Denny Gillem graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in June 1964 and was commissioned in the infantry. After military schooling he was assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, CO, where he served with the 5th Infantry Division, met and proposed to his wife, Marilyn, and volunteered for duty in Vietnam.
He served in combat with the First Infantry Division for a year and returned to marry Marilyn; he then assumed command of an airborne rifle company of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, KY. He first visited Michigan when his company deployed to the Detroit Riots in 1967. Shortly thereafter his division deployed to Vietnam in time for the fighting during Tet 1968. As a consequence of these two combat tours Denny received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and 7 US awards for valor.
He was selected for early promotion to major and sent to earn his masters degree in political science at the University of Texas at El Paso. He subsequently served with the ROTC unit at Stanford University where he earned another MA (in Education) and helped close the ROTC unit. After serving with a mechanized infantry battalion in Germany, Denny returned to the US to be a war planner for Europe and the Middle East at US Readiness Command in Florida.
He served as the head of the Army ROTC unit at the University of Tampa and then was transferred to serve as an Army Advisor to the Michigan National Guard. Denny and Marilyn fell in love with western Michigan and decided to retire from the Army and settle there.
Since leaving the Army, Denny has worked in sales, leadership, consulting, and academic positions in Michigan. He currently teaches American Government at Grand Rapids Community College and taught political science and management for the University of Phoenix. He was the founding chair of the 1776 Society of Veterans, a political action committee. He has served in senior positions in state & national political campaigns and has run for office locally. Denny is also a business-networking fanatic, serving as a director-consultant for Business Network International and as the past-chair of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber’s Business Networking Committee.