Ex-Marine brothers pay respects at S.D. site of Hevle grave
Ex-Marines pay respects at S.D. site of Hevle grave
Bob Rasel, left, and his brother, Gene Rasel, salute Bob’s comrade-in-arms, David E. Hevle, at Hevle’s grave in Yankton, S.D.
The grave of David E. Hevle is shown in the background. In the foreground is the marker that was moved from Camp Timberlake in West Bethlehem Township.
Two veterans who keenly followed the “mystery marker of Camp Timberlake” story over the past 10 months can vouch that the 360-pound stone did, in fact, travel safely to Yankton, S.D., hometown of U.S. Marine Cpl. David Hevle.
Coming from separate geographic points – one driving more than 1,000 miles and the other, nearly 1,000 – they trekked to South Dakota in early September to see for themselves the final resting place of both Hevle and the stone bearing his name.
Making the trip to the Garden of Memories Cemetery to honor Hevle’s memory were Gene Rasel of Washington and his brother, Bob, who served in Vietnam with Hevle and was able to shed light on why a Marine with little or no local connection was memorialized at a now-closed Girl Scout camp in West Bethlehem Township.
Kriss Svidro, a Girl Scout volunteer, was clearing an area near the lodge for a camp closing ceremony last year when she uncovered the marker. Although Hevle’s name was misspelled, Svidro was able to find a similar entry on the Vietnam Veterans memorial. An Observer-Reporter story last fall came to the attention of Bob Rasel, a resident of Farmington, N.M., who recalled members of a Junior Girl Scout troop from the Lone Pine area seeking the names of servicemen as recipients of care packages.
Bob Rasel, who previously lived in the Beallsville area, came home from Vietnam, but his comrade Hevle did not. Hevle, 22, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman, was killed April 8, 1967, when his tractor hit a mine and exploded. The Girl Scouts planted a tree and placed the marker nearby in memory of the young Marine.
Gene Rasel, a member of Marine Corps League Washington County Detachment 1138, was part of the honor guard that conducted a farewell ceremony April 13 when the memorial marker was removed from the campground so that it could be placed beside Hevle’s grave.
Total Safety, a safety company that serves the oil and gas industry, paid to ship the memorial to Yankton, and Greenlee Funeral Home provided the shipping crate.
Gene Rasel said his wife, Sue, suggested a road trip to verify that the story of the marker had come full circle.
The Rasel brothers met in Yankton and visited the cemetery.
“My brother said, ‘You know, Gene, mission accomplished,’” Gene Rasel recalled.
They searched in vain for a Hevle relative until the brothers, both members of Veterans of Foreign Wars, stopped by the Yankton VFW post to inquire. In a town with a population of 14,454, it wasn’t long before the Rasels were introduced to Doug Hevle, brother of the late Marine.
“Only two guys would come a thousand miles apiece to see this marker, and you’re looking at ’em,” Gene Rasel told Doug Hevle. “He was real tickled.”
Doug Hevle, who was 13 when his brother went to war, told the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, in a Sept. 29 story, that his parents questioned whether they should have let David join the military at age 17. They visited his grave daily as long as their health permitted, and their graves are adjacent to his.
Bob Rasel reflected, via email, about the significance of the trip.
“My original thoughts were to get the stone to Yankton where it would be properly cared for and do this last gesture as a way of honoring a friend and a long-forgotten Marine,” he wrote.
“Meeting Dave’s brother and having dinner with him was a unexpected happening. Tears were held back. Brother Gene did an excellent job in making this happen. What a tribute to a long-lost friend and Marine. My sincere thanks to Congressman Ben Ray Lujan’s office staff, especially Pete Valencia; Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, Washington County Marine Corps League, Marianna American Legion (Post 744) and those involved in transporting the marker to South Dakota.
“For myself and brother Gene, the trip to Yankton was a way to put a closure to this. God bless you, David Hevle. Semper fi.”
The 32-acre camp at 2334 Beallsville Road, Marianna, is still listed for sale at $399,000.