Remembering beloved ‘Pappy,’ a veteran who served in both Vietnam and Iraq

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — June 13, we brought you thoughts from Kevin Muilenburg at an Honor Ride hosted by Midwest Honor Flight.

KELOLAND News interviewed him at the new South Dakota Veterans Cemetery.

“It’s very, very important that we have one now. It’s a very nice place, too. I am going to be — I have ALS, so I’m going to be — it’s my wishes to be buried here, too,” Kevin said June 13.

Muilenburg died Tuesday morning from ALS complications. He was diagnosed with the disease in 2017.

“He got through it and he just kept going. When I was having hard days, he would be like, ‘Punk, you got this. You’re a strong woman.’ He called me punk. That was my nickname. When he would have his hard days, especially towards the end with his ALS, when he would have his emotional moments, I was like, ‘You know what dad, you’ve got this,'” Kevin’s only child Amanda said.

He enlisted with the Army after his high school graduation in 1969. He served in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971, and was honorably discharged a year later.

“The first memories of my uncle is when he came back from Vietnam, and working on the family farm, and a proud owner of his ’72 Nova, which he bought recently and restored it,” Kevin’s nephew Tony Muilenburg said.

Kevin joined the Army National Guard in 1989. He served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. Again, he was honorably discharged. His nephew Tony served there at the same time.

“I knew that he was in Iraq with his unit, and just looking for him, and I finally found his unit at Baghdad International Airport about six months after the actual invasion, and saw his truck and he’s on the hood of it, and his unit pointed to “Pappy.” That’s how they referred to him since he was the old guy of the unit,” Tony said.

“Pappy” was involved with the American Legion and the ALS Assocation. He also went on a Midwest Honor Flight in 2019.

“He put his heart and soul into making sure that other veterans from Vietnam, and World War I and World War II, and Korea, were able to utilize the Honor Flight. And making sure that people recognized the impact of ALS, but how his spirit couldn’t be limited,” Tony said.

“When he got ALS, he didn’t let it bother him,” Kevin’s brother-in-law Rich Rische said. “He moved on and he just basically accepted it and did the best that he could. He was very loving with his family and his daughter and granddaughters.”

“He said I want to be buried at the new veterans cemetery,” officiant Tim Worthington said during Saturday’s Funeral service.

That will happen on July 1. Kevin’s wife Jani who precedes him in death will be buried with him.

“It will be quite an honor to see him get his wishes and to have Jani buried there with him as well,” Rische said.

“It’s very special, and I didn’t realize it was going to be this soon, but it’s going to be an honor,” Amanda said.

If you would like to watch or read the story featuring Muilenburg from June 13, you find it here.

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