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Memories of Dennis Kroll
By Pat Lisi
I met Dennis Kroll in Madison, Wisconsin in the late 70's at a VVAW rally one evening, held on a corner of the famous Madison ''square'' just below the capitol building. I had been out of Vietnam 10 years and was adjusting as best I could to life on the outside. At the time I did not know the extent to which Vietnam had adversely affected everything about me. Kroll sensed that I was a F'd-up burned-out Vietnam vet so he introduced himself and explained what VVAW was all about and how the organization could help me. I liked him right from the get-go. Then he invited me to participate in fund-raising and to get involved in some of the programs and events the group sponsored.
One of the projects I helped Dennis and the other members with was a weekly television show we produced on community access public TV in Madison. We got to use a studio for free but had to provide all the labor. The name of the show was simply, ''The Vets Hour.'' We would have a guest or two come into a very small studio located near the UW campus, on Sunday mornings, and just sit and chat about things relevant to Vietnam veterans. For example, one of our guests one time was Madisonian Lonnie Cooks, a black Vietnam vet who had the unpleasant experience of being captured by the NVA. After gouging one of Lonnie's eyes out they put him in a hole upside-down in camp for the night. The very next day Lonnie managed to escape and was subsequently rescued. The show would air every Tuesday evening on public TV.
We took turns running the cameras and mics and interviewing the guests. Every aspect of the show was conducted by a member of VVAW. Dennis Kroll, also known to us as ‘"The Emperor," was by far the best interviewer and host. He was always calm and collected and he knew just what to ask a veteran to get the discussion headed in the right direction and then keep it on track. I aspired to be like him in that regard. Intelligent, knowledgeable, honest, direct, focused. That was Dennis Kroll.
A year or so after I joined VVAW I mentioned to one of my very good friends, "Red" Paynter, who served in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, that I knew this guy named Dennis Kroll and did Red know of him. Small world, because Paynter served in the same unit as Denny. Obviously, I asked Paynter what kind of soldier Dennis was and he told me about Kroll losing a finger in an explosion. I was always kind of sheepish about asking Dennis that question myself. Paynter also told me that Kroll was a fearless "ground-pounder" and squad leader, and that he had his shit together in Nam which is one reason why Dennis made it back alive.
After that I had a better idea of who Dennis was and why he was so passionate and steadfast about promoting VVAW and its goals. I was saddened to learn on this date, October 27, 2020 that The Emperor died recently and that his life on earth and his devotion to Vietnam veterans had come to an end. Knowing Dennis, he's probably up in the clouds somewhere still fighting for every Vietnam Veteran down here who is still struggling.
Dennis, I leave you with the war cry of the early "Screamin' Eagles:" ''Geronimo!''
And, from a former Marine: ''Semper Fidelis, Warrior.''
I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. I graduated from LaFollette High School class of 1967. February, 1968 found me in Marine Corps Boot Camp, San Diego, and by mid July, I was in Vietnam with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion/5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. I was WIA May 15, 1969 and left Vietnam in late August of the same year.
I got involved with VVAW because of my great disillusionment in the government that fabricated the need to involve us in what would later be termed by the people of South Vietnam as "The American War in Vietnam".
Dennis Kroll introduced me to VVAW in the late 70's and it was my pleasure to work with him and other great veterans who supported the cause.
In 1991, I became a Wisconsin Game Warden and was stationed in Bayfield County where I met my second wife, Marjorie. I retired from the warden force in 2006.
Marjorie and I moved to St. George, Utah the same year mainly because of the tremendous hiking opportunities in the red rock hills surrounding our city. We established a charitable organization called, "Southern Utah Veterans Aid" in 2007 and our mission is to find shelter for homeless veterans in our part of the state. The vast majority of our 'clients' have been Vietnam vets. The need is still here, 50 years later, so the fight continues.
Dennis Kroll (standing, 2nd from left) at Dewey Canyon IV, May 1982.