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Page 38

<< 37. Commemorating... and Looking Forward39. Obituary for Zak Wachtendonk >>

Farewell to A "Dong Ha Dude"

By VVAW

[Printer-Friendly Version]

Henning "Jess" Jesperson, passed away this year. When he died is not really known because when his body was found in his Arizona trailer he had been dead for a few months. He died alone but he is not forgotten.

Ray Parrish, Jack McCloskey and Jess Jesperson.

Hippy, Buzz, Jess, and Poncho were the Dong Ha Dudes. We were all in FLSG-B, 3rd Marine Division, Vietnam 1968-1969. Jess was an engineer, drove heavy equipment, and when he pissed enough people off he was sent to Khe Sanh to dismantle it. He was one of the last people off the base in July 1968.

After Vietnam he returned home to marry. This first marriage produced a lovely daughter, Shayna, and his second marriage a son, Joel.

All the Dong Ha Dudes were in VVAW. Poncho, Bill Hatton, was the regional coordinator for Minnesota during Dewey Canyon III in April 1971 with 15 boys, The Home Front Snipers. Buzz, John T. Noyes, was active in VVAW on many levels for many years Dewey Canyon III, 1971-74 and beyond. Hippy, John A. Lindquist, is a long term member since Oct. 1970 and a former VVAW National Coordinator. He was even a good cook! Jess Jesperson's first VVAW action was Dec. 1971 in Chicago with Operation Peace on Earth. This was the same action that saw VVAW in Hanoi for the Christmas bombings.

Besides VVAW, Jess did a lot of other veterans work. He worked with homeless veterans, Vietnam Veterans memorials, and represented VVAW on numerous state and county veterans committees. Jess was also quite the stained glass artist. He made service ribbons, night lights, kaleidoscopes, or just about anything. A lot of the income went to help VVAW with it's Agent Orange fundraising. In 1988 he made a stained glass "caltrap" for the Third Marine Division National Reunion in Chicago. A "caltrap" was middle-ages land mine used against cavalry. It was our division's unit patch even though Marines have not been allowed to wear unit patches since 1947. We still know what they are.

Jess is gone but not forgotten. Once his son gets the body back he will be cremated. Right now tests are being done to determine the cause of death before his remains can be released. At that time some kind of memorial service will be held, probably in Milwaukee or elsewhere in Wisconsin.

Jess, for all of your service to veterans and veterans' causes, I salute you. For all the hell you raised, I salute you. For all the good parties we had, I salute you. Semper Fi Jess.

John A. Lindquist,
Milwaukee VVAW

Jesse Jesperson was a good guy, a loyal friend, and he had one hell of a set of balls on him. He could be abrasive as hell, but beyond that exterior was a fighter for vets rights, unparalleled in his belief in the need for vets to obtain respect. Born in Secaucus, New Jersey, he probably got his grit from being raised there. Jesse was instrumental in my being hired in the school district. Twenty five years later, I'm not sure whether to thank him or curse him out for that. His three favorite expressions were, "Who wants to know?" "What's it to you?" and "What if I did?" Now that's a guy I could admire, and I did. The numerous times I needed him by my side, he was there. The veterans community has lost another friend!!!!

Richie Manson
Milwaukee VVAW

I was very sad to hear from my friend, Richie Manson, that Henning (Jesse) Jesperson, had passed away in Arizona. This brought back memories of the three and a half years that we worked together at Whitefish Bay High School. Jesse was much younger than me and it was my job to teach him about his job as a painter and carpenter. Jesse was very appreciative for all the help and guidance I gave him throughout the years. It did not take me long to realize that Jesse was a proud and loyal co-worker. Jesse also was a very helpful and willing volunteer for our yearly Special Olympics event at the school track. He also volunteered to help his fellow veterans from the Vietnam War and all vets, or anyone in need. Jesse was an altruistic person, a proud father, and was loved by his family. Unfortunately, Jesse was the victim of an industrial accident and was unable to return to work.

As the years went on, we kept in touch with each other and I was happy to hear that he had gone back to school to learn the trade of making stained glass artwork. When Jesse moved to Arizona we sadly lost track of each other but I will always have fond memories of Jesse. There is no substitute for a good friend! Requiescat in Pace, Jesse.

Pasquale Rea

Jess used to brag that he was the Marine Corps' #1 "shitbird" in Vietnam--meaning he got himself in so much trouble with the lifers that he spent mega time on shit burning detail. That was the way Jess was, he liked to stir things up. He was one tough s.o.b. that never backed down from anything. In the 1990's, as VVAW's Midwest Regional Coordinator, he somehow got himself included on just about every veterans affairs committee in Wisconsin, despite the fact that most of the other mainstream vets organizations shunned VVAW because of it's political positions. He was able to bridge that gap because of his relentless dedication to fighting for veterans' rights. I believe that this quality was apparent to these other groups also. His main focus was always on vets helping vets and not political rhetoric.

I became a national coordinator about the same time Jess became a regional coordinator so he would call me at least once a week to fill me in on what he was doing. If my wife answered the phone and it was Jess, she would hand me the receiver and say, "see you in the morning." He could go on for hours. Sometimes it got to be a bit much but what I wouldn't give for one of those calls right now. Rest in peace brother.

Dave Kettenhofen
Milwaukee VVAW
National Coordinator

John Zutz, Jess Jesperson & Ann Demcrest

<< 37. Commemorating... and Looking Forward39. Obituary for Zak Wachtendonk >>



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