Vietnam War pilot who paid the ultimate sacrifice remembered

Special to The Messenger

On Thursday, May 3, the late 1st Lieutenant Dennis Peek, was inducted into the Mater Dei (Breese) Hall of Honor. Fellow classmate Howard Kapp, who led the effort to include Peek, was especially pleased that 16 members of the Vietnam Veterans of American, Clinton County Chapter, were in attendance to honor his close friend.

“Dennis was a brilliant young man,” Kapp said. “He was good in math and science, which fit in with me. With his energy and good personality, I knew doors would open for him.”

Mater Dei High School classmate Dan Dermody recalled Peek as being, “a nice guy and a good Catholic kid from a great Catholic family.”

Dennis Peek died during a combat mission in Vietnam on Jan. 9, 1970. Kapp was an honorary pall bearer when Peek’s remains were returned to St. Felicitas Cemetery, Beaver Prairie. He is buried near his father, the late August H. Peek, who died on Dec. 1, 1980. His mother was the late Leona Peek, and his sister the late Brenda Jansen.

Peek was born at Carlyle on July 9, 1943, into a working farm family. Following his graduation from Mater Dei in 1961, Dennis earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute of Technology in 1966. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on January 9, 1967.

In the U.S. Marine Corps, Dennis volunteered for the Air Wing, in which he served as a jet fighter pilot.

Peek flew a total of 48 missions, during which he provided air support to ground troops in combat. On January 9, 1970, exactly three years after his enlistment, Peek, then 27, and three comrades were shot down in their A-4 Skyhawk attack fighter plane by enemy ground fire over Quang Nam Province, Vietnam.

Peek was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal, which honors members of the U.S. Armed Forces who are wounded or killed in action.

Peek’s name is included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. at Panel W14, Line 20.

On a website dedicated to Vietnam vets, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Virgil Schrage wrote: “Each and every Memorial Day our thoughts go to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Dennis was the ever-friendly high school classmate from Beaver Prairie, liked by all. He loved his country. A Marine Corp pilot who always wanted to be the best of the best.”

A squadron mate, James McKenney, published this remembrance:

“Denny and I were in VMA-211 (The Avengers – flying A-4 Skyhawks) and I still remember the night of his fatal mission. Flying night close-air support — our most dangerous assignment. He was a good Marine and exceptional pilot. Semper Fi.” His name is also on the Clinton County Veterans Memorial, which is dedicated: “To the eternal memory of the veterans from Clinton County who served their country with honor and distinction and made the supreme sacrifice….”