Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend 2017: The Unsung Heroes of Vietnam

We buried my brother on Friday - the first day of Memorial Day Weekend 2017. 

Melvin Eugene Purscell was an unsung Vietnam War hero, whose life was cut short by Agent Orange. 


He was a mechanic at John Deere in Des Moines, Iowa for many years, and later drove truck locally and over-the-road. He loved his dogs, and whole-hog barbecue cooking. He enjoyed many years of motorcycle riding, as well as many years of custom motorcycle and stock-car building and racing.

Born on Nov. 6, 
1951, he was the son of Joseph and Luella Purscell. In his younger days he rose to 4th in state, racing a Suzuki motocross bike. He built his first hobby stock race car in his 40’s and was a frequent racer at the Iowa Fairgrounds. His motocross and hobby-stock racing number was 58. 



Mr. Purscell was an excellent motorcycle mechanic as well as an excellent welder; both talents put to use in the restoration of a 1933 Indian Scout motorcycle that had been pulled from the ditch of an Iowa farmer. The restored bike took first place in a state competition at the old Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines.

He road and maintained a 1956 Harley Panhead, which he has passed down to his son and grandsons. He is survived by his wife, Carol, as well as, his mother, who lives in Florida, his sister, Mary Jo Pezzi and brother, Richard Purscell of Florida; and four older brothers: Jim Purscell of Arkansas; Wayne, Jerry and Larry Purscell all of Des Moines. 



His four children and spouses include Joe and Krys Purscell of Waukee; Julie and Sean Gilkey of West Des Moines; Karen Purscell and Christina Purscell of Des Moines. He had 12 grandchildren, and has his first great grandchild on the way.  
Mel's son, Joe Purscell received the shells from
a 21-gun salute. He also took his last journey
in a motorcycle iron hearse, and received
a full color-guard burial in Winterset, Iowa.



He joined the Army and fought in Vietnam at age 19. He drove “The Mighty Mini” and other portable missile-launching trucks. That is where he acquired a strong faith in God that continued over the years. He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family on May 23, 2017. He was 65.