Kenneth Alan LuseWarrant Officer
B TRP, 1ST SQDN, 9TH CAVALRY, 1 CAV DIV
Army of the United States
15 May 1950 - 29 November 1969
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Panel 15W Line 006
The database page for Kenneth Alan Luse
This page was requested by Kenneth's cousin,
Twenty-four years after you left us, your nephew was born.
Love from your brother
May 2, 2002
It's been over 30 years since you left. My hope is that someday, someone who reads this will truly understand the great loss every name on the wall represents. The personal loss of a family member or friend is the easiest to understand. The loss of future governmental, business, religious, community, and school leaders is just the tip of the iceberg.
The following is just one of many accounts that demonstrate the personal loss of one brother but an even greater loss to this world.
I'm going to begin with your involvement in the Civil Air Patrol. At age 16 you won a scholarship to glider training in Elmira, NY. You came home with your certificate and ideas of buying a glider and catapult to have everyone in CAP flying gliders. The next year you lost the scholarship for fixed wing training so you started taking flight lessons at the Marion, IA airport. At age 17 you got your private pilot certificate. Your hard work and desire to achieve paid off as you were promoted to Cadet Commander. The Cedar Rapids Wing also won the State Drill competition and the Air Force flew the squadron in a C-119 to the Air Force Academy for Nationals. What a sight it was to see everyone with a bulky parachute on their back, all hunched over and walking bow-legged.
Your Senior year in high school was a big change in your plans. You wanted to stay at Washington High, but the lines were drawn and you became the first senior class at John F. Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, IA. You along with the entire class studied hard and played hard. The student council tried to start an annual basketball game between the council and faculty but the student council lost the first and only game. By the end of the year it was apparent that the entire senior class was glad to have been the first to graduate from JFK.
At the Armed Forces Entry and Examination Station in Des Moines, taking the Flight Aptitude Selection Test, you saw Jim. After each of you said, "Hey, don't I know you!", you found out that Civil Air Patrol was not your only interest. Ken from Cedar Rapids and Jim from Iowa City went to flight school together. After Basic at Ft. Polk, LA. you went to Ft. Wolters, TX. for Primary Helicopter training. Jim's family went to the graduation but we decided to wait for the big one in Alabama. The way Jim's dad told the story of the awards ceremony was truly amazing. For Honor Graduate, Ken Luse. For Best Academic Achievement, Ken Luse and then the person awarding these plaques said you might as well stay here cause Ken Luse gets the Best Flight Achievement Award, also. Not bad, the three highest awards out of five.
Ft. Rucker, Al. was where you learned to fly the Huey's. The stories abound with all the learning. Flying formation and working at stage fields with multi-national students (some barely speaking and understanding English) kept the pool side parties alive. What a happy day it was when you got your commission and wings. One hundred eighty-eight started at Ft. Wolters and one hundred forty-four got wings at Ft. Rucker. Not bad, you graduated number three. That night was a Dress Blue banquet at the Officers Club, the only time you got to wear your formal attire uniform. While the majority of the class went home for 30 days of leave, you spent the month of August in Ft. Stewart, GA. for AH-1G Cobra transition.
The month of September, 1969 was a nice weather month in Iowa, your 30 days of leave before Viet Nam. It was spent overhauling the engine of your Spitfire that decided to quit about 20 miles from home. The picture of you posted on this memorial page was the last time we ever saw you. You were boarding a plane to go to Viet Nam. Mom and Dad were afraid but I thought nothing of it. You always came home. You came home for Christmas 1968 when you were insulted as you got off the plane by three war protesters that shouted,"The Army sucks!." Your reply was," So do smart ass civilians." You came home after Cobra school. So it was my belief that you would come home after your tour in Viet Nam.
December 3, 1969, Paul's 18th birthday. We were in the basement watching Walter Cronkite and the nightly news. He had given the number killed today and it was weird, I for the first time had been wondering if you were one of those that he reported. We were to find out that you were one from a few days ago. I went upstairs to clean up for supper when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a Major and a Sergeant in dress greens at the front door. They asked if my parents were home. I just called down and told Dad that someone was here to see him and Mom detected in my voice something was wrong and came running up to see them. They were from ROTC at the University of Iowa. They got the call because Captain Allishouse was notifying another family the same night. All they could tell us was that you were listed Missing In Action, that on November 29th your helicopter had been shot down, crashed, and was burning near Song Be, South Viet Nam. Because of the firefight and your aircraft burning they could not get in to look for you.
THE WAIT BEGINS!
The words Missing In Action are so vague it tears the soul up trying to decide which way to feel. Is there hope that your alive, or do I start to prepare for your funeral, or are you a Prisoner of War. Missing in Action, the "I don't know" is driving me crazy. The vast majority of Americans, to this day, don't know the feeling of having a loved one MIA. My heart goes out to all of those families that still have a loved one MIA.
December 10, 1969. Captain Allishouse came by and gave us the latest news. They had gotten to the wreckage and recovered remains believed to be you. Still nothing final and still hope your alive. Still the not knowing. That nagging of not knowing consumes you all the time and for a fifteen year old it was hard to deal with the uncertainty. That night I asked God that dead or alive we be together as a family for Christmas.
December 20, 1969. Captain Allishouse came by with the final word. Your remains were coming home. Was there any one we wanted to escort you home. We immediately thought of Jim, but thought it would be too hard emotionally on him. The next day Mom was talking to Faye (Jim's mom) when I brought the mail in. There was a letter from Jim. I was able to keep Mom from ending her conversation with Faye while I opened the letter. Jim wrote that he had gotten his letters back that he had sent you and knew what had happened. He also asked to escort you home. Mom asked Faye if she wanted to have Jim be your escort to which Faye replied, "Bring him home!!" We called Captain Allishouse immediately and asked for Jim as the escort. So it was a fellow CAP Cadet, a fellow Army Aviator, and a Friend was bringing you home.
December 30, 1969. Mom, Dad, Paul, myself, Faye, and Bob (Jim's dad) were waiting at the Cedar Rapids Airport for you to end your last flight. It wasn't all that cold as we were standing outside watching the 737 taxi in. I was shivering uncontrollably and Faye thought I was cold. I was scared beyond belief at what was happening. As the 737 stopped and we saw Jim the very first one off the plane, I became at ease. Jim had to go to the cargo hold and supervise them offload your coffin. (We later found out that in Denver, someone had loaded baggage on top of your coffin and Jim held the plane up till he was able to find out how the flag got torn. The same flag I have today with the stitching in the stars where it had been torn.) Jim rode with you to the funeral home and then the funeral director brought him back to stay with us. After supper it was to the funeral home for visitation. The viewing room was small, full of flowers, and dimly lit, with the lighting highlighting your flag draped coffin. It was eerie but at the same time very peaceful. The hardest thing was your casket was sealed. So it remained that the picture of you getting on the plane was the last we saw you, except for the few pictures from Viet Nam. My prayer from December 10th was answered. We were together as a family this day.
December 31, 1969, 1:00PM. The church was packed and we (the family) were led to the choir area that was partially secluded from the rest of the sanctuary. I'm sorry but when we sang the hymn that I requested, I could not hold back the tears. The same tears I shed when I think of the hymn today. "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" ... That line says it all with your passing at Christmas time. God called you at the time of his Son's birth, and you were reborn on that anniversary in 1969. After the service we sat in the limo and watched the Army Honor Guard carry your casket along the Civil Air Patrol lined walkway from the church to the parking lot. The police said your processional from the church to the cemetery was over three miles long and it took about fifteen minutes to get everyone gathered around your grave. Jim did an excellent job at the flag presentation. He said later that he stumbled on a few words, but you could hear the emotion in his quiet voice as he presented it to Mom. You know how Dad always said he didn't like to listen to Taps and the twenty-one gun salute. Now I know why. The tears came again during Taps. I shuddered with all three volleys of M-14 fire. Today is no different. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Taps, and the twenty-one gun salute bring back the same responses as in 1969.
February 26, 1993. Your first nephew was born today. We did not want to find out the sex till he was born, so I had told Paula that if a boy I got to name him, and if a girl she got to name her. As I watched the miracle unfold tears came to my eyes as I said hello to Kenny. Kenneth James arrived at 10:20 am. I had already asked Jim if I could use his name. His response was that of honor once again as in escorting you home. Faye said later that he felt pretty good about having someone named after him, cause usually you have to be dead for that to happen. Jim and Kenny even got to meet once. We were in Cedar Rapids visiting Mom. Jim was home for Bob's funeral. Kenny got sick and we were able to stop and see Jim before the funeral. Jim had on his Air Force Uniform and the pictures are great. Jim's comment,"I'm holding a future Osprey pilot." Jim was Air Force Director of Operations for the Osprey at the time. Kenny is asking questions about you and is learning about you as he grows. You can tell he misses not being able to talk and have water gun fights and fish with you and Grandpa Ed, like he does with Uncle Paul. We visited the Traveling Wall and saw your name on the wall. When he was three we were in Des Moines and got a picture standing next to your name at the memorial there. He was the same height as your name.
August 11, 1994. Paula has all the responsibility this time. We already knew she was coming and she will be our last. Two days after my birthday. Allison Jo arrived at 1:10 pm. Again I was able to watch the miracle. She was born to teach us patience and understanding in that she is mentally retarded. She does not comprehend you or Grandpa Ed. The way she loves Grandpa Chuck and Grandmas Dee and Jo and Uncles Dirk and Paul and Aunt Kelly, she would surely love Uncle Ken. She recognizes pictures so as time goes on we will try to make her understand and say your name. She just says bubba (her word for brother) for Kenny at this time. She is making slow but steady progress with her vocabulary at this time.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on the family loss. The following are the examples of how you were a loss to others and to society.
A letter from Mike who went to Flight School and Cobra School and was in a sister troop in Viet Nam, he writes dated 2 Dec. 69,
A footnote to this letter - Bill is another Flight School, Cobra School, Friend of Ken's.
From Pastor Lesher on December 31,1969
Pastor mentioned at the beginning that he couldn't do the normal service for you because he knew you. He watched you grow and confirmed you and helped you with your God and Country Award for the Boy Scouts. The following are excerpts from his funeral service.
In the tributes he cited:
He quoted a letter from Bill (a friend from high school and CAP): Ken did love flying and he died a soldiers death in the service of his country. ... Had fate decreed otherwise, he would have gone on to become a truly great American, for he was a wonderful man, gifted in every respect...
Pastor then quoted excerpts from Mike's letter
Then he read Paul's verse written December 10,1969:
he was a man,
A man who was proud.
He is safe now.
So don't cry for him.
Just be proud;
Proud that you are an American;
Proud enough to accept his sacrifice;
Pastor started his sermon with the following:
The text: John 11:21,25,26This day, this hour have been a long time coming. It was over a month ago since Ken gave up his life. We were first told of that possibly four weeks ago today. That was December 3. A week later we all understood there was little ground for hope. Finally, on December 20, the fact of his death was confirmed. And now, on this New Year's Eve, we have come to give him Christian burial.
We must be honest. For those of us who are not accustomed to the rigors of war, the events have been slow and painful. But we are not complaining. For through all of this, from the very first moment until now, the hand of God has been clearly evident. Seldom has the Advent-Christmas Season been so rich in meaning. Each Sunday when we came to worship, there seemed to be something very special in the Scripture Lessons that were read. It was - it is - as though God himself had reached down to comfort and uphold us.
Perhaps some might think this extreme, but Ken's death and Christmas have combined to bring us a blessing not to be measured by time or space. The Birth of Jesus means that God is with us. And perhaps that says what has happened. God is with us. We believe that he is with Ken. He has been present with Ed and Deloris, Paul and Glen. His comfort has been real to friends and relatives alike.
Yes, this day, this hour have been a long time coming. But we are not complaining. For through all of this, the hand of God has been clearly evident. We all have received a blessing that shall never pass away. God is with us.
Through the weeks that have gone by, I've wondered what to say when this service came to pass. On December 10, a week after Ken had been reported missing, word came that we should be expecting confirmation of his death. That evening, his parents, his brothers, his grandparents, my wife and I gathered here in the church for a time of quiet prayer. Looking back, we realize it was a turning point. We faced the issue and were comforted. We knew that Ken was at peace. We felt at peace ourselves.
One of he things that helped that evening was the account from Scripture, telling of the meeting between Martha and Jesus at the time of her brother's death. We turn to it again this afternoon. Even though they have long been close friends, Martha is impatient with Jesus. She vents her feelings.
How like all of us she is! When death comes it hurts, every time. We are tempted to lay the blame. We want to say, "if" as though that could erase the pain and loss. So it is that Martha becomes our kind of people. This afternoon, it would be tempting to lay the blame or talk about all the "ifs" that might seem possible.
For example, we might well say, "If men would only learn peace instead of war." Yes how very true. Also, how very hard. Because the most difficult achievements for man do not lie in programs for space or nature. And that problem has little or nothing to do with such simple things as gaps between nations or generations. There is in each man and all men, that which does not make for peace. Christ also dealt with this problem. And it cost him his life.
No, laying the blame and talking about "ifs" will lead us nowhere. Remember how Christ answers Martha. It is as though he never hears the note of accusation or the word "if". Instead, he deals with what is. Lazarus, Martha's brother and his friend, is dead. And the time is not to blame or say "if". Instead, he makes a promise. "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live."
And that's it. No blame. No "ifs". No lengthy explanations. No theological doubletalk. Just a straight forward promise and a question. "He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." ... "Do you believe this?"
There are may times in life when human thoughts and words fail. This is one of them. Because of Christ, we believe that though a man dies, yet shall he live. This is what we believe about Ken and about ourselves. This is also our hope, and we are not ashamed of it. As we've said before, "It has been hard, but we are going to make it."
The following are two articles that appeared in the 28 Jan 70 newsletter of the Cedar Rapids CAP Flight Plan
The following are the remarks at the awards ceremony at Ft. Leonard Wood where we received your medals posthumously:
Warrant Officer Kenneth A. Luse is posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism while participating in aerial flight evidenced by voluntary action above and beyond the call of duty in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as a co-pilot with Troop B, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. He distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous action on 29 November 1969, when his unit was on an Air Assault Mission. When his aircraft arrived near the landing zone, Warrant Officer Luse immediately began firing upon the enemy positions with his mini-gun and grenades so that the other helicopters could land the ground troops. While making one of his rocket runs, his aircraft came under heavy automatic weapons fire. Although wounded, Warrant Officer Luse, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, flew his aircraft back into the area in an attempt to engage the enemy position an mark it for the gunships. Warrant Officer Luse's effective marking and engagement of the enemy position enabled the gunships and Air Force jets to destroy the enemy positions. His outstanding flying ability and devotion to duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army. He is also awarded the First Oak Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star, Air Medal Second through Fifth Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart. The awards are being received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edward C. Luse of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.It's nice to think that there will be no more wars. Grandpa Luse fought in WW I in hopes that no more wars would have to be fought. Our father fought in WW II in hopes that no more wars would have to be fought. Then Korea's Police action; Viet Nam's Police action; then Grenada; then the Gulf War; then the Humanitarian Missions and the Peace Keeping Missions; then the War On Terrorism - the list never will end. It will never end because we are humans. We did learn a lesson from Viet Nam - keep the politicians from dictating to the military how to fight and we do need to back our troops and president 100%. We also know that our military personnel are well trained and do not sit around waiting for battle but will do battle if called upon. The Gulf War showed how we can do battle with little death and serious injury to our troops. Accidents caused more deaths in the Gulf War than the enemy did.
The only way for all this to end is for all parties involved to understand the true cost of fighting. It is not a monetary cost but the cost of humans. Those humans are not just numbers; they are somebody's son, somebody's daughter, somebody's brother, somebody's sister, somebody's relative, somebody's friend. They are Humanity's Future!
12 Nov 2007
When we were very young in the early sixties, we went to Des Moines to view the state capital. I recalled this trip on Veterans Day after reading stories about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On our trip our father, a WWII Vet, wanted to see the WWII memorial for the state's losses in that war.
I remember how the three of us boys were climbing and seeing who could get the highest up on it. Mom and Dad both told us to get down and have respect for the names. Being the great thinker that I am, I thought they are just names and I don't know any of them, what's the big to-do? Still I got down and became quiet and from that moment on when I see names on a monument I view them with respect. But I still remember how the monument was warm to the touch.
After the thought of our trip, I recalled the 8mm film our grandfather took at a family get together while you were home before departing for Vietnam. Grandpa was out shooting film of Lisa, our three year old cousin. She was by the door and you opened the door, cames out and picked her up and were holding her with the expression of a loving father. A look you never got to experience with your own child. That is my favorite memory of you. You are now named on a monument and very few children who see your name know who you were.
As I read the stories about The Wall and other local walls across the country, it dawned on me, so many writers describe them as cold pieces of stone. Evidently these writers don't know that a child's touch isn't the same as an adult's. A child can feel loving warmth in anything they touch. Let the children play around and touch the monuments, they just might get a warm hug from within, a hug from their Guardian Angels, like you.
From his brother,
My name is Gary Alan Hall. I went through flight school (Fort Wolters and Fort Rucker) with Ken. We established a friendship almost immediately, maybe because we were both from Iowa (I'm from Ames), but Ken was just the kind of guy that was impossible not to like and admire. I have our class photo, Class 69-19 A-3 3rd WOC, in my living room and look at it often and reflect on what has happened to all of us since that photo was taken so long ago.
Ken and I were close all the way through flight school. On the day we received our aviator wings I had no family members present. Ken made a point of telling me how it was unlucky not to have your wings pinned on by a woman (girlfriend/wife/mother/etc.) and asked his mother to pin mine on. I was honored, and felt very lucky, indeed. I've told that story many, many times over the years. Days later we went our separate ways. I was headed immmediately to Viet Nam, and Ken, because of his flying and intellectual skills, was headed to Cobra school. I was really happy for him. If anybody deserved it, he did.
It's so hard to believe that it has been almost 33 years since Ken was lost. I remember looking through the KIAs in Army Times, probably sometime early in December, 1969 and was just shocked to see Ken's name listed. It was a gut-wrenching feeling, and I still often think about Ken and our friendship that ended all too soon.
I spent a year in RVN, flying with the 4th Infantry Division and was lucky enough of make it home unhurt, except for the memory of the friends and classmates that weren't so lucky.
I happened to stumble upon The Virtual Wall and found the tributes to Ken. I knew he was a special person, and it is certainly reflected in the recollections and tributes paid to him. I tell you right now, I celebrate his brief life, and know that he was doing what he wanted to do, using his abilities to help make this world a better place for us all.
Ken, thanks for being a good friend. You are missed, admired, and loved.
Gary Alan Hall
Thank you for being so brave and giving your life for something you believed in. You are truly a Hero!!!
I am Sgt. Thomas Alphonse Davino's sister. I set a memorial page up for my brother... It took me 36 years to do it.
Your brother was nice enough to e-mail me. His e-mail and reading all about you and what you did and accomplished helped me.
To All our Vietnam dead and our Veterans you are all Heros!
A Note from The Virtual WallTwo men of the 9th Cavalry Regiment were killed when their AH-1G COBRA gunship (hull number 68-15188) was shot down. They were attempting the rescue of a "Jaguar Yellow Bird" team about 10 kilometers west-northwest of Song Be when their aircraft was hit by .51 caliber anti-aircraft fire. The two were CW2 Lawrence Joseph Babyak, pilot, and WO1 Kenneth Alan Luse, copilot.
Warrant Officer Kenneth Luse was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, National Defense Medal, Viet Nam Service Medal with one Star, and the Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal.
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 04 Aug 1999
Last updated 01/09/2010