COL Donald E. Appler USA (Retired)
Cadet Company: G1
Date of Birth: September 19, 1942
Date of Death: April 12, 2018
Died in: Elizabethtown, KY
Interred: Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central, Radcliff, KY - View or Post a Eulogy
Donald Eugene "Don" Appler was born in 1942 in El Paso, TX to a military family. He grew up in Huntsville, AL, where he excelled in academics and football. A high school teammate described him as "a guy who always liked to have fun but was always the one to keep his buddies from going too far."
After graduating as an Armor officer and getting his Ranger Tab and Airborne Wings, Don began a long and distinguished military career. His first assignment was Fort Hood, TX, but was soon thereafter in Vietnam. He served two combat tours in Vietnam, both with the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment in the 25th Infantry Division. He was an armored cavalry platoon leader in 1966 and returned in 1969 to command C Troop. He was a very effective combat leader, highly respected by his men. C Troop was known for taking its toll on the enemy in the vicinity of the Cu Chi tunnels and battle areas further northwest. One of his soldiers wrote, "LT Appler was my platoon leader in 1966. He was a great commander and because of his leadership in combat, a lot of my fellow troops are still alive today." Another of his soldiers said years later of Don’s time as C troop commander, "Captain Appler is the reason I got to have grandchildren."
After a tour of duty at Fort Knox, KY, he received his master’s degree from the University of Tennessee. While at Fort Knox, he met an Army nurse who was to become his lifelong partner. They began their married life at USMA. Their first daughter, Adrienne, was born at USMA. Don demonstrated the total dedication and commitment to his role as an admissions officer that he brought to everything he did. He was introduced to fishing during this time. His fishing hobby received his dedication and commitment as well and became a lifelong hobby that he loved to share with friends.
After graduating from the Air Force Command and Staff College, he was assigned to Germany. He was with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Bad Kissingen and Fulda. He was described as a "soldier’s soldier" and "the perfect XO." Don and Carol’s second daughter, Valerie, was born in Germany.
In addition to being an Airborne Ranger, Don graduated from the U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. He earned numerous awards throughout his career, many for valor in combat. They include Bronze Star medals for valor and achievement, Air Medals for valor and achievement, and Army Commendation Medals for valor and achievement, as well as the Soldier’s Medal, Legion of Merit, and Meritorious Service Medals. He also was a proud recipient of the Order of St. George (Gold Medallion), the top award of the U.S. Armor Association.
Don retired after 26 years of active duty and worked for Lockheed Martin developing weapons systems as the Mounted Warfare Test Bed Site manager at Fort Knox. He was devoted to his family and unselfishly supported the Army and his community as a volunteer in multiple organizations: Fort Knox School Board, Boy Scouts of America, Armor Association, National Armor and Cavalry Heritage Foundation, and Patton Museum Board.
He was a man of great faith and supported his church as a Sunday School teacher and by serving on church committees and boards. He cared more about others than he did himself. He laughed easily and often and had a generous spirit. He loved his faith, his family, his friends, football and fishing.
Well Done; Be Thou at Peace.— Classmates, friends and wife