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In Memory

Vietnam veteran Doug Slotten inducted into memorial program in D.C.

-Submitted photo
The Slotten family stands in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. From left are Kirsten Slotten, her husband Alex Pavlovic, their son Max, Chelsi Slotten and Doug’s wife Elin Wackernagel-Slotten.

Doug Slotten, who lost a leg and was blinded during Army service in the Vietnam War but battled back to raise a family and live a life of service, was among more than 650 Vietnam veterans inducted Saturday into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s In Memory program on the East Knoll of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

The family of the Roelyn native was on hand to honor Slotten, who died last September at the age of 76 of prostate cancer, presumably from exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam. He was on a reconnaissance patrol in 1970, just five weeks into Vietnam, when he stepped on a land mine and was seriously injured.

The In Memory program enables the families and friends of those who came home and later died the opportunity to have them be forever memorialized. The plaque that honors these veterans was dedicated as a part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site in 2004. It reads: “In Memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”

Slotten was among 15 Vietnam veterans from Iowa who were honored Saturday. The memorial fund created a personal remembrance page for each honoree online in the In Memory Honor Roll at www.vvmf.org/honor-roll.

Present at the ceremony were Slotten’s wife Elin Wackernagel-Slotten of Chevy Chase, Maryland; their twin daughters Chelsi of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Kirsten, of San Francisco; Kirsten’s husband Alex Pavlovic, and their 8-month-old son Maxwell Douglas, born less than a month after his grandfather’s death.

-Submitted photo
Doug Slotten, (pictured in the framed photo at left) lost a leg and was blinded during Army service in the Vietnam War but battled back to raise a family and live a life of service. On Saturday, he was among more than 650 Vietnam veterans inducted into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s In Memory program on the East Knoll of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Slotten was one of 15 Iowa veterans who were recognized Saturday.

At the podium, where each family made brief remarks, they said:

• Elin: “On behalf of the entire family, Sgt. Douglas Lee Slotten, my husband.

• Kirsten: Purple Heart recipient, U.S. Army.

• Chelsi: We love you, Dad.

After the ceremony, Elin told The Messenger: “The Vietnam War and its consequences never conquered Doug’s spirit. We are all honored to have known him.”

Kirsten said: “Having my dad recognized alongside so many who served today at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was an honor. He would have been proud, but also humbled, to be included in the In Memory ceremony and would have insisted he was just doing his duty. But to others, he was a hero, including to me.”

And Chelsi said: “I was so proud to see dad and all the other honorees recognized for their ervice at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Dad never thought what he did was extraordinary, but everyone he met knew it was. I’m so lucky to have had him as a father. He is gone too soon but never forgotten.”

Slotten was born in Fort Dodge to parents who farmed in the Roelyn area. He graduated from Cedar Valley High School in Somers in 1965 and attended the University of Iowa, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1969. He briefly worked for an accounting firm in Chicago when he was drafted into the Army in August 1969. His orders for Vietnam came 15 months later.

He was serving with a reconnaissance platoon on Dec. 14, 1970, assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, in hazardous territory north of Hue when he was seriously wounded after stepping on the landmine. He was flown to a Navy hospital ship and then to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. He lost his eyesight and half of his right leg.

He returned to Iowa on home leave with crutches and a wheelchair.

“It was a happy time and it was a hard time,” Slotten told Lois Johnson of The Messenger in a Nov. 5, 1971, interview. “It was harder for the folks than for me. I’d had a month to adjust. They hadn’t. I had ideas about how to function. They had to learn.”

Slotten came to Fort Dodge during the week and stayed with his grandparents and walked daily from their home at 4 Johnson Place to downtown where he would go into stores and buy things and order meals in restaurants by himself.

After rehabilitation, Slotten entered the School of Law at Arizona State University, becoming the first totally blind person to enter its law school, and graduated cum laude in 1975.

He enjoyed a distinguished 45-year career as an attorney with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington. Three years after joining the FCC, he was named Outstanding Handicapped Federal Employee of the Year. Weeks after his death, he was recognized by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for helping shape the telecommunications and broadband marketplace as a kind, patient and selfless teacher, always generous with his knowledge and friendship.

One of Slotten’s best friends, Paul Onerheim of Lake Stevens, Washington, worked with the family on getting Slotten accepted for the In Memory program.

“Watching Doug’s military service being recognized by his family as he was inducted into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it was an honor to have been his friend for over 50 years,” Onerheim said. “Doug was a leader, quietly serving others. I miss our regular conversations.”

And noting the timing of the ceremony the day before Father’s Day, his daughters said, “It feels appropriate that the ceremony fell over Father’s Day weekend. We always loved spending extra quality time with him on this day over the years.”

Slotten will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

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