Coshocton Tribune - October 29, 2012
Kempf, 22, died Sept. 5, 1969, while serving as a U.S. Army medic in the Long Khanh province of South Vietnam. While tending to injured men in the field, Kempf was fatally wounded by a sniper’s bullet.
His name is one of thousands forever enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The memorial is celebrating its 30th anniversary. In recognition of the milestone, All They Left Behind" by Lisa Lark will be released Nov. 1, 2012.
The book features profiles on more than 60 soldiers and photos featuring about 300 men and women involved in the conflict. This includes Kempf, who has a section of the book a little more than two pages long. Lark said Kempf’s story represents the type of courage and commitment you just don’t see anymore.
“The piece of the story that really struck me is how he wouldn’t take help from anyone else,” she said. “He could have stayed in college, people would have given him money to stay in college, but he wanted to do everything himself. He believed (serving) was his responsibility and he was going to do his duty.”
His profile includes photos of him in uniform and on his wedding day with his widow, CJ Heck. Doug’s brother, Dennis Kempf, and his cousin, Ron June, were interviewed for the book. Doug’s oldest brother, Terry Kempf, still lives in the Coshocton area, as do many nieces and nephews.
Heck, an author, lives in Florida now. She maintains a blog in Doug’s memory [Memoirs From Nam] that allows Vietnam veterans and family members to share their stories and memories of lost loved ones. Lark said Doug has one of the longer chapters in the book, because Heck lives to tell Doug’s story.
“As far as Doug is concerned, I think it’s important to know there was more than just a medic there. As a lieutenant told me, ‘Doug Kempf was our mama. He heard all our problems,’” Heck said. “In his time off, he would go into town and nurse children who were there. Maybe they had lice, or had fallen or had gotten shrapnel. He was always helping someone.”
Heck said she’s never been to the real memorial in Washington, D.C., but she has visited the traveling memorial wall and has seen Doug’s name inscribed there.
“It’s very haunting, but very cleansing as well,” she said. “As you reach out to that marble wall, it’s like a hand reaching back at you. It’s a mirror image. It’s almost like you’re reaching out to touch a name, but they’re reaching out to touch you.”
Lark is a high school teacher in Dearborn, Mich. She said the city lost 23 soldiers in the Vietnam War and every year a Memorial Day ceremony is conducted to honor them. After the ceremony in 2010, she said a student asked to write a letter to the family of one of the men. She managed to find a few of the families that still live in the area.
After contacting the families, Lark said recording their stories seemed like a natural progression and the book project grew from there. She said she used the war memorial’s website to locate family members who left messages in remembrance of loved ones.
“I was just very struck by these young men,” Lark said. “Once you see their pictures, it’s hard not to want to know who they were.”
A portion of proceeds from book sales will go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for the Education Center at the Wall targeted for groundbreaking in November. Lark said the center will feature profiles, photos and memorabilia collected by the park service left at the wall by visitors.
“As time passes, we’re beginning to lose those first person connections. The people that knew the men and women on the wall. Their friends, spouses and children. We have a responsibility to future generations to teach them that these are not just names on a wall, these are people,” she said.
“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale