Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Thursday, November 11, 1999
by Jan Horgen

Special Forces veteran knows it isn't about medals or fame, it's about duty and honor.

TOETERVILLE - His Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service and Good Conduct medals hang inconspicuously on a shelf.

And retired Command Sgt. Maj. Galen KITTLESON quickly brushes past any talk of medals and commendations awarded during his 26 years of active military service.

He turns the conversation to duty and discipline, honor and hard work.

KITTLESON was in Cabanatuan during World War II when Special Forces liberated American troops held prisoner by the Japanese in the Phillipines. He was there in the fall of 1957 when the now famous "Little Rock Nine" took their first tentative steps into history, integrating the Little Rock High School. He was there when Special Forces conducted the POW raid on Son Tay, near Hanoi in North Vietnam.

The 75-year-old St. Ansgar native has the distinction of being the only U.S. Army soldier to participate in the liberation of three prison camps during two different wars.

An Alamo Scout in World War II, a Green Beret in Vietnam and eventually the command sergeant major of the 1st Special Forces Group and the U.S. Army Garrison in Okinawa, KITTLESON was known as "Pappy" to his troops.

"Galen KITTLESON is a legend," said former Green Beret and military journalist Charles SASSER. "Everyone in Special Forces knew of him. And yet almost no one outside the military knows, because true heroes, like Galen, do not draw attention to themselves, they just live."

KITTLESON, humbled by such high praise, said his actions were simply a matter of duty and honor and obligation.

At age 19, he carried a wounded comrade out of the dense New Guinea jungle and was awarded the Silver Star. "He didn't make it," KITTLESON said of the wounded soldier, and the sadness has not been erased after 56 years. KITTLESON learned to face and overcome his deepest fears and to treasure the soldiers with whom he served. That faith prevails today.

"And I know that freedom is not free, there is always a price," said KITTLESON, drawing a deep breath and closing his eyes for a moment.

His memories are riddled with the faces of soldiers who paid the ultimate price to defend freedom. With quiet resignation, he spoke briefly of those who died in service.

"It is hard, really tough to lose anyone. But you go on - you must." Anything less would have betrayed their sacrifice, he said.

Even after his retirement in 1979, his thoughts returned often to his military training and background.

Within two years, KITTLESON formed the Alamo Scouts Boy Scout troop and began teaching 13- to 18-year-olds what he had learned of self-discipline, respect and responsibility. He speaks proudly of the 110 teen-agers who came through the program.

A former Alamo Scout, 30-year-old Jon HENAMAN of St. Ansgar served in an Army airborne infantry unit in the Persian Gulf War. During numerous reconnaissance missions and patrols in and out of Iraq, HENAMAN thought of KITTLESON often.

"He wrote me just about as much as my family did. He said 'Keep the faith, the entire United States is behind you.' " HENAMAN trusted KITTLESON'S words, knowing that his mentor had "been there and done that, many times."

In an era when there are so few heroes remaining, men like KITTLESON stand tall. Ask HENAMAN. Or ask SASSER.

"This is a man I want my children and grandchildren to know," SASSER said. "There should be a sign in his yard that says - a hero lives here."

The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Saturday, May 6, 2006
by Jan Horgen

The passing of a hero
Command Sgt. Maj. Galen Kittleson

TOETERVILLE The final battle of a distinguished soldier is finished.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Galen KITTLESON died of cancer late Thursday.

He was 81.

"We won't see another like Sergeant-Major," 36-year-old Jon HENAMAN of St. Ansgar, a veteran of the Army airborne infantry, said of his mentor. "He was an incredible man who touched many lives, a legend in the military Special Forces."

And among civilians of all ages who knew the man.

"Gay's life was about core values family, faith, love of country and respect for his fellow human beings," 41-year-old Bob COLLIER of Austin, Minn., said. "His was a life of service and sacrifice."

KITTLESON'S distinguished military career spanned four decades, several continents and three wars World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

One of the elite Alamo Scouts during World War II and a Green Beret in Vietnam, KITTLESON rose through the ranks to become command sergeant major of the 1st Special Forces and the U.S. Army garrison on Okinawa.

His age and the affection he elicited from the thousands of young troops he trained at Fort Bragg, N.C., earned KITTLESON the nickname "Pappy."

There are medals Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and more of which he seldom spoke.

There is a book "Raider" chronicling KITTLESON'S remarkable life of service.

Former Green Beret and military journalist Charles SASSER said of KITTLESON, "He is a hero. Everyone in Special Forces knew him. Yet almost no one outside the military knows, because true heroes like Galen do not draw attention to themselves. They just live."

As a 19-year-old in 1943, he carried a mortally wounded comrade out of the dense New Guinea jungle. He was awarded the Silver Star.

Even the span of 56 years could not erase the deep sadness in his dark eyes. "He didn't make it," KITTLESON said in a 1999 interview.

At a tender age, KITTLESON learned to face and overcome his deepest fears.

He was in Cabanatuan on Jan. 30, 1945 part of the daring raid when the 6th Ranger Battalion and a handful of Alamo Scouts liberated some 500 American prisoners who survived the Bataan Death March. [Portrayed in the motion picture The Great Raid.]

He was there in the fall of 1957 when the now famous "Little Rock Nine" took their first tentative steps into history, integrating Little Rock, Ark., Central High School.

He was there in 1970 part of the POW raid on Son Tay near Hanoi in North Vietnam.

More than 30 years later, in a 2002 interview, frustration still lingered as KITTLESON shook his head, saying "That one didn't work out."

When he retired in 1979, his beloved troops bronzed his beret before KITTLESON returned to his rural Mitchell County roots with his wife, Darlene [(BRUGGEMANN)].

And once again, he was there for another generation the teenagers of the Alamo Scout Troop he founded in 1982.

KITTLESON, they say, was a commanding figure.

His manner was straightforward; his expectations, high. His lessons of honesty, self-discipline, self-reliance and respect shaped the adults they would become.

"Yet he was such a humble man, certainly never one to brag," COLLIER said. "Not until I read the book, did I fully understand his accomplishments, his self-sacrifice."

"Sergeant Major has been an inspiration in my life, the person behind my career in the military," the 41-year-old FELDT said. "He taught me discipline. From him I learned about honor, about courage. I will always remember him in that uniform, standing tall."

A poor farmer's son from Iowa, KITTLESON traveled far from his roots, finding courage and faith, said his son, Lance KITTLESON, an ordained minister and chaplain in the Army Reserve. "And in doing so he earned the love of his family and the respect and gratitude of a nation."

For Galen KITTLESON the soldier and the man even in death, there is victory.

Funeral services:

Funeral services for Galen C. KITTLESON will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Peter Lutheran church in Toeterville. Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Schroeder & Sites Funeral Home in St. Ansgar. Burial will be at First Lutheran Cemetery in St. Ansgar.

He is survived by his loving wife, Darlene; his sons, Bruce (Judy) of Virginia Beach, Virginia and Lance (Gail) of St. Ansgar; five grandchildren, 2LT Scott KITTLESON of Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, Jonathan and Emily KITTLESON of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Katie (Tim) HEETER of St. Ansgar and Andy KITTLESON of Ashford, Washington; and two great-grandchildren, Eli and Cora HEETER of St. Ansgar.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Floyd and Caroline KITTLESON; a brother, Leroy (Stub); a sister, Charlotte KITTLESON; and two infant brothers.

Funeral arrangements were made by the Schroeder & Sites Funeral Home, St. Ansgar.

[Galen and Darlene's son, Lance KITTLESON, is serving as a U.S. Army chaplin in Iraq, due to return to the United States in July of 2011.]

NOTE: Galen C. KITTLESON was born on August 14, 1924, Mitchell County, Iowa, the son of Floyd and Caroline KITTLESON. During his military career, he performed more prisoner-of-war raids than any other U.S. soldier in American history. A book by former Green Beret and military journalist Charles SASSER, named Raider came out in 2002, depicting KITTLESON'S life as a soldier and POW raider. SASSER said in the book, "He is a hero. Everyone in Special Forces knew him. Yet almost no one outside the military knows, because true heroes like Galen do not draw attention to themselves. They just live."

Command Sgt. Maj. Galen C. KITTLESON died of cancer on May 4, 2006 at the age of 81 years, Rochester, Minnesota. His funeral was held on Monday May 8, 2006 at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Toeterville, Iowa, where he lived. The Rev. Dean HESS, of Clear Lake, Iowa, officiated. Burial was in the First Lutheran Cemetery, St. Ansgar, Iowa -- where four generations of his family are buried -- with military honors by American Legion Walter T. Enneberg Post #358. The Ballad of the Green Berets played as KITTLESON'S casket was taken from the church and soldiers filed out behind it.

Additional photographs and information courtesy of Alamo Scouts.org

Transcriptions and note by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2011

Off-Site Links:

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Galen C. KITTLESON'S Biography

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Galen C. KITTLESON Honored

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Galen C. KITTLESON'S Gravestone

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