A Compelling Memorial for a Fallen Friend

My sister Gloria is on the Museum Board in Dexter, Iowa. Rod Stanley made a large display there for the Wilson family, since all seven siblings grew up in Dexter.

In 1939, their father became a tenant farmer at Minburn, Iowa, pulling the family out of the scarcity years of the Great Depression. But WWII pulled all five brothers into the military. Only two came home. The display in the Dexter Museum reflects their service and great loss.

The summer after our mother died, I helped man the museum each when it was Gloria’s turn to host visitors. We enjoyed having car clubs stop by. After listening to my talk about the Wilson family, one man invited me outside to look at a car he’d restored and had painted. He backed it up to the museum.

Tom Brink’s 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. The car had belonged to Mike Heller, one of Brink’s high school classmates. PFC Michael L. Heller, son of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Heller, was killed in action at Que Son Valley, south of DaNang, South Vietnam Friday, February 20, 1970. He was 19 years old.

Tom found his classmate’s car in a junkyard, where it had been for 40 years. He restored it with new parts, a fresh coat of paint and a mural on the trunk.

This car now pays tribute to Heller and all Vietnam Veterans.

What a compelling way to remember and honor a classmate who was killed in action in Vietnam.

Mike Heller is buried at Dunlap, Iowa.


  1. I recently lost a dear friend, a Vietnam veteran of Vietnam of two tours. He was everyone’s best friend and followed the code of the Marines throughout his years.

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