'My mother would be so proud'
World War II soldier's sister says Ralph Neppel, the subject of a new Carroll mural, humbly accepted the military's highest honor
October 30, 2013
Arlene Dalhoff, a younger sister of Ralph G. Neppel, stands in front of a mural dedicated in his honor and one that is displayed at the Veterans Clinic inside St. Anthony Regional Hospital. Dalhoff was 14 years old when she and her mother, Rose, attended a ceremony held at the White House where Neppel received the Medal of Honor.
Arlene Dalhoff was 13 when she made her first voyage away from Iowa in 1945. She took a bus and later flew - her first time in an airplane - to the nation's capital, to watch her big brother, Ralph G. Neppel, get his Medal of Honor from U.S. President Harry Truman.
On Tuesday, the Carroll woman, now 81, witnessed another honor for her brother: the dedication of a mural of him at the Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic at St. Anthony Regional Hospital.
The mural, brushed by the Freedom Rock artist, Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II, and funded with a donation from the Carroll Veterans Memorial Fund, depicts Neppel's ceremony with Truman and Neppel with his machine gun.
Neppel led a squad of U.S. Army machine-gunners who defended the road to a German village on Dec. 14, 1944. A German tank with 20 infantrymen marched within 100 yards of Neppel, and he opened fire, killing some of the men.
The tank pressed on and eventually fired at the U.S. soldiers. The blast knocked Neppel 10 yards from his gun and severed one of his legs. He crawled back to the gun and helped kill the remaining German foot soldiers.
When Neppel - who subsequently returned to his family farm northeast of Carroll and wore prosthetics to replace his maimed legs - got the telephone call about the medal, "he said, 'I don't deserve it. I don't want it. Give it to the men who died,'" Dalhoff recalled. "But the man said it was an order."
Dalhoff rode with her mother and brother on a dusty train to Omaha, Neb., where they ate at an American Legion hall before the flight to Washington, D.C.
"It was a big thing. We were very proud of my brother," she said. "He was somebody I looked up to a lot. I liked to laugh with him and have fun with him. He was just a good guy, and I'll always remember him like that."
Neppel farmed and sold appliances for many years before he died of liver cancer in 1987.
"My mother would be so proud," Dalhoff said of the mural. "She was always proud of Ralph."
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