BENSON - Denis Lee Gerdes, 54, formerly of Benson, passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2013.
Denis was born to Chester E. Gerdes and Dorothy L. (Fears) Gerdes on Aug. 19, 1959, at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill. He grew as a young man hunting, fishing and learning aeronautical history and engineering with his father.
Inspired by many, Denis always wanted to be a United States Marine. Before graduating from high school, he entered the USMC delayed entry program on March 26, 1977, and reported to MCRD in San Diego, Calif., on July 7, 1977. His career began with training as a primary marksmanship instructor at 3rd Marine Regimental Sniper School and his experience with the Hawaiian Marine Rifle Team. In 1980, he transferred to B Company, 1st Recon Battalion, and served as a recon scout and team leader, completing training in basic recon, airborne and both summer and winter mountain leaders courses.
Denis left the Marine Corps to go home to Benson, Ill., in March of 1982. He worked with his father on the county roads, spent time helping build his father's plane and loved spending moments with his family and childhood friends.
Honor and commitment to service led him to re-enlist in October of 1982. After training with B Company, 1st Recon Battalion, and TOW Company, 1st Tank Battalion, he deployed with the 31st MEU, in support of the Multinational Force in Beirut.
He met his wife, Susan, in 1984. They were married July 13, 1985. He became a loving father to Susan's daughter, Christine Anne Bulder. Shortly after, he reported to MCRD San Diego and served as a junior and senior drill instructor with Alpha Company, 1st RTR. In 1986, they gave birth to their son, Jason Lee. In 1988, Denis returned to 1st Recon Battalion and served as Platoon Sgt. in Bravo Company, deploying with the 5th MEB, in support of Operation Desert Storm. He also served as Asst. Ops Chief and Ops Chief. From 1992 to 1996, he served as the Marine Liaison with a Joint Command, serving as an instructor. He moved his family to Marin County, Calif., for this assignment. He spent his weekends with his son, Jason Gerdes, in the local Cub Scout Troop, serving as an assistant den leader. He enjoyed teaching the boys mountain survival, shipman skills and carpentry. After returning the family to San Diego, Denis returned to the Corps in 1996 as the chief instructor for Raid Branch, I MEF, SOTG. He then served as Ops Chief for 1st LAR from 1998 to 2000. He was then assigned as Ops Chief for 1st Force Recon Battalion, participating in recon and combat operations with Operation Iraqi Freedom. Denis' final assignment was SNCOIC, G-7, I MEF, where he retired from the USMC on Oct. 31, 2005. At the time of his death on Nov. 24, 2013, he had been working for Cubic Corporation as a ground maneuver analyst at Battle Simulation Center, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
He is survived by his wife, Susan Gerdes; children, Christine Bulder and Jason Lee; mother, Dororthy Gerdes; sister, Julie Sorola; brother, Keith (Sherri) Gerdes; in-laws, Michael (Judy) Fehr, Carol (Mike) Backlund and John Fehr; and many nieces, nephews, friends and extended family.
His father, Chester Gerdes; mother-in-law, Janet (Fehr) Raines; and many family members and friends predeceased him.
Denis loved being airborne, mountain climbing, diving, surfing and sailing the open waters. His free time was spent with his family sailing, camping, swimming and reading with his children. He will be missed by many.
A memorial will be held at the Marine Memorial Chapel, 1344 A St., Camp Pendleton Calif., on Dec. 14, 2013, at 10 a.m. Following will be a meet and greet at the American Legion, Post 365, 1234 S. Santa Fe Ave., Vista, CA 92084. The interment will be at the Miramar National Cemetery, 5795 Nobel Drive, San Diego, Calif. A memorial will also be held in his home town of Benson, Ill., at a later date.
Memorial donations may be made to American Legion Post 454, Benson, IL 61516; or the Force Recon Association, P.O. Box 111000, Carrolton, TX 75011.