Allen, Merlin Raye
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LCpl Merlin (Merle) Raye Allen, born October 22, 1946 in Madison Wisconsin and listed as KIA/BNR since June 30, 1967 from a helicopter crash in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, will be making his long-awaited return home to be laid to rest with his parents Alden and Eleanor Allen on York Island, Lake Superior.
Merle was second oldest of 6 children. He was best friend and confidant to his sister, Marilyn, closest in age and considered his 'Irish Twin'. He was also big brother to Cindy, Casey, Sheila, and Sean by always looking out for them and sharing his big brother wisdom. Merle made life-long friends as the family moved from Madison to Winneconne, Omro and finally to Bayfield, where he graduated in 1965. Anyone who met Merle felt the loyalty of his friendship. He loved to play practical jokes, and if you found yourself a victim, you could not stay mad for very long when he flashed you one of his signature wide grins. To his parents, he was a source of fun and laughter and most assuredly their bigger challenge. As frustrating as it may have been to find him on the wrong side of right, it was equally difficult to stay mad at such a fun loving and kind person. He was 18 and he loved cars, nice clothes, pretty girls, basketball and rock and roll.
Upon graduating from high school and before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, Merle sailed on the William G. Mather of the Interlake Steamship Company and also worked at his uncle's machine shop, Shamrock Machine and Tool in Ashippun, Wisconsin. It was late October of 1965 and before their induction that Merle and his friend and classmate John Powers (Washburn) loaded up a case of oil for John's thirsty 1957 Ford station wagon and 50 pounds of potatoes, squash and other canned goods for themselves and headed to Alaska for a quick vacation. Upon reaching Fairbanks in 40 below temperatures, they turned around and returned via Sacramento California and Reno. While in Reno, they gambled and won $24 at a nickel slot machine which was enough to buy gas to get them home. When he returned home, Merle told Skip how much he loved Alaska and that the family needed to see it. It was on the summer vacation to Alaska in 1967 the family was notified by Royal Canadian Mounted Police to contact the Marines in Minneapolis regarding a fatality.
Merle loved being a Marine and Reconner. Trained as a radio operator, he served in Danang, Khe Sanh, and Phu Bai. His letters home were filled with stories of friends and experiences, but he was most proud of his decision to join Team Striker of the 3rd Recon Bn, 3rd Marine Division early in 1967. After the family learned of Merle's helicopter crash and being told there were no survivors, the family was left with few answers and kept unvoiced hope that he would be found alive. Over the years the family survived through the collective memory of Merle's many antics which either resulted in tears or side-splitting laughter. Answers finally came 16 years later when Skip and Eleanor answered a knock on their door and met Merle's best friend in Vietnam and survivor of the helicopter crash, Jeff Savelkoul. Through survivors Jeff and Mariano (Junior) Guy, the family finally learned the circumstances of Merle's death and they could begin to heal. It was always hoped that someday Merle might be found and returned home.
In February 2013 the family was notified that a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command recovery team in 2012, recovered and later identified Merle's remains. Merle will be escorted home by a USMC honor guard that will include Team Striker brothers, Jeff Savelkoul who will escort Merle from Hawaii to Wisconsin and Junior Guy who will escort Merle to his final rest on York Island. Awaiting his return home are his surviving brothers and sisters, Marilyn (Ralph) Neff of Saynor, Wisconsin; Cindy (Bart) Hawkins of Anchorage, Alaska, Casey (Kathy) Allen of Denham Springs, Louisiana; Sheila (Rick) Kelly of Washburn, Wisconsin; Sean (Cheri) Allen of Cambridge, Minnesota. In addition to his brothers and sisters, Merle is an uncle 10 times over and a great-uncle 12 times. Merle's aunts, uncles and cousins stretch from Wyoming to Wisconsin to Florida.
The family invites everyone to join them to celebrate Merle's life and honor his sacrifice at his funeral that will be held 10:30 A.M. on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at the Bayfield High School Gymnasium. Visitation will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. on Friday, June 28, 2013 at the Bratley Funeral Home, in Washburn and continue one hour prior to the service on Saturday, at the Bayfield High School Gymnasium. The military honors will be held immediately following the service at Little Sand Bay. We look forward to hearing more of Merle's stories from those who knew him. Private burial will take place on York Island.
To view this obituary online, sign the guestbook or express online condolences, visit us at bratleyfamilyfuneralhomes.com. Arrangements are by the Bratley Funeral Home, in Washburn.
Bratley Funeral Home - Washburn
10 East Bayfield Street PO Box 518 Washburn, WI 54891
Published in Oshkosh Northwestern on June 26, 2013