Veteran’s faith propels him onward

Dennis Julian, an Iowa Veterans Home resident, displays a number of medals earned while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during service in Vietnam. His IVH room is adorned with Marine mementos

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

God still has plans for Dennis Julian.

That is evident after one meets, and spends time with the former Marine at the Iowa Veterans Home where he resides.

Proof that God still has plans for his servant can be based on several events in Julian’s life and how the former Michigan resident interpreted those.

Julian, 68, was the sole survivor in his infantry unit which saw heavy combat in Vietnam. He was awarded two Purple Hearts in his two-year tour.

The second: On Memorial Day 1983, Julian was riding in the front passenger seat of the family car when an intoxicated 17-year old driving a stolen pick-up truck collided with the vehicle, and Julian’s side taking full force of a 70 mph hit, said author Gary Mull of Ann Arbor, Mich., who helped Julian write his first book.

Julian sustained severe brain trauma, and was in a coma for six and one-half months.

When he awoke, Julian could not speak or walk.

Consequently, he now communicates with one thumb on a laminated alphabet board and a special Dynavox telephone device provided by the Marines. He is confined to a wheelchair.

A favorite greeting is to give a stranger a sturdy and steady “fist bump” with a smile. Then the alphabet board comes out.

In 2008, with one thumb and the alphabet board, Julian would point to a letter — forming words and sentences that friend Mull transcribed and put into “I Should Have Died 5 Times. Why am I Still Here?”

“As his book testifies, the course of anyone’s entire life — the work, the plans, the hopes, the expectations — can be so horrifically and irreparably obliterated in mere seconds,” wrote Mull.

“Dennis, over the course of many years, would ask himself, ‘why am I still here … why didn’t I die,'” said his brother Tom Julian of Warren, Mich.

“The answer is: God has things for Dennis to do,” said Tom Julian. “As such, he was able to publish the book with a church friend, Gary Mull. And he (Dennis) personally sold about 1,300 copies on a one-to-one basis … the book spread the word of God … and has made a huge impact.”

Through weekly visits, IVH volunteer Rose Elsbecker of Marshalltown has also been impacted by Dennis Julian.

“Dennis is a friendly, joyous person, with a sense of humor — he wants people to know one can lose everything, but one cannot take away Jesus,” said Elsbecker. “It is his faith that has kept him through all.”

Faith was a factor in another way.

In the book, Dennis Julian admitted it was hard at first to forgive the drunk driver who stole a truck that collided with his car and de-railed his life plans.

But forgiveness did come.

More might be revealed in a second book.

Elsbecker eagerly said she and Dennis Julian are working on the second effort. It may also contain references about his IVH experiences.

Dennis Julian said he likes his fellow residents and staff.

Another plus to being at IVH is it allows Dennis Julian’s daughter, a Cedar Rapids resident, to visit with her two daughters and periodically take him to Cedar Rapids for visits.

Tom comes to IVH for visits too.

Dennis Julian’s book is available for Kindle on It may be found by searching for “Dennis Julian 5.” Several videos of Dennis can be viewed at 1.


Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: