SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A long-standing South Dakota family had multiple relatives serve in the army throughout their lives. Cheryl Tebben shares with KELOLAND News the story of her uncle, Donald House.
Donald House graduated from St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Sioux Falls. Two days after graduating, House enlisted. He was part of the 5th Marine division and died on Iwo Jima when he was 19 years old.
House served in World War II and was deployed to Iwo Jima. He made it through the entire battle, and he and his allies captured the island. House was taken out by a sniper as he was going to the ship to leave Iwo Jima.
“(He) was buried on Iwo Jima, for three years, his body was. Then they got him back, and they sent his remains with two marines, brought him home to Sioux Falls, and they stayed until he was buried. He’s buried up in St. Michael’s cemetery,” Tebben said.
Tebben said her uncle kept in constant contact with the family while at war, and her grandmother saved all of the letters he wrote. She also kept newspaper clipping as well as telegraphs.
“He wrote my grandmother, which would be his mother, Margaret House, tons of letters. I must have 60 or so letters that he wrote her for the entire time,” Tebben said.
In one letter, House mentions winning a poker contest starting with 15 cents and ending up with over $83. (See that in the gallery at the end of the story)
Listen to a letter written from Donald in the video below:
Hearing stories from her dad, Tebben says she learned a lot about her uncle, but being able to see all of the memorabilia and letters shines a different light on him.
“It’s a whole different perspective. It’s like you got to know him even though I never met him. I never realized how actually funny he was. He wrote a letter on how it was Halloween and he went out to his Staff Sergeant’s car and soaped the windows and pulled pranks on a bunch of the guys in his group. It’s like, ‘well that’s cool.’ And, I never knew that,” Tebben said.
The whole family took the news of his death hard. Tibben shared that her dad took the news badly.
“He was 16 at the time. There was a three year difference. He wasn’t doing well in school. He basically stopped going to school. He took it really hard. He spent hours and hours up at the cemetery. He changed as a person for quite a while,” Tebben said.
Tebben’s father passed away a few years ago, but she’s glad he shared the stories of her uncle and now she’s able to share those stories and much more about Private Donald J. House.