SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information



In Memory of U.S. Army Sergeant Major

Harlene Eugene Millette

Rapid City, South Dakota, Pennington County

April 13, 1922 -- July 15, 1968

Died Non-Battle in Vietnam

Harlene Eugene “Gene” Millette was born April 13, 1922, in Rapid City, South Dakota, into the Millette family; his parents were John H. and Myrtle R. (Smith) Millette. He was the second of eight children: Alberta Charlene, Floyd Dell (who died in infancy), Mary Idella (Idella), John Hill, Jr. (Jack), Bonnie Mae, Betty Lou, and James Edward (Jim). He attended Rapid City Grammar School and Rapid City High School. There, he became interested in running, which gave him the nickname “Speed.” He graduated from Rapid City High School in 1940. Thereafter, he worked as a grocery clerk.

During WW II, Harlene joined the Army on October 29, 1942, when he was 20 years of age. For basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana. He served in various capacities in various other camps in the United States, both before and after he went overseas to the Pacific Theater in WW II, where he was eventually wounded and earned his first Purple Heart.

Gertrude Bernardina Olsen and Harlene Eugene Millette met at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in New York. Harlene was recovering from wounds he received on Okinawa during WWII, and Gertrude was a volunteer. Due to his injuries, he suffered life long nerve damage to his hand and could no longer be in combat which is why he was transferred to personnel administration. After becoming good friends, Gertrude and Harlene wrote to each other in the years following while he served two tours of duty in Korea. They were married at Staten Island, New York, on April 5, 1952, and had two children: Harlan Andrew, on March 25, 1953, and Barbara Jeanne, on August 25, 1956, both born on Staten Island. When Barbara was still a toddler, the family moved to Frankfurt, Germany, where Millette served as a personnel supervisor at an Army base. When he was transferred back to the United States in 1962, he was stationed at Fort Myers in Virginia while he worked for the Adjutant General of the United States at the Pentagon, Washington, DC, and the family lived at Alexandria, Virginia, which is where Barbara has her favorite memories of her father.

He loved working at the Pentagon…He brought me to work with him on my 10th birthday and I got to meet the general and all of the staff in their office. He let me stay all day, typing on his secretary’s typewriter, touring the building with him and having lunch with him at a café in the Pentagon’s outdoor center courtyard.

In January of 1968, he was sent to Vietnam, first stationed at An Khe. He was then transferred to Camp Evans (named for another South Dakota casualty of Vietnam), Thua Thien Province, Vietnam, near the Demilitarized Zone. He was a part of the 1st Cavalry Division, 15th Administrative Company, 1st Personnel Service Battalion. Among his duties was to “process and report information regarding casualties in the war.”

Last time his family was together (left) - Taken at the Pentagon receiving the Army Commendation Medal (right)

On July 15, 1968, Sergeant Major Harlene Eugene Millette passed away at Camp Evans in Thua Thien Province, RVN, only two weeks before he was due to come home for a two week R & R (rest and relaxation). His funeral was held on the day he was scheduled to come home on leave. He was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. He had over 25 years of dedicated service in the Army.

Among Sergeant Major Millette’s many military honors include: WWII Service Medal, WWII Victory Ribbon, American Theatre Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Ribbon, Korean War Service Medal, Vietnam War Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, U.N. Service Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation, Meritorious Unit Citation, some Marksmanship Citations, several Good Conduct Medals, and three Purple Hearts (one posthumously).

His current survivors include Harlene’s sister, Betty Lou Sehon, his daughter, Barbara Jeanne Cover, and his son, Harlan Andrew Millette. Harlene’s wife, Gertrude Bernardina Olsen, died of cancer in the summer of 2003. She was buried in the same grave as her husband, which is common at national cemeteries. Afterward, the family walked across the bridge to the Vietnam Memorial Wall and made rubbings of Harlene’s name, then left flowers and their wedding picture at the base of the wall. Their daughter, Barbara, wrote in closing, “It was a tribute I think my mother would have loved; she was always so proud of being a military wife.”

Thank you, Harlene Millette, and the entire Millette family for your service and sacrifice.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Caila Brennan and Andrea Driscoll, 8th grade students, Spearfish Middle School, March 29, 2006. Information and approval for this entry was provided by Barbara Cover, Duluth, Georgia, daughter of Harlene Millette.


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