was hoped for by the entire family. The package contained a beautiful pink silk pajama outfit, size 2 for his new "niece." The letter said he'd purchased it in a village shop, the smallest size he could get. On July 8, 1968 a third nephew was born. Sister Sheryl had promised Dennis that she would wait till he returned for the baby's baptism. Nephew #3 was baptized a year after his birth and he wore the pink outfit Dennis had sent.

On September 6, 1968 Dennis was killed in action at Ban-Me-Thuot, Vietnam. It was his grandmother's birthday. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Gallantry Cross w/cluster, and Good Conduct Medal.

The minister who baptized him, confirmed him, and married him, presided at his funeral service that was held in the Olin School Gym. It was filled to capacity with family, friends, neighbors ... practically everyone in Olin, a small eastern Iowa town, population 600.

Mel McMorris was a grade behind Dennis in high school and remembered this about him, “Dennis and I played on the same high school baseball team.  He was the catcher. He was an excellent player and a good hitter.  We attended the same church and sang in the church choir.  Our pastor also sang in the church choir, had an awful voice and Dennis and I used to see how far we could sit away from him and still be in the choir!  When our church participated in a youth event such as basketball, Dennis and I would play on the same team.  It was a lot of fun.  He was always a team player. 

“Dennis also played on the Olin football and basketball teams. He was not the “big man on campus” in Olin, but he was highly thought of for his decency to others. He could cross age and social groups to be friendly towards a lot of different people. Growing up on a farm gave him a value for animals that resulted in his attending ISU. He wanted to become a veterinarian.”

With memorial money, his parents planted 32 arborvitae evergreens at the Olin cemetery as a living gift in his memory, and the Legion Hall in Olin was renamed in honor of Dennis.