A family’s peace: Siblings end search for answers in Vietnam War death

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Mark Dennis will be laid to rest on March 6, 2017, at 10 a.m..

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Mark V. Dennis was the first young man from Miamisburg to die in Vietnam. Decades after the war, some in his family are just accepting his death.

His family was told the remains so little resembled a person — Mark perished in a helicopter crash — that the casket stayed closed for the Aug. 9, 1966 funeral, said his sister, Eileen Brady.

Four years after the remains were buried in Miamisburg’s Hillgrove Cemetery, Mark’s brother Jerry Dennis made an urgent phone call to his sister. He spotted a photo in Newsweek magazine of an unidentified prisoner of war who resembled Mark, a 1964 Miamisburg High School graduate.

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Haunted by the face in the photo and with no definitive identification of the body in the Miamisburg grave, the family latched onto hope that the Navy medic might still be alive.

The Dennis family fought military authorities in court and hired their own investigators in a decades-long pursuit to determine whether the remains had been misidentified in Vietnam. Jerry Dennis died in 2002.

Just last year, DNA tests by the Navy provided Brady and her last surviving sibling with new evidence: Mark V. Dennis was likely the person buried in Miamisburg after being killed with 12 others in a hellish crash at Dong Ha, South Vietnam.

The flag-draped casket containing the remains of Mark Dennis is carried by Patriot Guard members as his sisters Eileen Brady, 80, of Largo, Fal., back right, and Anne Moline, 74, of Arvada, Colo., back left,look on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at Tampa International Airport. The remains of their brother Mark Dennis arrived via Southwest Airlines Tuesday. The remains returned to Tampa Bay eight months after the military concluded for the fourth time that they belonged to Dennis. The first time was in July, 1966, just days after Dennis, a Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class, was in a helicopter shot down in Vietnam, making him the first casualty of the war from his small town south of Dayton, Ohio. (Chris Urso/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Caption
The flag-draped casket containing the remains of Mark Dennis is carried by Patriot Guard members as his sisters Eileen Brady, 80, of Largo, Fal., back right, and Anne Moline, 74, of Arvada, Colo., back left,look on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at Tampa International Airport. The remains of their brother Mark Dennis arrived via Southwest Airlines Tuesday. The remains returned to Tampa Bay eight months after the military concluded for the fourth time that they belonged to Dennis. The first time was in July, 1966, just days after Dennis, a Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class, was in a helicopter shot down in Vietnam, making him the first casualty of the war from his small town south of Dayton, Ohio. (Chris Urso/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Credit: Chris Urso

Credit: Chris Urso

At 10 a.m. Thursday, ashes from the remains identified as Hospitalman 3rd Class Mark V. Dennis will be placed alongside his parents at Garden Sanctuary Cemetery Mausoleum in Seminole, Fla. At the same time, he will be remembered locally with a military ceremony at Hillgrove Cemetery in Miamisburg at the original burial site.