Marine returns home after tour in Iraq | NevadaAppeal.com

Marine returns home after tour in Iraq

Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Lance Cpl. Derrick Keppler returned from Iraq Sept. 25, and is shown Tuesday in front of the Marines Recruiting office. He will return to Camp Pendleton Nov. 1.

MINDEN – Lance Cpl. Derrick Keppler is safe back home after receiving a Purple Heart during a seven-month tour of duty in Iraq.

Keppler doesn’t make a big deal out of the injury he describes as a scratch that he received while serving with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines.

“We were on base and a mortar landed during the day,” he said. “There were mortar attacks all the time. I was inside an Iraqi military compound and the blast blew through the door. I took a little shrapnel.”

The 2003 Douglas High School graduate joined the U.S. Marines through the delayed-entry program. He reported for basic training in June 2003. An infantryman, he reported to Camp Pendleton in November and the unit shipped out in mid-February.

“It gets pretty crazy over there,” he said. “There were a lot of insurgents. I saw quite a bit of action.”

The Marine said he knows a dozen of his comrades who died in Iraq. There were at

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least 50 others who received minor injuries.

Keppler said he believes in the American cause in Iraq and thinks it was a good idea to go.

“Mostly, I would say we’re doing a good job and it’s a good thing we are there,” he said. “I believe we’re fighting a just cause and no matter how long it takes, we should stay there until it’s finished.”

He said he had a chance to talk to a few Iraqis who were glad they were there, but preferred not to stand too close to the Marines.

“They are kind of back and forth, but generally they’re getting sick of us being there,” he said. “I was able to talk to a few of them and they were glad we’re there, but wished we didn’t spend so much time in the city.”

Keppler is home for the month while working with the Marine recruiter in Carson City. He is visiting the high schools to talk to students interested in joining up. He said he plans to go into law enforcement when he gets out of the Marine Corps.

Keppler is the son of Debbie and Richard Keppler.

Debbie Keppler graduated from Douglas High School in 1982 but left the Valley. The Indian Hills family has lived in Carson Valley for 10 years.

She is one of the founders of a support group, the Blue Star Moms, for mothers who have children in combat. The group formed last spring and now has seven mothers who meet monthly.

“In the beginning, when my son went to Iraq, there were no support groups at all,” she said. “It is a tough thing to go through alone.”

Any mothers wishing to join may contact Debbie at 267-3758.

Contact Kurt Hildebrand at khildebrand@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 215.