Vesa Juhani Alakulppi was born in Rovaniemi, Finland, on April 23, 1941, to Olavi and Eevi Alakulppi, during the Russo-Finnish war. Vesa's father was a first lieutenant in the Finnish Army, and Vesa often proudly spoke of his father's exploits while fighting the Russian Army to a standstill. For his bravery, Olavi Alakulppi was awarded Finland's highest honor, the Mannerheim-risti. After a heroic fight however, the overwhelming might of the Soviet Union proved too much for Finland's small army and the war ended in 1944. Vesa's son Kurt recalled, "After the conflict was over, my grandfather was still wanted by the Russian military. In 1945, he escaped on skis to Sweden, followed by his family, and after a brief stay, he arranged for his entrance into the United States through the U.S. Consulate in Sweden." Olavi Alakulppi was soon commissioned in the U.S. Army, and Vesa, along with his sister Maija, had a typical "Army brat" childhood living in Virginia, Colorado, Germany, and Kansas.
Vesa began high school in Germany, attending the Nuremburg Dependent School, before transferring to Mainz where he met Sharon, his future wife. He finished high school in Junction City, Kansas. Vesa was an honor student, ranking fourth in his class of 113 students, with a grade point average of 3.68. Vesa also excelled in athletics, lettering twice in football in Germany, and playing on the Junction City basketball team that won the Central Kansas Conference championship. In March, 1958, Vesa competed for, and won a presidential appointment to the United States Military Academy. When a local reporter asked Vesa about his aspirations for the future, he replied, "I have looked forward to an Army career all my life." On 7 July Vesa reported to the Man in the Red Sash in Old Central Area, and, after learning the rudiments of close order drill, he and his classmates were marched to Trophy Point and sworn in as New Cadets in the Class of 1963.
Vesa loved West Point, and he thrived in the demanding environment. A classmate recalled, "he was a quiet, honorable, 'top drawer' person. He really had a good mind and while he wouldn't normally admit it in public, he studied pretty hard to make sure that he was always prepared for class." Contract bridge was one Vesa's passions. A K2 classmate reminisced about the time Vesa and three others were caught playing bridge in the sinks after taps. "As I remember, they successfully b'ached their DR because playing cards in the sinks was not expressly forbidden in the regs. I think that was changed the next day." One of Vesa's roommates reflected upon his love for handball: "He was a fierce competitor, and he was pretty washed out when he returned to our room indicating that, win or lose, he had given it 100%. That's the way he approached everything. If it was worth doing it was worth a 100% effort." Vesa often tutored classmates who were having academic problems. One classmate wrote, "I distinctly remember how he helped me prepare for the final exam in Mechanics when I got turned out. So, in no small measure, I owe him big for the chance to complete my degree." Vesa's academic perseverance was rewarded his first class year when he made the Dean's List, and became a star man.
Graduation day finally arrived and Vesa and his classmates were commissioned in the field house on 5 June, 1963. He chose Armor, and after jump school at Fort Benning, the new second lieutenant reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky for the Armor Officer Basic Course. Then it was off to Bamberg, Germany where he served as A Company Commander, 3/35th Armor. In April, 1966, Vesa and Sharon were married. A classmate remembers, "those times we truly enjoyed being with Vesa and Sharon, having the fun of going out together, and taking the outings and small trips out in the German towns." In 1967, Vesa received orders for Vietnam, with a stop enroute at the Jungle Warfare School in Panama.
Upon arriving in Vietnam, Captain Vesa Alakulppi was assigned to the 2/3 Infantry of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. He was initially the battalion S2, but he volunteered to be a rifle company commander, and was given "C" Company. On 14 May, 1968, Vesa's company was attacked by a superior force, and, after a furious battle, he was killed in action. A fellow company commander provided this account of the battle:
Captain Alakulppi, on losing communication with his strong point and receiving the report of enemy penetration from other bunkers, left his command post to tighten the remaining defenses and organize a counterattack. He went to the adjacent positions of the danger point, issued the orders to shift fires in order to contain the penetration, then started a personal reconnaissance of the situation. As he moved to a vantage point among the trees and irrigation ditches of the orchard he was ambushed and killed.
On May 28, 1968, Vesa Juhani Alakulppi was buried at the Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in Seattle, WA. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. From West Point's "Family and Classmates"