SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information

Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information About the Memorial

 

 

Below, you will find an illustration of the Vietnam War told by the sons and daughters of South Dakota as they lived it through personal experience, heroic actions and tragic loss.


If you find these graphic depictions of war and violence disturbing,
please click here.  The State of South Dakota will try to
direct you to counseling services in your area.


Thank you Governor Daugaard and to all the staff and volunteers who are working on the "Welcome Home", and the Vietnam War Memorial Dedication, scheduled for September 2006. It is very much appreciated.

Shortly after high school graduation, at age 18, I was drafted. I was living on my parents' farm near the little town of Seneca, South Dakota located in western Faulk County.

Time goes by so quickly. There was a time when 24 hours seemed like forever and a week could be eternity.

1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment
4th Infantry Division
II Corps
Pleiku, Ban Me Thout, Kontum
Republic of South Vietnam
March, 1968 through March 1969

• Nick Roseland, Pierre, South Dakota


I joined the Army because it would pay for two years of college and then I would serve three years of active duty. For a farm girl with three sisters it was a great way to get a college education. I have never regretted it.

I have wonderful memories of working long 12-hour days, six days a week, with one weekend off every 8 to 10 weeks. Everyone worked together, the chief nurse would come and help pass out meal trays. Since it was a draft army it was made up of everyone from every walk of life.  We worked hard and played hard.

I initially joined to help take care of the soldiers who were hurt since they did not ask to be there in the first place. My hope was an assignment in Vietnam but we started pulling out forces so I was sent to Germany where we received some of the wounded.  Of course, the Cold war was going on, too.

I still work as a Department of the Army Civilian as a nurse in Germany and have now been involved in assisting the soldiers in three wars and several conflicts—as an Army Nurse during the Vietnam era, an elementary school counselor for the 1st Gulf war and as a community health nurse for the 2nd Gulf war. I hope this is the last.

I met my husband in Spain during a four day pass I got after being promoted to Captain. After 28 years of marriage it was one of the best things that I “got out of the army”.  The other great things I received were my education bachelor and masters degree.

Today’s army is different but so many things stay the same, I love working for the military and supporting our brave soldiers and their families.

• Kathleen S Ackermann, APO, AE


I served with the 2/60 of the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta, south of Saigon; from March 1968 to February 1969. This story is not about me, but a soldier I only knew by his last nameAdams. I believe he was from Texas.

In Vietnam, there were more KIA in 1968 than any other year. Back in the United States, the country was being divided by the war, with racial injustice and prejudice, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the riots of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. A year earlier, Muhammad Ali refused induction. It was a difficult time on both sides of the Pacific.

Against that backdrop, American soldiers of all races fought together. However, when not on a mission, some soldiers tended to associate with those of their own race. My experience was that soldiers of all races generally got along with each other, and that personal issues between soldiers did not necessarily follow racial lines. Nonetheless, I recall instances of racial tension between white and black soldiers in the 2/60th. This is where Adams comes in. He was barely five feet tall. He was black and hung around with other black soldiers in the battalion. Any time trouble seemed to be brewing, he had a smile and wit and wisdom that would defuse most any situation. When I heard Adams got killed I thought what a wastemore so than usual. I think Adams had a lot to offer had he lived.

• Dale Bertsch, Pierre, SD.


I joined the US Marine Corps in 1969; I just graduated from Freeman high school. There were two from our 1969 graduation class who joined the Marines. Like all new recruits in boot camp, you ask yourself, Why did I do this? and How do I get out of this mess I got myself into? My parents were against me joining the Armed Forces and especially the Marines. For a while I thought they were correct. I learned to accept my situation and to make the best of it. The training was hard, but worth it. Because of this training, I was looking forward to going to South Vietnam. The Vietnam War for me was difficult but rewarding. My experience there has stayed with me for the rest of my life. I believe I have come to terms with the war and have used this in a positive manner. I am proud to have served in Vietnam. There are very few Americans and very few servicemen who have served in a combat zone and realized this experience. Thank you.

• Allen J. Adrian, Sioux Falls, SD


I attended Army basic training, AIT, then Officer Candidate School after graduation from SDSU. I was accepted into flight school after OCS and trained in the OV-1 Mohawk surveillance airplane, a twin-engine turbo prop built by Grumman. The Mohawk conducted day and night low-level surveillance missions with installed cameras and infrared equipment. I flew missions in the I CORP region including the DMZ, Ashau Valley, Ho Chi Minh trail, and also in Cambodia. One well-remembered mission included photo recon of the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia which had fallen into Viet Cong hands. Due to distance from our airfield, we had to fly to the Air Force base in Ubon Thailand to refuel before returning to Vietnam. Although my aircraft was hit several times, I was never shot down during my two tours in Vietnam.

The Mohawk was retired from active Army duty in 1996, but is still flying in several foreign countries and with some American historic aircraft museums. While stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1969, I flew a Mohawk cross-country and landed in Pierre and visited my folks in Highmore. Watch for a Mohawk in the memorial dedication flyover in 2006. That will be the second time a Mohawk has been in Pierre. Thank you South Dakota for remembering the Vietnam veterans.

• Rod D. Anderson, Pierre, SD


In Tay Ninh Province, III Corps, RVN, we were doing an ARVN Infantry search operation on Nui Ba Dinh (black mountain), and I (MACV advisor) was riding in a UH-1D helicopter to bring in some supplies to our MACV infantry advisors; we were preparing to leave off the mountain and were just hovering when an enemy sniper opened up on us; the trajectory of the bullet missed our M-60 door gunner and went through our fuel tank and came out the other side, just missing our other door gunner.  We did an emergency landing in the rice fields and then, after assessing our damage, flew to the Tay Ninh base and switched helicopters.  One of the pilots was Dennis Vehee, a fellow SDSU ROTC graduate of mine.

• Larry D Birger, Sr., Jamestown, ND


Serving in Vietnam was the greatest experience of my life. I enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 17 years, 11 months. I established many life-long relationships with other airmen as well as some short-term relationships with the Vietnamese children. Four of my friends and I spent most every weekend at the beach, weather and other circumstances permitting, taking food and beverages for these children, some of which were orphans. When one or two of the children would not show up at the beach, the other children would tell us that they had died. When I left Vietnam, I gave all of my clothing and boots to our house boy.

• David S. Brandriet, Watertown, SD


It somehow seems very strange to me that I am writing this for my husband David.  He should be the one writing about his experiences in Vietnam, not me.

You see, my husband died thirteen years ago.  On April 19, 1993, he and seven others died in the state aircraft while on a trip to save one of South Dakota’s largest employers.  Dave, Governor Mickelson, and fellow pilot Ron Becker, along with five others died on that day in Iowa.

Dave would be so excited about the upcoming celebration.  He would want to share this time with fellow Vietnam Veterans, in particular his friend Jim Elkins from Watertown, SD, and his friends from the VEVA (Vietnam Era Veterans Association) group here in Pierre.

It always amazed me what Dave went through in Vietnam.  He never talked a lot about it to me, but I did learn a lot from his friends after he died.  Dave was a Huey helicopter pilot and was shot down and wounded on May 31, 1969.  Thanks to the blessings of God and some fellow pilots who picked him and the others up that day, he survived his tour in the war.  At his own request, he stayed in-country to recover from his wounds and finished his tour of duty, though he could have come home.

After the war, Dave came home to SD.  We met in April 1971 and married in December of 1971.  Shortly after the birth of our first daughter Kristi in 1973, he joined the SD Highway Patrol, moving us to Pierre.  After being in Pierre for a short time, the patrol chose Dave to become the Highway Patrol pilot.  He took flying lessons to pilot the patrol plane, a Cessna 182.  He loved his job; flying around our beautiful state, all by himself in the plane.  After flying for some time, he was chosen to become Governor Janklow’s bodyguard.  That turned into a full-time job, so he pretty much had to give up flying for the patrol.  They hired another pilot, with Dave being his supervisor and also keeping his bodyguard position.

Then the state decided that it would nice if he could fly the plane the governor flew on, since he always went along anyway.  So he learned to first fly the King Air, the plane Dave really loved to fly.  Then Governor Janklow traded the King Air for the MU-2, the plane in which Dave died.

Dave traveled all over the US, coming home and always having a story to tell us, whether it was just a day trip or several days.  The girls and I always looked forward to his stories.

Then came that day I’ll never forget.  Dave had gone on a trip, flying Governor Mickelson and others to Ohio.  The day started out like any other, but ended in a grief I’ll never forget.  We have survived his death, but we will never, ever forget him.  We miss him every day; I especially feel bad about all that he has missed in these thirteen years he’s been gone—church confirmation and high school graduation for Cathy, Kris and Cathy’s college graduations, both of their weddings (and not meeting both sons-in-law, who are great) and the births of our two wonderful grandchildren, Ty David and Alyssa Kaye.  What a joy they would be to him.

I don’t understand why he could survive Vietnam only to die in the fields of Iowa.  But I guess that’s not for me to know.  I just know we are very proud of his service to our country and we’re glad that he and his fellow veterans are finally getting the recognition they deserved years ago.

Mrs. David (Diane) Hansen

Kristi Hansen Turman

Cathy Hansen Stahl

 

• David H. Hansen, Pierre, SD

 


Let us never forget our mistakes of the past and let us never blame our servicemen and women for the mistakes of a nation.

• David L. Braun, Pierre, SD


I Served with Commander Coastal Surveillance Forces (CTF 115) River Flotilla One. Served in Operation SEA FLOAT III. I was in-country October 1969 until September 1970. While in Vietnam, my youngest daughter was born just three weeks after my arrival. I saw her for the first time when she was nine months old.

• Roger Brooks, Brandon, SD


I will have to come back to this with some stories and pics!

• Michael G. Castle, Sioux Falls, SD


I went into the service with Ron Jirsa from Mitchell, SD. We went to basic training together. He went to Fort Sill, OK and I went to Fort Lewis, WA and we met up again in Fort Lewis. He went to FDC and I ended up being a Medic assigned to his Battery. We left for Vietnam together on the USNS General John Pope. We landed in Vietnam together and served our tour together and came home together. He went home to Mitchell and I went home to Chamberlain. Its unusual for two men to serve their whole Vietnam experience together from the same area.

• Lawrence E. Clark, Sioux Falls, SD


In the 1960s, many young people were called to serve their country. Many of our parents had been veterans of WWII and their patriotism was reflected in the family values and carried over in our thinking.

The idea that if our country called us to serve, it was prevalent and unquestionedand we answered the call. I remember being a college student 18 years old, and reading in the newspaper that my high school neighbor and friend, Roger Jensen, had been killed in Vietnam. That is when I felt the call to duty, and volunteered for the draft, late in 1968.
As the Vietnam War lingered on, and the media exposure, political skepticism, and rallies for peace impacted the soldiers and their thinking, it became difficult to remain focused on duty and mission. Yet, we were soldiers, young, and dedicated to serve. We saw a lot and learned a lot, and I for one feel good that I served my country, and sad that the outcome was what it was. I am proud to have served, and remain a patriotic and proud American.

We don’t always agree with decisions our leaders make, but we do have an obligation, again today, to defend our country when called upon, without question. Everyone, who has served, in Vietnam, or any other war, deserves the respect of all citizens, for putting their life on the line for freedom. Let no person ever take for granted what we have here in America, and don’t forget that many have paid the ultimate price in the past and many more continue to do so today. Celebrate and appreciate your veterans, who gave what they had to give for your freedom and the United States of America.

Lastly, don’t ever let anyone, like Jane Fonda, influence your thinking with her distorted and wicked views and unpatriotic thinking. People like her are as responsible for lost lives as the enemy themselves. As Americans, when called to serve, we do so, and are proud of it. We all would prefer peace to war, but there is a price for peace, and it needs to be protected.

• Jerome K Cleveland, Pierre, SD


Great interest and dedication should be made to the wives of all of the veterans as they were the ones who held the family together, paid the bills, raised the children and provided more support than can ever be expressed in 300 words or less. They really do need the recognition for their individual efforts and sacrifices. THANKS MOM!! YOU'RE THE BACKBONE OF THIS FAMILY!!

• Robert A. Coates, Piedmont, SD


No story, just thought I was doing the right thing and it was a way out of South Dakota. Now years later I see it wasn’t the right thing and I’m glad I had South Dakota to come back to.

• Kennedy E. David, Hot Springs, SD


I was a Fuel Specialist while serving in Taiwan. Tainan AB was a repair station for planes that were shot up over Vietnam. I refueled countless planes that were very badly bullet-riddled and needed to be repaired before they could be airworthy again and be returned to action.

• Kenneth L Erlenbusch, Pierre, SD


A little bit of humor goes a long way, but when it comes to cooking, my wife still will not let me use C4 when I cook out! My platoon acted as engineers. We were told to construct a base for artillery support. We did not have axes or saws. We wrapped C4 around the trees and detonated them and scrounged for any material we could get our hands on but about an hour after we were finished we were eating C Rations and the Army artillery people were eating steaks. Go figure!!!

Horseshoe ambushes don’t look too good, especially from the inside. Once, we had one company of NVA firing on us and two more coming up the hill from each side while we were sitting on or near buried land mines. It was the Lord Jesus who spared my life that day.

• John A Fette, Pierre, SD



This is a poem I wrote yesterday, about the Vietnam War Soldiers – I was only a baby in the middle of the war, but it still made an impact on my life.  After viewing the Vietnam War Memorial website yesterday, I went home and felt inspired to write something, to let all of the veterans know how much I care.  I hope you enjoy reading this.

 

DEDICATION TO THE SOLDIERS

 

Where do I begin to say

How very grateful I am

To all the sons and daughters

Who served in Vietnam

 

I wasn’t even born

When it started in 1961

A war that never seemed to end

Fourteen years from the time it had begun

 

As a child of the seventies

I didn’t know what the fighting was for

I’d hear my parents talk about it

But didn’t know it was a war

 

The innocence of childhood

Kept me protected from the news

And the protesters who voiced too loudly

That war wasn’t the thing to choose

 

I didn’t know that in another country

My cousins and uncles were in harm's way

Nor did I know that many sons and daughters

Wouldn’t make it back home to the USA

 

It wasn’t until I was older

And listening to a teacher tell the story

Of the soldiers who fought so hard

And served with all their might and glory

 

No one could really explain

Why this war had to be

Or why so many lost their lives

It doesn’t make sense to me

 

All I know is that I am honored

To say these servicemen gave their all

When our country said “We need you”

And duty came to call

 

The draft was put in place

And the young men stood in line

Not knowing where they were headed

Or when it would be their time

 

The war itself has been over for years

But you can still see the pain in their eyes

When they think about their friends who are gone

And they look toward the heavenly skies

 

I’m a mother of five sons

And I can’t imagine the pain

Of losing one of them to war

And never seeing them again

 

Those of you who made it back

You deserved so much more

And I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart

Just what I think you stand for

 

Because of you, I am still free

And other people in the world are too

You did what your President asked

And did what you were told to do

 

In a way, I owe you so much more

Than I can ever give

Because of you, my sons learn about honor

Because of you, so many innocent people still live

 

I honor you, I respect you

I believe in you and I care

I wish I could heal the wounds

That you endured over there.

 

I can’t change the past

Or bring back your dear friends

But I can try to make America understand

That the war in your hearts didn’t end

 

You still feel the sadness

And I’m sure you feel the pain

Knowing that you can’t turn back time

And bring your friends back again

 

All we can do is move forward

And remember those with pride

Who fought with you all those years ago

And served with dignity by your side

 

If ever there was a greater honor

To be seated on the thrones of Heaven

It is for our sons and daughters,

The proud, the brave and the never forgotten

            Two Hundred and Seven….

 

 

Dena Marie Boyd-McCaskell, Pierre, SD.


In my 13 month tour, I don’t ever remember sleeping. I never intentionally sat or laid down with the intent to sleep. If I did I might not hear “incoming” or a “(deleted)” coming through the wire. But of course I would nod off, one of my worst non-combat feelings during my tour was when I woke up from a dream that I was back home in my own bedroom in the comfort of my parents' house. It was so incredibly real. Then I woke up staring at the beams in the roof of the bunker we were set up in. God, that was such a low desperate feeling that morning!

• Brian R. Gage, Sioux Falls, SD


I spent approximately two years with the Strategic Air Command at Fairchild AFB, Spokane, WA in non-tact scheduling. I was then transferred to Clark AFB PI where we formed the South East Asia Military Altitude Reservation Facility in 1965. We coordinated the airspace for nine countries for the mass movement of military aircraft as well as the Arc Light Missions and the Blackbird missions in SE Asia. Sixteen years after leaving the USAF, I joined the South Dakota Air National Guard where I worked as a controller in the command post and as the training NCO prior to my retirement in 1998.

• Greg C. Hall, Pierre, SD


If you can imagine the whole 7th fleet in the South China Sea at one time it was quite impressive. There were over 50-60 ships of all sizes in a very small area waiting to see what was going to happen. On the Dubuque, the ship I was on, the people coming out to the ship in their little sanpans thought we were sinking because we had the capabilities of blow ballast and lower the ship to take other boats into our backside. I had pictures but they were taken away for confidential purposes. (At least, that’s what they told me.)

• Thomas A. Henle, Sioux Falls, SD


I was drafted from Gregory, SD after five years of college and two years of teaching high school in 1968. My training was taken at Fort Lewis, Washington and Fort Benning, GA. I was sent to Vietnam in May 1969 and was assigned to the Big Red One (mechanized) (A-2-2). Almost two months to day after arriving in Vietnam I was injured in the battle at Nui Ba Den (Black Virgin Mountain) on July 12, 1969. After spending two weeks in Japan, I was sent home to Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver. After spending nine months for a fractured left femur at Fitzsimmons, I was discharged from the Army on April 17, 1970. I am a very proud 50% DAV and am a life member of the DAV, VFW, and a member the American Legion. I retired from the teaching profession in 2003 and we have made our home in Broken Bow, NE, since 1978.

• Dennis E Jones, Broken Bow, NE


I have NO STORIES But I have something to say. When I got home in a medevac bus in California, we were egged at the base front gate. To you, John Q. America and Jane Fondathank you for caring about my pain. 37 years ago and the pain never goes away. I see you folks are doing well. Jane was put up for 'Woman of the Year'. I guess there must be payback in the next life. I know I sound angry but I did find happiness before my death though God and my children. SEMPER FI

• Tommy W. Little Sr., Winner, S.D.


Veterans should recognize these terms: Dung Lai (halt), Dua Tay Len Dau (put your hands on your head), Xay Ben Phai (turn right), Xay Ben Trai (turn left), The ACE OF SPADES (eternal damnation), and MPC (Military Payment Certificates). P.S.. I have a copy of the Pacific Stars and Stripes Volume 24, Number 31 with the headlines “VC HIT SAIGON”. The ‘Tet Offensive’ began the day before, and all hell broke loose. Cartoons in that edition included Blondie, whose 75th anniversary was 2005. My memories include Bob Hope and Raquel Welsh (both during Christmas 1967); juicy bugs in my salad at Cam Ranh Bay; Spooky (cool gunship); lots of youngsters using drugsthey just could not handle it; one of the first bevy of Huey Cobra Gunships (totally awesome); Agent Orange; the horrible smells in-country; eating a rat-meat sandwich in downtown Bien Hoa (it tasted like a dried beef sandwich); our buds from down under (Australians were our best friends); our company barber (who tortured and killed our trusted Vietnamese helpers); and, most of all, all those who looked to us to give South Vietnam their own freedom and identity.

In retrospect, I do forgive all those who spat upon me, and betrayed their country during a time of war. I do not feel I was blind to the issues, accepting my duties to my country, to my family, and to freedom. Those who repudiated their duties to their county will have to live with this, as will their progeny. As will I have to live with those things I was asked to do for the United States. Thank you for the gifts of AMERICA. Thank you for the gift of being born here. Thank you for reading this far.

• Francis T. Logan, Rapid City, SD


I was on duty in Korea when I was sent TDY into Thailand to serve at Camp Friendship to help maintain a Ghost Division. When regular troop replacements reported, I was told that I could leave. Without a passport, I was told that I could not go out through normal challenges. One night about 9pm I was called to company headquarters.  I was told that there would be a plane at the dark end of the runway warming its engines at 11pm, and its door would be open. A friend took me to the area, I jumped the fence, boarded a C47 and we went out over Laos to Saigon where I caught an official military flight back to Korea to finish my tour there.

• Lawrence R. Madsen, Gettysburg, SD


I remember arriving in-country late at night. When we stopped in front of the terminal, all lights on the plane and the airport were turned off. We were in total blackout so we weren’t an easy target for mortars and rockets. We stepped from the plane and I will never forget the experience. It was unbelievably hot and humid. I was never so scared in my entire life. Twenty-two months later, I was on the ‘freedom bird’ and on my way home. I lost way too many friends and comrades.

• Clarence S. Mardian, Sioux Falls, SD


Many young men grew up fast in Vietnam. I was only one of them, and I made it back home. Many didn’t. Friends were made very fast in Vietnam, and some of those friends are now gone. To find friends from Vietnam is often difficult, but recently I had the opportunity to meet the man who save my life and never knew it. I was honored and humbled to stand, again, in front of this man and say “Thank you, Captain Hurley.” This was the first time I had seen this man in over 35 years! The event was even more saddened by the fact that it was at his father’s funeral. His father, too, was a personal hero of mine.

When I arrived in Vietnam, I was laughed at for being from Canton, SD. I knew that very few people had even heard of South Dakota, let alone Canton. I didn’t know that Jim Hurley (from Canton) had been their Commanding Officer for the past six months, and he had often talked about Canton and South Dakota. He took care of his men and it really showed in their attitude. He had been transferred to our forward fire base recently, but he was all everyone talked about. They missed him. When I was sent to our forward fire base, he met me at the chopper pad. The events that occurred after we met are not important. What was important, was the fact that I finally got to thank Captain James Hurley. It completed and laid to rest many emotions that I still carried inside. This might sound dumb, but I would like to publicly thank Captain James Hurley for being in Vietnam and saving the lives of many young men.

• Patrick J. Martin, Sioux Falls, SD


I have a lot of stories and memories of being on the USS Constellation and the short time I was in DaNang, Vietnam.

• Larry V. Ollerich, Sioux Falls, SD


Two memories:

#1......Bob Hope’s Christmas in Cu Chi. A special thank you to Mr. Hope for bringing Christmas to young servicemen away from home.

#2.....Seeing my Freedom Bird on the tarmac waiting for me to board.

• Michael V. Olson, Martin, SD


What I remember most about my experiences in Vietnam was the 27-hour flight from Travis Air Force Base and the blast of heat when the doors opened on the plane. From then on it was one day at a time. Trust was the most important. If someone directed you to go around another vehicle without seeing any oncoming traffic, you went. Trust was everywhere. The person who trusted you one day might have saved your life the next.

Another thing I remember was constantly being armed outside of the unit area. The shortage of truck and M151 Jeep parts also sticks out in my mind. The most sad part of my experience was losing two of my men to enemy related events. I might add that upon arrival in Vietnam, it was in November and very cold at night in the Central Highlands. I remember several times waking up to find that a rat had crawled up on top of my blanket and had nestled itself on my stomach for warmth. Upon my waking, the rat would scurry away and I would be wide awake all day long. I wish to thank the state of South Dakota for offering this event.

• Wenton W. Peters, Mitchell, SD


I was proud to have served my country in Vietnam and elsewhere for more than 30 years. I was honored to display the small South Dakota state flag that was sent to me from the state Capitol while I was serving in Vietnam. And I was pleased that the state legislature approved a bonus for veterans of the Vietnam era.

• Calvin L. Peterson, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


In July of 1969 I was sent to Vietnam with a few days of special training to an area where people died on a daily basis. I was promoted fast. I risked my life on a daily basis and was told when I came home by my favorite girl friend attending USD that she couldn’t be seen with me by any of her university friends because what I did by serving was wrong.

I tried to join the VFW and the guy behind the bar said he couldn’t stop me but it really wasn’t a war. That must be why I only know of one person I killed. I didn’t sign up until years later. I was asked to join the American Legion in a small town, Wakonda, 20 miles, from my home American Legion.

I was asked in the 1980s to join the VFW by a friend and I did. When I was elected Commander I was under pressure from a couple of World War II vets to the point I resigned six months later. I stayed out of the VFW and was then asked to come back because they needed Vietnam veterans' support. They just couldn’t understand why they still to this day have only two active Vietnam vets. I have since served as Commander four straight terms and have been Senior Vice Commander ever since.

I was appointed to State Special Olympics Chairman and served for four years. A new state commander came in and assigned a Korean Vet to help me. I watched the income grow for four years. Suddenly I couldn’t be trusted by myself. I became the only chairman with an assistant. I resigned.

To this day I regret that I didn’t go to Canada. They seem to have been better accepted.
I was put in for a second Bronze Star that I never received after successfully being in charge of a four month long secret classified mission just before I came home. I was offered the chance to move to from E-5 to E-6. I didn’t and still don’t want anything from anybody relating to my Vietnam High School Class Trip. The only reason I am going to the dedication is because I have been the Chairman of the Clay County Veterans' Memorial in Vermillion for five years and probably will until I can’t go on.

• Leo F. Powell, Vermillion, SD


Still a member of the South Dakota Air National Guard and will have completed 34 years in December 2005. Currently hold the rank of Chief Master Sgt (E-9).

• Bruce A. Swan, Sioux Falls, SD


Many people do not know that the United States Coast Guard had a part in the Vietnam War. The Coast Guard had both sea-going and shore-based units. I served on a LORAN (LOng Range Aids to Navigation) monitor station near Udorn, Thailand from August 1970 to August 1971. This station was on the Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base. We were one of five stations in the SE Asia chain. LORAN was the system of navigation used by all the other services. Ours was the monitor station that kept the other ones “on time and in tolerance”. My job on the station was a LORAN and COMS watch stander. The station had a crew of about 25-30 men. We worked hard and also played hard. The friendships I made in Thailand during the War were special; we were more than friends, we were family.

• Edward D. Timm, Elkton, SD


I was a combat engineer which dealt with explosives such as booby traps, mine clearing and blowing things up as ordered. I was involved in seven counter-insurgent operations and countless search and destroy missions. Many stories but will keep them to myselfsome things you don’t want to recall..

• Kenneth D. Trigg, Pierre, SD


I served as the Senior Radio Operator (O5B10) for the advisory team from October 11, 1971 until August 24, 1972. Chau Doc is on the Mekong River next to the Cambodian border about 50 miles from Phnom Penh. We had six advisory teams in the field assisting the Vietnamese Army when I arrived in 1971, but only one team remained when I left in 1972. I was given an honorable discharge on February 22,1973. I reenlisted the Army in 1979 and retired as a MSG in 2000.

• Randal L. VonEhwegen, Vermillion, SD


Though I served in the Navy during the Vietnam era, I returned to South Dakota and joined the National Guard serving in the 147th FA in Aberdeen, Webster, then in the Medical Clearing company in Winner, SD. In 1980, I went back on active duty in the Army Reserve, and have retired in Georgia. I sometimes miss South Dakota, and travel there often. But my children, and grand children are in Georgia, thus I am a misplaced “Dakotan”.

• Daniel L. Walker, Homer, GA


Entered Vietnam with MCB 5 as a steelworker.  Spent three months in Tan An on a team as a welder.  Then was attached to Detail Mustang in the Delta at Cau Mau building a base for the ARVN. 

Jim Pelle, Ft. Pierre, SD


I was drafted in 1967 after one year of college at Northern State University.  Did training in Seattle, WA, then Ft. Sill, OK.  Served in Vietnam in Army artillery, 175mm and 8 in. guns, at FSB Santa Barbara, also known as French Fort, located about 10 km north of Tay Ninh City.  Extended my tour in-country so I could get out of service early.  Achieved Sgt. E5, MOS 13B40 artillery gunner.  Arrived back in "the world" in Oakland, CA, in June 1969.  Please see my photos and poems submitted to this website. 

Larry Kleinschmidt, Sunderland, Massachusetts


I was present when Richard Rennolet was killed by the accidental explosion of a white phosphorous grenade. His name is on the Vietnam Memorial Wall located at the lake by the Capital. I think it is important to note that some good young men and women died as the result of accidents and friendly fire which are also part of the danger of being in a war zone.   

• Edward Dvorak, Lakebay, Washington


After graduation from high school in 1948, Deane was accepted into the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Shortly after his commission as an Ensign in 1952, Aldern completed flight training and took on the role of Naval Aviator in March of 1954. He first served with Utility Squadron "Seven" and was later transferred to Fighter Squadron "Ninety-Four" where he served aboard the attack carriers USS Yorktown and USS Hornet in the Pacific. Captain Aldern then returned to the Naval Academy as an instructor in air navigation and military studies.

In 1961, Captain Aldern served as a flight deck officer on board the USS Enterprise on an extended deployment during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1964, he reported to Fighter Squadron "One Hundred Seventy-Four" and then Fighter Squadron "Eleven" before being assigned as operations officer of Air Wing "One" aboard the USS Roosevelt in the Mediterranean. In 1966, Captain Aldern became executive officer and commanding officer of Fighter Squadron "One Hundred Ninety-One" aboard the USS Ticonderoga, where he completed two combat tours in Southeast Asia. After further training at the Air War College in Alabama, Captain Aldern became the commander of Air Wing "Nineteen" aboard the USS Oriskany.

• Donald Aldern, San Diego, CA (Deceased)


I served in Thailand at the end of the Vietnam War as a 2nd LT assigned to the 432 Tactical Recon Wing at Udorn, Thailand (15 Jul 1973-30 Dec 1974).  My duties were to provide intelligence support and hostile threat briefings to RF-4E Phantom reconnaissance aircrews flying photo recon missions over Cambodia and Laos.  In the fall of 1974, I provided the initial intelligence briefings on the resupply and buildup of North Vietnamese Army forces for the final invasion of the Republic of South Vietnam in April 1975. 

While at Udorn, I also served as the Chief of the Intelligence Training Branch, providing aircrew instruction on Evasion and Escape techniques, air defense threats, and aircraft recognition.  In October 1973, I attended the USAF Jungle Survival School at Clark AB in the Philippines.  My final career USAF assignment was as Director of Intelligence for the 28 Bomb Wing and 44 Strategic Missile Wing at Ellsworth AFB, SD.  I retired in 1992 as a Lt. Colonel.

Kenneth S. Moon, Rapid City, SD


I was a PC3 (postal clerk) and it was a huge job always getting the mail to the shipmates, especially when we functioned in and around Vietnam.  The first time I went on shore to get the mail was in Chu Lai and it was only a large area of sand.  In one year's time, I had the opportunity to go back to the same base to get the mail and when I stepped on shore it was hard to believe that this huge base had actually been built in so little amount of time.  Getting the mail in DaNang was a lot more dangerous as we passed through danger zones to get to the base to retrieve the mail then back to our ship.  When we hauled and delivered some gun boats to the mouth of the Saigon river,  I then realized the dire need for the people there to have these gun boats to fight their cause.

Jon Dahlke, Rapid City, SD


Not all days were bad in Lai Kai, Vietnam.  There were some good times had by some of the men.  Like the time a few of us decided we needed a little more beer, but how were we to get to Saigon to get some.  The answer came when the pilot of a Huey said it was simple, we'll take the Huey.  Sounds as simple as taking you dad's car, right?  So several of us boarded the Huey and we flew to Saigon.  We bought several cases of beer and loaded them on the Huey, then we decided to see some of the town.  We found a hotel, the Mai Lin, I think, where we enjoyed a hot shower, electricity, and a hot meal.  We then flew back to our camp.  Did we get into a little trouble???  Yes.  Would we have done it anyway?? Yes.  If I could find the guys who were with me, I would tell them: Thank you for helping make the war a lot more bearable.

Darold K. Richards, Sisseton, SD


In November 1999, I returned to Vietnam on a mission trip.  There I met a young woman Vietnamese interpreter who I struck up a friendship with and we continued correspondence after returning home.  The following year I returned with my wife again on the wheelchair mission.  We reunited with the young woman and she gave us what was supposed to be the remains of an American soldier including one dog tag.  After returning home with these items we verified the dog tag as that of an MIA.  With the assistance of Argus Leader reporter David Kranz and Sen. Tom Daschle the remains were identified through DNA tests as being Luther Ritchey, Jr., a Marine from Ohio, who was reported missing in October of 1963.  In 2004 his remains were returned to his family in Ohio and buried with full military honors.  This was a very emotional and gratifying experience after serving in Vietnam 33+ years ago.

Douglas Haugstad, Sioux Falls, SD


Member Legion Post 22, Gillette Wyoming, Member of Honor Guard. Would be honored to play Taps at this event.

Gary Rye, Gillette, WY


Being in the Air Force was dramatically different, safer, and far less stressful than for many other GI's.  Since I worked in administrative support functions, work weeks were 60 hours.  I flew an "IBM Selectric" typewriter.  Working in Personnel did, however, have some interesting and satisfying moments.  The best was being able to schedule Air Force personnel on their "freedom birds".  The absolute worst part of the job was being so far away from family and home.  Recalling other fun parts involves remembering the Saturday night parties at the Tan San Nhut clinic.  It was similar to a modern MASH.  The medical staff were outrageous and outstanding and the "network" and cooperation of numerous base-wide individuals combined with their influence and access to resources allowed extensive partying.  Those brief escapes seemed to provide enough diversion to make it through the next week.  I obviously scheduled myself on the very first "bird" available in my set departure month.     

John Simpson, Pierre, SD


I was drafted, receiving my notice to report for a physical on July 13, 1969 at the Sioux Falls post office. The very next morning, I was standing at attention in Ft. Lewis, Washington. Eight weeks later, I was flown to San Antonio, Texas, Fort Sam Huston, where I spent ten weeks being trained as a medic. I arrived in Vietnam on Dec. 13, 1969. I was sent to the 4th infantry 3/12th to serve as a platoon medic on Dec. 20, 1969. I spent all but three days in the jungle around Plecu in the central highlands of Vietnam until after five months I was hit with shrapnel from a R.P.G.  I spent the next 5 months in military hospitals. I was discharged on April 13,1971. Fast trip! If you have to go to war, going as a medic is clearly a great way to go.

Roger Andal, Brandon, SD


The majority of my time in DaNang, Vietnam, I was assigned to the Navy's Security, Intelligence, Investigation Unit involved with the investigation and interdiction of activities as directed by the Admiral.  Those activities involved a wide variety of opportunities ranging from drug use and trafficking, to black market activities, self inflicted wounds, unexplained shootings, AWOL and unusual disappearances, and anything else that might have come up.  It was a rather interesting opportunity at the time.

Edward A. Parkhurst, Sioux Falls, SD


I was in Vietnam 1967 to 1969. I was there during the 1968 Tet Offensive. For me, it is still hard to talk about it. My best friend was killed at that time. His name was Michael Kolarov. He was from Akron, Ohio. He was killed in Hua Nghia with the 101st Airborne. He is on Panel 45WLine 53 on the Wall in Washington DC. He was killed Sept. 6, 1968. I guess I will have that with me until the day I die. To me, it's important to tell his story rather than mine. I'm still here, but he's not. Rest in peace, my friend.

Samuel Jack, Hurley, SD


In December 1953, tired of school, I dropped out of the School of Mines in Rapid City and enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps for a 3 year “get away  from school” tour.  That didn’t work out as the Marines sent me to a year of electronics maintenance school.  After school, I married my high school sweetheart and headed for a 3 ½ year tour at Cherry Point, NC.  Liking it in the Corps, I extended my enlistment 1 year then re-enlisted for six more years.  The Corps sent me back to school after which I served my first overseas tour with MASS-2 in Japan.  Upon return, I was one of twelve enlisted Marines selected to attend yet another school, this a factory school on an experimental computerized air defense system.  During the field testing phase of this Marine Tactical Data System (MTDS) I was selected to attend the Warrant Officer screening course which gave me an advancement from SSGT to Warrant Officer in 1963. In 1965, I was promoted to 2nLt.and two years later through 1st Lt. to Captain.  In 1968-69, I was assigned Maintenance Officer duties on the MTDS on Monkey Mountain, Vietnam.  After returning to CONUS, a 2 year tour in NC was served before being assigned to the USMC CommElectSchool in 29 Palms, CA. 

During that tour while serving as School Director for ElecMaintSchool, I was promoted to Major.  Retirement followed a year later in August 1975.  My attempt to avoid school failed me but I had a very rewarding Marine Corps career because of my military schooling. My marriage has thus far survived over 50 years and we have raised two wonderful children. Semper Fi to all my Marine friends!

• Gerald D. Fabricius, Twentynine Palms, CA


Come With Me, My Brother

Come with me, my Brother; to the past which seems so near;
The past of fallen soldiers and young men overwhelmed with fear;
Fear of loss and fear of death in a place so far from home;
Compelled us all to anger; at times you feel alone;

Come with me, my Brother; tell me of your pain;
The jungle heat, the stench of blood and endless monsoon rain;
I want to know about your friends; the guy who died that day;
Talk about your demons in that place so far away;

Come with me, my Brother; abandon the lonely road;
For 30 years, you’ve held it in, that very heavy load;
Our time is short; life is dear; Brother, why can’t you see;
That through your tears, I’m here to help and try to set you free;

Come with me, my Brother; let’s go and see our parade;
Of flags, of guns, of bands and such; of heroes we are made;
What’s done is done; our time has come; the War has finally passed;
We’ll cry and hug and celebrate, our welcome home at last;

Come with me, my Brother; passing to the light;
One thing to do before we go, knowing that it’s right;
He fought and died just as we; I only wish we knew;
How to heal our wounds with Charlie; for he’s our Brother too.

Come with me, my Brother.


John G. Moisan, Fort Pierre, SD
(US Army – 1LT Signal Corps - 1969-1971)

(For my friends Joe and John)


After graduating from Washington high school in 1963, I attended Augustana and Sioux Falls College working at John Morrell and Company.  I enlisted in May of 1965 in the Marines hoping my best friend Paul Evans would join me.  Unfortunately he did and was killed in December of 1966.  Camp Evans just outside Quang Tri was named after him, this was an unheard of honor in the Marines as he was an enlisted man.

 I was sent to San Diego, CA for boot camp and qualified for the Air Wing.  Then I was sent to Memphis, TN for aircraft maintenance training and stationed at LTA in Santa Anna, CA for further training as a helicopter crewman.  HMM 165 was forming up with the new CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters and I was a charter member.  We got orders to Vietnam in August 1966 and landed in DaNang September.  I flew as a gunner and crewmember while working in maintenance control.  We flew primarily around Chu Lai and DaNang with frequent trips to Khesan and some special operations into Laos and the Ho Chi Minh trail. 

Luckily, I was not wounded but our squadron took many casualties.  I would meet Larry Winterton who was later killed in a rocket attack.  He was from Sioux Falls also.  After thirteen and a half months, I received orders to Olathe, KS, where I worked as maintenance supervisor on F-8 Crusaders. My commander was Col. Darrell Bjorkland from Volga, SD.  I returned to Sioux Falls College getting a BA degree in 1972.  In 1973, I joined the SD Army National Guard and served in various positions in an ordnance company, and combat engineer.  I eventually was promoted to Command Sergeant Major of the153rd Combat Engineer Battalion in Huron, SD, and the 109th Engineer Group in Rapid City.  I retired in 1995 and at that time was working as the Superintendent at the State Veterans Home in Hot Springs.  I retired from the State in 2001 and live in Rapid City where I stay involved in the veterans' community spending winters in Mesa, AZ at our winter residence.   

• Loren L. Murren, Rapid City, SD


The Distinguished Flying Cross Award. 

Captain Thomas George distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a C-130 pilot for the 21st Tactical Squadron at Kontum, Republic of Vietnam, on 17 May 1972.  On that date, Captain George flew an emergency night resupply mission of critically-needed ammunition and supplies to the besieged defenders of Kontum.  In spite of heavy antiaircraft fire and intense small arms activity, Captain George was able to offload his cargo and safely evacuate two dozen allied soldiers.  The aircraft took ground fire on takeoff and battle damage inspection after successful mission termination showed ten hits.  The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Captain George reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

• Thomas A. George, Federal Way, WA



I was assigned to Sioux Falls, SD in April of 1972 as Liaison for the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol. 

After I retired from the United States Air Force, I lived in Sioux Falls, Montrose, Beresford and Mitchell and I worked in Sioux Falls, Yankton, and Mitchell.  I have lived in South Dakota longer than I have lived anywhere and four of our six children were born in Sioux Falls.  I am now retired and loving Mitchell, South Dakota.

• James M. Hayes, Mitchell, South Dakota


 I served two voluntary tours with the 173rd Abn Bde (Sept) during the “Battle for the Highlands” and the 1968 Tet Offensive.  The 173rd Airborne Brigade was the most highly decorated combat unit in the Vietnam War.  The 173rd was General Westmoreland’s “Fire Brigade” which was sent to all the “Hot Spots”.

 Jerald K. Lytle, Fort Thompson, SD


In 1987, our family had a coming home party for my brother.  I ordered all his medals and our whole family was there.  He was very happy. As he looked at all the medals he asked how I did this. So I told him it was a lot of hard work but worth every moment.  He cried and he and I became closer than ever.

My brother-in-law, another Vietnam vet, attended and he made the comment that he wished someone would do this for him too.  I know that he plans to attend this event, so please welcome him home too.  My brother died at age 50.  I miss him everyday, 24/7.

• Terry Wayne Heminger


No stories. Very proud to have served my state and country.

- Orvin L. Hughart, Sioux Falls, SD


Did not serve in Vietnam.

- Charles T. Humphrey, Pierre, SD


I joined the Marines in 1950 to serve in Korea and remained in the military until 1959. In 1965 I joined the Navy SeaBee Reserves in Sioux Falls, SD. In 1968 I went on active duty in Naval Construction Battalion MCB3. They were already in Vietnam. Since I had been in the Marines, my duty was to walk night combat patrols searching for Viet Cong. I was also a Construction Mechanic. I retired from the Navy SeaBees in April 1979.

I went on active duty because of the "war protesters" at that time. I believe in this great country and am a flag-carrying American! I'm 74 years old and would still go to war to serve the country if they would let me.

- William P. Huntimer, Dell Rapids, SD


Most of my duty was providing medical treatment for Marines coming back from Vietnam (Naval Hospital Camp Pen). The most disturbing thing that happened during my enlistment was hearing a Navy Corpsman belittling one of these brave men. Needless to say, this only happened ONCE! But, seeing the hurt in the eyes of that Marine has stayed with me for all these years. Our service men and women did a hell of job, we just didn't have a country (then) that recognized it. I'm glad to see that we do now.

- Greg S. Ingemunson, Black Hawk, SD


Our Unit in the Fifth Marines was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for being the first full-size battalion in Vietnam. Our unit was the basis for the movie named "Rumors of War."

- Paul B. Karst, Peever, SD


After the many years, recollections of the sights, sounds and smells of certain "events" in the Saigon District and IV Corps are as vivid and clear as if it was this morning. I trust that the sacrifice of everyone that the Vietnam Memorial dedication honors, including the veterans' families at home and the countless unnamed civilian casualties, will be remembered long after the event.

- Robert J. Kean, Pierre, SD


The mail going home was real slow and my mom was praying for me and all the other men and women over there. She asked the Lord to send her a robin to let her know I would make it home. When my mom was finished praying, she went to the window of our home. There in the yard were 30 robins. So now as I pray for the men and women at war. I ask the Lord to touch each and every mother and father with kids there.

- Dennis L. Kearns, Sioux Falls, SD


When I entered the Marine Corps, I already had two sisters that were Marines. Karen and I were stationed together at El Toro and Jan was already out and married to a Marine. The three of us are all Paid Up For Life members of Wm H Crippen Post #62 in Humboldt, South Dakota, even though none of us live in Humboldt. We are all proud Marines.

- Judy Ann Klima, Saint Charles, Illinois


My Army story is not one of heroics or valor but one that may ring true for many veterans, especially women. When I joined, women were trained separately from men and were not sent to combat areas, except for nurses and a few other exceptions. Like many young people, I could not wait to leave home and prove myself. After basic training and AIT, I was assigned as a medic to Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania. I worked in an orthopedic ward and almost all of our patients had been wounded in Vietnam. I changed thousands of dressings, hung traction, rolled skin grafts, did pre-op and post-op care. I also folded probably tons of laundry, emptied urinals, took TPR's, made beds and listened...listened to the moans and sometimes screams of men in pain, listened to them talk about family back home, listened to their fears of what would be their future and listened to the joy of hearing they were going home. It was hard work, it was sometimes heartbreaking work, but most of all, it was rewarding work.

I still think of that time in my life and wonder what happened to my patients. I hope that I eased their pain a little because it was the most responsible and rewarding job I have ever had, and I tried my best to be good at it.

- Patricia A. Kroupa, Sioux Falls, SD


As I remember back, I had no fear or idea of the real world. All I knew was trust in everyone I was around. We lived together 24 hours a day and lived as one. Oh, what a black-out in my life. I was discharged at Travis AFB and told to put my civilian cloths on (for fear of trouble) and go home. I went to Aberdeen and applied for a job with AT&T because they were hiring. They asked me a few questions and then asked if I had just returned home from Vietnam. I said yes, and the man quickly told me, "We are not hiring Vietnam vets." So my new life began....

- Dennis L. Lau, Weston, MO


I was on duty in Korea when I was sent TDY into Thailand to serve at Camp Friendship to help maintain a Ghost Division. When regular troop replacements reported, I was told that I could leave. Without a passport, I was told that I could not go out through normal challenges. One night about 9pm I was called to company headquarters, I was told that there would be a plane at the dark end of the runway warming its engines at 11pm, the door would be open. A friend took me to the area, I jumped the fence, boarded a C47 and we went out over Laos to Saigon where I caught an official military flight back to Korea to finish my tour there.

- Lawrence R. Madsen, Gettysburg, SD


I am a retired career USAF officer, having served for over 30 years. I was in Vietnam from November 1969 through October 1970. I was assigned to the 8th Aerial Port Squadron at Tan Son Nhut AB, near Saigon. My duties involved supervision of the load crews for all tactical airlift originating and terminating at TSN during my 12 hour shift for around 600 flights daily. This was a dangerous and demanding duty, operating in often very difficult weather conditions, heat, and rain, where oppressive humidity was the norm, and often in blackout conditions on what was, at the time, the world's busiest airfield. We were occasionally fired on by 122mm rockets and large mortars. One of my duties was to insure all human remains returned from the fields of battle via airlift to TSN for processing at the US Army Mortuary at TSN were expeditiously handled. These remains were usually in a body bag or wrapped in a rubber "poncho", neither of which were barriers to the blood, gore and smell of recently killed humans. I helped handle over 2,000 such remains during my tour. I also flew five combat missions in 0-1E Bird Dog reconnaissance aircraft over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the spring of 1970, flying with Walt and Pterodactyl Forward Air Controllers (FACS) out of Ghia Nhia in the Central Highlands. Two South Dakotans killed in the Vietnam War were my close personal friends; Captain Chuck Lane from Tabor was my classmate at Yankton College and 1st Lieutenant Bob "Chomp" Lewis from Pierre was my childhood friend and classmate at Northern State College.

- Lawrence R. Mayes, Rapid City, SD


I spent my entire time in Southeast Asia as a field artillery fire support officer/coordinator in a daily combat environment with infantry units at platoon, company, battalion & brigade levels. In that capacity, I had the fortune of working very closely with many wonderful people who still influence my life even today. I owe my very life to many who were not as fortunate as me. Six of the commanders I worked directly with became four-star generals.

- David R. Morgan, Huron, SD


Could help out if you need it. Curt

- Curtiss J. Nehlich, Dupree, SD


It was Christmas Eve, 1969, Camp Love, Vietnam just south and west of DaNang. The War Gods had essentially called a "time out." The officers of my battalion were gathered in a rather safe structure made from granite stone and mortar which was appropriately called the "Officers Club." On this night, we were kicking back, drinking beer and being entertained by a USO sponsored band from the Philippines. The three gals and two guys slaughtered the Christmas carols we knew and remembered but we all joined in, never-the-less, in a surrealistic celebration of Christmas Eve. Weapons, helmets and flak jackets were hung on the pegs in the wall by the door and the evening was transitioning to a pleasant state of melancholy.

All of a sudden the familiar sounds of M-16 and M-60 machine gun fire broke out in the northern sector (my sector) of our compound. The officers scrambled for their weapons and gear and returned to their respective sectors of the defensive perimeter. I'm sure the Filipino band hit the deck, but I didn't turn back to check. By the time I reached my company's position, the sky was lit up like the 4th of July. Flares hung in the sky everywhere. Tracer rounds streaked out over our wire into the valley between our compound and the FLC compound a half-mile away. My Battalion S-3 was shouting over the radio asking where the fire was coming from. Nobody knew. All of the fire seemed to originate from our side of the barbed wire and no fire was being returned. "Cease Fire, Cease Fire!" was relayed to every fox hole and every bunker until only the hiss of the remaining flares in the sky could be heard. A call out for a report of casualties was made. No casualties.

"Who started firing, first?"
No response.

"What the hell were we firing at?"
No response.

"Why in hell were we firing our weapons?"

A humble voice from a yet-to-be determined foxhole finally replied: "'Cause it's Christmas, sir."

- Monty K. Nereim, San Diego, CA


The Vietnam experience was both good and bad! I've seen many people suffer the horrors of war, yet at the same time, I made life-long friends. We as SeaBees were largely made up of skilled building tradesmen that did a lot of construction work that still is in use today, such as
bridges, airports, roads, powerlines, railways and water systems. We were lucky in that much of our service in Vietnam was a contribution both to the U.S. Military and to the people of Vietnam.

- John North, Huron, S D


H.C. Nupen was awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement during the Tet Offensive of 1968. On Feb. 1st, Nupen was in Ban Me Thuot during the enemy invasion. He was able, along with another gunship, to lift-off and see that an entire city block, containing 125 Marines, was completely surrounded and was sure to be overrun. With extremely accurate rocket launches and repeated mini-gun passes, through heavy automatic weapons fire, Nupen and the second gunship were able to drive the enemy from the area and were given full credit for saving the lives of the U.S. Marines.

Nupen's second Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded while flying in support of a long range reconnaissance patrol. The patrol came under heavy attack by hostile forces. Nupen didn't realize that the mini-guns were malfunctioning until in full attack position. Despite the malfunction, he flew in over the enemy making it look like he was going to fire and drew the attack towards him. These dry firing passes diverted the attention of the enemy away from the patrol. Learning that the hostile force was within 100 meters of the troops, Nupen made a highly accurate rocket pass that disorganized the hostiles and allowed another helicopter to rescue the patrol.

Nupen completed over 1500 sorties, including assisting in a rescue of a downed F-100 pilot in Cambodia. In 1971, the Nupen brothers initiated a memorial scholarship fund at SDSU honoring the school's graduates killed in Vietnam. This scholarship is still in existence today.

- Harlan C. Nupen


My South Vietnamese friends had next to nothing in material goods, but enjoyed life and loved their families and friends. I'm happy that we were able to help them, but they already had the most important things in life.

- Steven J. Ogden, Louisville, TN


I have a lot of stories and memories of being on the USS Constellation and the short time I was in DaNang, Vietnam.

- Larry V. Ollerich, Sioux Falls, SD


I learned about the June 9, 1972 Rapid City flood when my unit (the 560th MP company) received the June 12th edition of the Stars and Stripes. One of the guys who knew I was from Rapid City brought me a copy right away. Since my family lived next to Rapid Creek, I immediately sought help from my Commanding Officer to find out if my family was okay. The Red Cross in DaNang was notified by my unit, and two days later they relayed the message that my family had lost their home, but survived the flood by clinging to the roof of our house. I wanted to go home to help, but we were in the middle of the Eastertide offensive and no one was going anywhere. Later in August 1972, when I returned home, I was dismayed to see all the damage in Rapid City. Looking back on this, I sometimes wonder if I cheated death by being in Vietnam.

- Gary N. Overby, Tracy, CA


These memories are still hard today: Mud, mosquitoes, red ants, hot temps, humidity, rain, mud, sweat and more mud.

- Thomas L. Reecy, Dell Rapids, SD


I will never forget that day in February 1968 that the Army car pulled up in our driveway. Three weeks prior, we had been notified that Dave was missing in action. The Army was there to tell my parents the news they had dreaded: Dave had been killed. As long as I live, I will never forget the grief my parents suffered over the loss of their son. They taught my brothers, sisters and I to honor and respect the sacrifice of the American soldiers and their families. My family and I are very proud of Dave and all veterans that answered their call to duty and served this great country of ours. You will never be forgotten.

- David L. Rickels, Graham, TX


I worked the entire four years after tech school at Scott Air Force Base-Military Airlift Command hospital. Scott also happened to be the TB control center of the AF. I trained as a 902, to work beside the RNs. I worked in the labor and delivery, ob/gyn , and for a short time in the family practice clinic.

As a 902, we could apply for flight status and go on the flights supplied by our base. Our unit was part of the Operation Baby lift at the end of the war. At MAC headquarters, we had a very large runway to accommodate some of the larger planes. Some tincluded the C5 Starlifters, C130s, and
, towards the end of my stay, Harriers, which while living on base, we definitely knew when they landed and taken off. Scott has a large hospital, and it wasn't unusual at that time to deliver up to 12 babies in 24 hours. Midway through my years, we were assigned one of the AF's neonatologists in our nursery. Needless to say, we got a lot of problem pregnancies and dealt with a lot of very small, critical newborns. The smallest newborn I assisted with was 1 lb. 2 oz at birth. I thank God everyday for my own healthy children. The oldest, Jamie, was born at Scott.(After getting out of the service, I had Buck, Sammie, and later Zane. I still think about these years and the experiences (yes, we saw the Thunderbirds every year). I still use the "chain of command", can still tell military time, have a memorized social security number, and still use my medical training (even on the ranch animals). After having a TB test every six months for four years, still to this day, I react to the standard TB test.

- Dawn A Rinehart, Highmore, SD


SSG Schaffer died in 2003 from illnesses related to Agent Orange.
- Dennis D. Schaffer


We arrived in Vietnam in the middle of the night and the aircraft shut off all its lights. Upon disembarking from the plane, we were instantly under a mortar attack. We were instructed to get low and run for the bunkers besides the runway. That night, I heard rockets, mortars, gunship fire, and jet aircraft taking off and landing. Flares lit up the night sky. I was scared to death. I was sure I would die my first night there.

After my one year in Vietnam, the flight out was such a relief. There was total silence on that plane until the pilot announced we were out of Vietnam air space. Then there was a roar and applause. Yes, that night and others I will never forget.

- Harlan (Harley) J. Schmidt , Tehachapi, California


I had the honor of being a pilot of a Huey helicopter, the old B and C model gunships, and the H-model. We flew the two corps area in the Central Highlands. I spent one tour from Apr 1970 to Apr 1971. It was the period of "Vietnamization" where we got to train Vietnamese pilots. Very interesting. I saw much in that short year, but only a few occasions seem to have remained with me over the years. We were covering a convoy one day, the trucks were going one way and Vietnamese refugees were headed the other way. Everything they owned was on their backs or on their bicycles. I suppose either the Viet Cong or the Americans had torched their village. The image of all those poor souls going down the road has stuck in my memory. Another occasion was when the Koreans were involved in combat. A sister helicopter was hauling back dead bodies from the combat area and unloading them at the little landing zone where we were. Rigor mortis had already taken place and the bodies were in different positions. They simply pulled them off the helicopter onto the ground. It was a stark reminder that there were actually people losing life.

One of my crew chiefs was wounded on a mission that I was also involved in. He managed to live for several weeks. I visited him several times in the hospital at Quin Honh. I took him some letters one day, but he was unable to read them. He asked me to read them. I remember that large quonset building filled with guys that were not expected to make it. Paul Nolen died the day I left Vietnam.

Vietnam was a very beautiful country. We actually had good times too. We saved lives as well as took lives. It was much better when we could save them. The task, it seems, is to remember the good times and not dwell on the bad times. Sometimes we manage to do that. Other times we are not that successful at not remembering the bad.

- Darwin L. Schmiedt, Woonsocket, SD


In 1968, after being discharged, I entered and stayed at the VA Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD for about three months as a patient. I was told at that time that I was their first Vietnam veteran.
 
- Earl R. Schultz, Aberdeen, SD


I attended three years of college after high school and maintained 2-S status. I took a job in Spearfish, SD and received my notice to take a physical within 30 days.  30 days later, I received my DRAFT NOTICE. All my friends were enlisting in the Navy or Air Force. I said two years would not be too long, and let myself get drafted. I was sent to Fort Lewis, WA for basic training and then to Fort McClellan, Alabama for Infantry Training, My buddies talked me into requesting Jump School in Ft. Benning, GA. I then got orders for Vietnam (it then seemed like a bad dream) until I returned to Ft. Lewis and received an early out because my time remaining in active service was less than five months. I did not get called up for reserves and did not have any contact with the Army until I received my discharge.

I did not look back on my experience or talk about it until I attended a Vietnam veterans' reunion in Ft. Collins, Colorado. I have since attended The Society of the 173d Airborne reunions in Tucson, AZ and Rochester, MN. The City of Rochester gave us a real "Welcome Home" celebration that really made me feel like that year in Vietnam was something I should be proud of. I went back to college when I got out in 1969 and did not feel comfortable with the protests and demonstrations, but accepted the freedom that those people had to express their views. When I was drafted, I believed we should be patriotic and do our duty.

Today, I have two sons that are of draft age and I hope to Hell they do not get drafted! I think it is time for this nation to take care of business at home and get rid of the war mongers that want to fight for oil. The National Guard should be at home to deal with the hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and the flu crisis that faces this nation.

- Rickford A. Schumann, Pierre, SD


Our duty on both ships was to deliver Marines and their supplies to the shores of Vietnam. Then, most of the time, we would sit off the shore for days and then go pick up what was left. The Marines were always glad to see us and were glad to get hot food and a warm shower.

- Keith M. Senska, Woonsocket, SD


I was Life Support Supervisor at NKP Thailand.  Our mission was rescuing downed pilots. We had A-1 Sky Raider Aircraft and Jolly Green Giant Helicopters.

- Tom M. Sherman, Sisseton, SD


I entered the Navy in Omaha, NE then went to San Diego, CA for boot camp. After that, I went to Memphis, TN for electronics schooling. Then I was sent to the USS Ranger and worked on the A-6 Intruder as a module repair technician. I was part of four cruises on the ship. We usually stayed on station for four weeks, then went to port for about six days. We flew combat missions about 12 hours a day and our shop worked 12 hour shifts, night and day.

- Lee B. Squires, Clear Lake, SD


My Military Story
John M. Sweet
US56566417
24 July 1968 - 10 July 1970
Service in Vietnam 12 July 1969 - 10 July 1970

My first encounter with the US Army was after I graduated from high school in 1964 and was called for my first physical. This routine continued for the next four years. During the first two years at Dakota Wesleyan University, the secretary for the local draft board, Sylvia Krick, told me that as long as I had a 2.0 GPA that my deferment would stay in place. Then in 1967, the routine changed and I was told they were giving four years of deferment for college and that would be it.

It seems there were a whole lot of guys with 2.00000001 GPA's who were in their 5th, 6th,.... years of college. I graduated from DWU on Sunday, June 2, 1968. I went home on Monday, and on Tuesday my dad and I drove over to De Smet to see what Sylvia had to say. She told me that if I didn't have my draft notice by a week from Thursday I wouldn't go in until August. I received the notice a week from Thursday and was told to report on 23 July 1968.

I had made up my mind long ago that I was going to take the draft, get in my two years, then get out and on with life. No regular Army for me. This proved to be a dangerous decision. I learned later that I was lacking in wisdom.

Growing up in rural South Dakota with a strong deference for authority and a patriotic spirit that was instilled by participating in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each day in school, and by attending the American Legion Memorial Day Programs, the thought of going to Canada or even voicing objection to the war was not even considered. If the Commander-in-Chief, Richard Nixon, said that "if Vietnam falls, there will be a domino effect all across Asia" who was I to question such wisdom? So off I went, naive about the possibilities that existed.

Even at Dakota Wesleyan University, home of the liberal Democratic nominee for President, George McGovern, there was not any dissent. McGovern brought his views to campus, but they were not accepted there or anyplace else, except Massachusetts—the only state he carried in the election. So, on 24 July 1968, I went to Sioux Falls and joined a bunch of other guys for the plane trip to Fort Lewis, Washington for Basic Combat Infantry Training. Morale among this group wasn't particularly high, to say the least. The one person I knew when I got there was Richard Rasmussen, another hometown boy. His stint didn't last long. I met one guy, Chuck Gorman, who had just graduated from college that spring and knew some of my friends at South Dakota State University. Our friendship lasted until tragedy struck later.

At the beginning of basic training, we went through a place called Classification and Assignment. Here they reviewed all your test scores, education, experience, etc. in order to determine your Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) and how your skills and abilities could best serve Uncle Sam. When I reached the final station, the guy told me, "With your test scores and education I don't know where you will be placed but it won't be infantry." That was good enough for me because by then we had learned that infantry was not the place to be.

After several weeks, my friend Richard Rasmussen was having big-time difficulty with the physical training aspects of Basic. He was born with a foot problem which hampered his athletic career all through school. Why the induction center in Sioux Falls didn't catch it during his normal physical can be attributed to two things: One, Uncle needed anyone he could get, no matter their physical condition. Two, Richard really wanted to join the Army and gain from the experience, so he didn't call attention to the problem. Richard was sent home, much to his chagrin. The rest of us were jealous.

At about week seven of basic training, our orders came down. My primary MOS was 11C40 - infantry mortars and my secondary MOS was 11B40 - rifleman. Every time we marched by the Classification and Assignment Building I wanted to go in and strangle that guy who had told me otherwise. What was really depressing was that there would be 12 more weeks of combat training in an Advanced Infantry Training Company right there at Fort Lewis. I didn't see how I could take 12 more weeks of this stuff.

At the beginning of AIT, another friend from home had been drafted. Bob Whites was a high school friend that I kept in contact with during college. He was in a basic training company at Fort Lewis and I was able to visit him in his barracks on several occasions. I felt bad for anyone who was going through this with a wife at home, as Bob was.

During AIT, I signed up for a Non-Commissioned Officer Candidate Course at Ft. Benning, GA. Anything to delay the inevitable assignment to Vietnam. This was a new fast track program to get people trained to lead 81" and 4.1" mortar squads. Upon graduation, you earned the rank of E-5 (buck sergeant).

On December 13, 1968, I picked up Chuck Gorman (in a blizzard) in Tyndall, SD and we drove to Columbus, GA. We were placed in a casual company because our cycle wasn't starting until January. In the casual company we pulled KP and guard duty. We could either have off Christmas or the week after. Since I had just been home, I recruited two Basic and AIT buddies, Andy Cappelli and Chris Nelson from the San Francisco area, and we took off for Miami Beach on December 26. We had a great week in Florida during the Orange Bowl festivities. I visited my cousin, Dave Knight, who was going to graduate school at the University of Miami, along with his parents and sister who were also visiting. Chuck Gorman's brother was killed in a car-train accident near Tyndall. Chuck went home for the funeral and that was the last I saw of him.

Upon return to Fort Benning, we got back into the military groove. The time at Fort Benning was pretty much uneventful. The highlight was meeting a couple of guys that I have stayed in contact with over the past 30 years. Bill Trow from Schaumburg, IL and Dave Whelan, from Great Falls, VA. After graduation, Bill and I were assigned to Fort Polk, LA as on-the-job training drill sergeants. Bill, Mark Taylor, and myself drove my car from Fort Benning to Fort Polk. Outside of Jackson, MS, we met a hometown guy, Jim Boetel, driving down the road. I recognized him and his car immediately. We spent the day touring Vicksburg, a civil war battle ground. That turned out to be quite a reunion for Jim and I while Bill and Mark sat by in disbelief that I was able to recognize Jim and flag him down.

At Fort Polk, Bill and I were co-platoon leaders for an AIT Platoon. We actually had a pretty good time leading the platoon. We took on the leadership style that we wouldn't ask the troops to do anything we wouldn't do ourselves. We led by example and the troops respected us for that. We led the forced marches carrying the same load as the trainees while the officer types' load was a canteen on a pistol belt. One of my favorite duties was leading the physical training exercises. I picked up a lot of hardcore activities from one of the Basic Training drill sergeants I had at Fort Lewis. At Fort Polk, we visited a college friend of mine, Jim Jensen, who was stationed there. He had a place off post that was what appeared to be at one time a slaves' cabin on a large plantation. This was a great retreat for Bill and I as we would bring food and beverage on occasion and relax from the rigors of infantry training.

On Memorial weekend 1969, Bill and I went to Galveston to hit the beach. We had a great time. Bill sunburned the tops of his feet and couldn't wear his boots, therefoe spending the first three days back at Fort Polk in bed with his feet propped up. He may have had a cold pack on his head also, but that wasn't from too much sun.

Our tour of Fort Polk ended in June, and we had a couple weeks of leave before heading off to Vietnam. I gave Bill a ride to the Kansas City Airport on the way home and also brought Jim Jensen and his bride back to South Dakota.

In July, I departed from the Sioux Falls airport for San Francisco and the Vietnam departure point. Bill was already there when I arrived and he shipped (flew) out a day or so ahead of me. I caught up with him at Ben Hoa Airbase in Vietnam. One of the first guys I saw at Ben Hoa was Boyd Hopkins, a recent graduate from DWU. Bill thinks to this day that I know everybody in South Dakota.

We were standing beside each other when he got assigned to the 101st Airborne and I was sent to the 4th Infantry Division. We were both sent to units in the Central Highlands, as was Dave Whelan. Dave was also assigned to the 4th Division also. While the three of us were all in separate units, our trails did cross while in Vietnam.

The 4th Division was headquartered in Pleiku. The first night at base camp, I was put on perimeter guard duty. Three of us were assigned to a bunker. Two had to be up at all times during the night while the third one could sleep. The other two volunteered to take the whole night and told me I could stay in back and sleep. Sleep doesn't come easy your first night on duty. It soon became apparent that these two guys were dopers and spent the whole night shooting up on meth. I was glad to see the sun rise. The next morning, I was helicoptered to LZ Warrior, where Co. E, 1st Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division's 12 Infantry's heavy mortar platoon was operating. I was assigned as squad leader to a 4.2" mortar gun squad. The happiest guy that day was the guy I replaced, John Sinkular from Dallas, SD. I never saw John again, but I did see his dad years later when he was commander of the South Dakota American Legion.

One of the first things I did when I knew my assigned unit was to write a letter to my high school friend Bob Whites, who had been in Vietnam a while by now. He got bored with his assignment as a clerk typist and volunteered as a door gunner on a Huey. My letter came back a few weeks later informing me that Bob had been killed in action.

As I said, my first assignment was as a squad leader of a 4.2" mortar gun squad. We had a team of five or six guys. Our first priority was to keep the gun in firing condition and take care of the ammunition. We usually dug some kind of bunker for the ammo to keep it dry and safe. Most of our firing missions were at night against suspected enemy locations (SELS). During the day the Battalion Commander would fly around the area in a Light Observation Helicopter (LOCH) and look at what he thought were suspected enemy locations. He would plot these locations on a map. Often, these locations were fields or gardens that were thought to provide the Viet Cong with food. Other times, there may have been evidence of enemy movement in these locations or enemy ammo caches. Then we would shoot at these map locations at night. The next day, the Battalion Commander would usually report that we hit the spots, but never really knew if we had hit anything significant. Lt. Cottum, our platoon leader, complained to the Battalion Commander that these fire missions were like pissing in the ocean. There was a time when we would get dozens of map locations to drop a single round on. You would have to get almost a direct hit on whatever it was that was there to do anything. It was a whole lot of work to compute the data and aim and fire the guns at these locations and we never really knew for sure if we hit anything.

Once in awhile we would have a live fire mission, which meant we were supporting troops who were in direct contact with the enemy. The 4.2" mortar was a very effective weapon in the Central Highlands as it was a high angle fire weapon that could fire over mountains. Whereas artillery had a lower projectory, and if the target was on the other side of the mountain, artillery couldn't hit it. We were usually located on a firebase with an artillery battery. It got pretty noisy at times when we were all blasting away. The 4.2" mortar also had a very effective illumination round. We could really light things up at night, and often did, so that troops farther out from our location could see the enemy at night.

Some of the guys I remember serving with in Vietnam include the following:
Robert (Inky) Inkenbrandt, Ft. Myers, FL
Jerry Wells, Zanesville, OH
Butch Lowry, Memphis, TN
George Otto, Columbia, SC
Fidel Rodriguez, Puerto Rico
Dave Thornley, Ogden, UT
Phil Blackwell, South Carolina
Tom Wood
Dave Bode
Robert Brown, Vermillion, SD
Robert Scheitrumpf, Warren, OH
Ed (Big Man) Newcomb
Lt. Cottum, Oklahoma

After a few months on the gun squad, I was transferred to the Fire Direction Center (FDC). The FDC received the map locations of the suspected enemy locations or direct observations from forward observers. We plotted these locations on a chart and then determined what direction and angle the mortars needed to be set at. We also calculated how much charge had to be put on each round in order to propel it to the target. We then communicated the data to each gun squad. This was usually done by a phone system that we had rigged up between the FDC and the gun squads. For entertainment, the FDC jam sessions were led by Robert (Inky) Inkenbrandt of Ft. Meyers, FL.

Somehow, he had brought along an always-out-of-tune guitar to Vietnam. Many nights were spent listening to him sing Glen Campbell songs: "Wichita Lineman" and his all-time-favorite, "Ann." Audio tapes were made of these sessions and sent home. I still have the one I sent home and recently sent Inky a copy. I always thought he would be playing alongside Glen Campbell when he returned to the world, but I didn't see him when Glen was on Letterman one night. Inky went on to become a professional musician and has his own recording company, Ink-Write Productions. You can order his original music from http://www.inkwrite.com/. Be sure and check out his original recording, "Island Dreams." FDC duty was better than being on a gun squad. We were usually in a protected bunker that we constructed with sandbags. We were better protected from the weather, especially during the rainy season, as well as from any stray bullets that might have been flying around. Sometimes we made the FDC bunker big enough for several to sleep in because we were always on duty ready to receive a call for fire.

It was about this time that I suffered my greatest wound of the war—an impacted wisdom tooth. I was sent to the rear in the first available helicopter and had the tooth extracted. I was suppose to stay in the rear for a week or so, but after about a day, I couldn't stand the sitting around and requested to return to the field and the FDC. I was gung-ho.

The highlight of most days for the infantryman was mail call and chow. We were suppose to get one hot meal a day. On some firebases, a field kitchen was set up and food was prepared right there. In other cases, we had meals shipped out to us in insulated containers. (I later used the same concept in shipping food from a central kitchen to other school buildings.) When we didn't have hot food we ate C-rations. Sometimes they were a welcome reprieve from the hot food that wasn't that great.

Whether we got hot food or mail depended on what fighting was going on. We were always supplied by helicopter as we were, with one exception, in the field where there was no access to roads. The first priority for the helicopters was to take care of the fighting. The next priority was hot food, mail, and clothes. We were suppose to get several changes of clothes each week, but again, that depended on the priority of things. You always tried to hold on to an extra shirt, pants, underwear and socks.

The one time we did have supply access by road, we were securing an engineering unit that was building a road. We got all kinds of things when we had this duty. They would ship out huge pieces of ice that were about 8' x 2' x 2'. We would chip off enough to fill an ammo can or sand bag and cool pop and beer with it. This was the only time we ever had anything cold. One night things were getting a little dull so Sgt. Tom Wood decided he would start up one of the caterpillars and reminisce about his days back in the world working road construction after having some of that ice cold beer. There was no law against drinking and driving in Vietnam.

After about six months in-country, it was time for R & R. I went to Sidney, Australia for a week of rest, relaxation and high living. I spent time at the beach, the zoo, and the pubs. Spending time in the pubs was really interesting. This was where the men went to do their drinking
no women allowed. Sidney is a great melting-pot of people. In the pubs, I met men from many different European countries who had immigrated to Australia. They were very interested in asking about America and the war in Vietnam. It was interesting to hear about their reasons for leaving England, France, Yugoslavia, etc. One of the best things about R & R was eating some good food and being able to keep clean for a week. After Sidney, it was back to the platoon and the downside of my year in Vietnam. Most guys counted the days they had left. I didn't do that. Today students (and some teachers) count the days left till school is out. I don't do that either.

It was now 1970 and the negative public attitude about the war at home began to drift to the troops in Vietnam. Morale was never great, but it was now declining fast. The 4th Infantry Division was gradually pulling back to the coast of Vietnam and was supposedly scheduled to leave the country at some point in the near future. Troop morale in my unit was declining as many of us were on the downside of our tour.

Most of us didn't see much point in what we were trying to accomplish. Objectives were unclear and we just wanted to get by with doing as little as possible and then "see-ya!" Higher ranking NCO's and officers were constantly on us about not digging in properly and taking care of our own security. This would have been a good time for the Viet Cong to hit us because our state of readiness was suspect.

When March came around, I had some leave time left and there was a vacant R & R slot to Bangkok so I took it. The week in Bangkok was interesting. This was a whole different culture and probably similar to Vietnam. Even though I spent a year in Vietnam, I can't say that I really experienced the culture because I was out in the boonies all the time. I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Bangkok, where they served beer by the quart in the theatres. I had an interesting river cruise and spent time in the shops, which loved to see American GI's with money. I had some sport jackets custom-tailored for me and sent home from Bangkok.

The day I left for Bangkok, my unit got orders to go to Cambodia. We were really sweating going to Cambodia as this was the action that Tricky Dick said would hasten the end of the war and we were expecting a lot of action. When I got back from Bangkok, my unit had already returned from Cambodia. The whole campaign was really a farce.

The Cambodian campaign brought out the troop protestors. I witnessed one guy sitting in the road facing off with an armored personnel carrier. He was physically removed and probably dealt with under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I don't know what the penalty would be for a soldier to protest a war. From here on out, morale was in further decline.
On 27 June 1970, I received orders to return to the "world" and prepare for ETS (estimated time of separation). On about 8 July 1970, I left Vietnam and returned to Fort Lewis, Washington and was relieved from active duty "not by reason of physical disability." (This phrase on my discharge papers guaranteed Uncle Sam would have no service connected disability to pay. Sam wasn't going to recognize my impacted wisdom tooth either.) On 10 July 1970
one year, eleven months and seventeen days later from the time I stepped on that very ground for Basic Training within sight of that Classification and Assignment Building.

Upon separation, I was awarded the following: the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force; The Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight in support of combat ground forces in the Republic of Vietnam from 2 August 1969 to 25 May 1970; The Combat Infantryman Badge for participation in armed ground conflict while a member of "The Famous Fighting Fourth Infantry Division" in the Central Highlands of the Republic of Vietnam; a Certificate of Appreciation from General W.C. Westmoreland and another from the Commander in Chief, Richard Nixon; a plaque from the "Officers and Men" of the 4th Division (this always made me wonder if officers were not men); and in 1999, I received a Certificate of Recognition (which I applied for over the Internet) "for service during the period of the Cold War (2 September 1945 - 26 December 1991) in promoting peace and stability for this Nation, the people of this Nation are forever grateful" from William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense. So as far as wars go, I am one for onewon one and lost one.

I left the SEA-TAC Airport on 10 July 1970 on the first flight for Denver. There, I spent a day or so visiting friends, Meredith and Jan Wilson. I returned to South Dakota on a Saturday afternoon and my parents met me at Joe Foss field in Sioux Falls.

During my time in Vietnam, our unit suffered no serious injuries or casualties. To say we were fortunate would be the understatement of the 20th Century. That wisdom tooth I suffered from turned out to be no good at all. It provided no wisdom whatsoever when I chose the draft over whatever the other alternatives were. Be that as it may, and the way everything turned, out I am proud to have served and say I am a Vietnam veteran. The military experience made me a stronger and better person. I feel a special relationship with others who have served. Everything is small stuff compared to war.

The friends I lost in Vietnam were not friends I served with in the Army, but friends I had grown up with: Bob Whites and two other members of my American Legion baseball team, Bill Biever and Ted Voight.

Ted Voight was the catcher in a game at Lake Preston in 1962 when I was brought in to pitch in the bottom of the 7th inning. The score was tied with no outs with the basis loaded. Ted had never caught me before and I wasn't sure if he could handle my curve ball. I struck out the first two batters with fast balls. I shook off several calls for curve balls but when I was up 0-2 on the third batter and Ted called for a curve, I threw it for a called third strike. Ted couldn't handle it and the winning run scored from third on the passed ball. I was a little upset in 1962. By 1970 I learned not to sweat the small stuff. Bill Biever played second base that game. These three and the others from the Iroquois area that served during the Vietnam era deserve a monument for answering the call of their country. They didn't protest and they didn't take other measures to avoid serving. I have a quote from a company that makes monuments and I am going to start talking it up with others. If I don't it, it doesn't look like an ungrateful society will.

In 1972, I was recalled to active duty and assigned to an infantry national guard unit out of Seattle, WA and told to report to Fort Lewis, WA for two weeks of summer training. I couldn't believe this was happening. It was deja vu all over againmy worst nightmare was going back into the Army. I went through the same procurement building to secure the same equipment I had been issued in basic training. And that Classification and Assignment Building was in sight again. We were bussed to Yakama Firing Range where the National Guard held their summer training. We were recalled because National Guard Infantry units didn't seem to attract much attention from people wanting to join the Guard to avoid Vietnam, so they called us up to get up to strength for summer training. After the first formation, one guy from South Dakota went in to Yakama and checked in to a hotel. He never showed his face again until the final formation two weeks later and was never missed. When we went to the field, another Vietnam veteran and myself fought over who would get to sleep in the cab of the truck all day. The loser would lay in the shade underneath.

My re-adjustment to civilian life occurred at South Dakota State University where I earned a Master's Degree in Education and Sam helped pay for it through the GI Bill. It was here that I met my bride of 33 years, Barb.

 

And from then on I lived happily ever after.......

- John M. Sweet, Delano, MN


On arriving on the Quad, my senior PO asked if I enjoyed hunting because I was from South Dakota. "Yes, I do enjoy hunting." I said. After that statement, I spent quite a few hours on the gun mount. I held the position of 1st loader and eventually gun captain on the same gun mount. Should I have kept quiet and not opened my mouth?

- Thomas F. Thompson, Sioux Falls, SD


My first contact with the Vietnam War was my freshman year at SDSU. As a cadet in ROTC, we were called upon to serve on a guard detail for a Brookings native and SDSU graduate that had been killed in Vietnam. I volunteered and was chosen to stand guard at the church where the service was to be held for the deceased. Our ROTC unit also assisted with the service at the gravesite. The somber memory you can never forget...

- Wallace C. Thomsen, Pierre, SD


Mike survived with a few an ambush. He was watching an orphan and a stray dog, both were killed.

- Michael P. Vinson


No story, but I am still in the military. Just returned from mobilization at Fort Hood, Texas for one year. Will retire 4 January 06 with rank of master sergeant with 31 years of service.

- Scott Winegar, Huron, SD


Drafted, "Vietnam Era" vet. I had a choice of advance training or continuing to teach at Fort Sill. I chose to go to Germany on tour. The entire duration was spent in southern Germany, thus out of harm's way in Vietnam. I had college friends who entered the service to be home in less than year, either shot up or K.I.A.

- Darrel F. Woods, Onalaska, Wisconsin


I'm not going to get into telling war stories, as I served with the 9th Infantry Div./Mobile Riverine Force in the Delta in 1968 through 1969.  I have plenty. What I would like to comment on is the young men and women that served our country during the Vietnam conflict. We were told it wasn't a war yet. We put forth our best effort with what we were given to us by our government and carried out our mission with the orders given to us by our leaders. Sometimes with regret and loss of life, but we stuck it out, served our tour of duty and came home to "what". Our country lost a lot of good soldiers over there and I hope that this memorial gives us all a little closure so we can finally put this behind us. It's not going to heal everyone's wounds, but it's a step in the right direction. It's time for the Vietnam vets to finally stand beside our fellow comrades from other wars and be proud of our service to our country. Thank you, South Dakota, Governor Daugaard, and all the people who took the time and effort to put this dedication together. God Bless the USA!

- Don Fechner, Wagner, SD


My military experience began in front of the Custer County Courthouse in October, 1968. Three of us constituted the draft group for Custer county that month. As I recall, two of us showed up to catch the bus to Sioux Falls. Whoever the third man was, we never saw him. My parents Bill and Lorene were there to see me off, along with some of the Knights of Columbus, who looked seriously concernedthere wasn’t any smiles to send off draftees, the Vietnam War was less and less popular all the time. The war was the major campaign issue that fall, and it had been the flash point for highly-televised unrest at the Democratic convention in Chicago that summer. With riots going on in some of the inner cities, and lots of radical rhetoric, it seemed that the country was in serious internal trouble and that trouble was now affecting me on a very personal level.

Not reporting for the draft had never been a real consideration in my thinking. I knew one college classmate who had declared conscientious objector status, and he was currently being prosecuted in federal court. I couldn’t imagine taking off for CanadaI’d had five uncles in the service in World War II, and my grandfather and great-grandfather had been in the German Army prior to World War I (and before Grandpa Young emigrated). While I had no desire to continue a tradition of military service, I also had no desire to avoid what I thought of as a citizen’s duty.

I remember that long day/night bus ride across South Dakota. It seemed we stopped in one town after another, picking up a few people with each stop. Hot Springs, Pine Ridge, Winner, and some eastern South Dakota communities. By the time we arrived in Sioux Falls, the bus was full. Those who passed the physical the next day were sworn in, and I recall making that one step forward to take the oath (Oct. 23, 1968), and noting that everyone else in the room did the same. But I didn’t feel a lot of patriotism at the moment, just a lot of uncertainty. We flew out of Sioux Falls to Seattle-Tacoma before the day was out.

Our basic training was done at Fort Lewis, Washington. Stepping off the buses from the airport was a culturally disorienting experiencethere were about 25 of us from South Dakotaand it looked like a thousand people came shoving off the buses from the Oakland-San Francisco area. I remember the distinct thought that they must have emptied the tenements and found the street people to fill out their draft quota from California, because those people did not look healthy or law-abiding! Later in Basic, it became obvious that California draft boards did not collect anybody who had family, means, or excuses to avoid the draft. So they took the poor, the minorities, and the uneducated to fill their numbers.

We went through Basic on an “accelerated” training cycle according to our company officers. As I recall, it was seven weeks from start to finish. Initially, the training was intimidating and depersonalizingintentionally so. Later it became a matter of teaching combat and survival skills. Despite the fact that I was a college graduate and had an idea of the conditioning process, I gained esprit de corps just like everyone else, maybe with a little more self-preservation into the process. During our time in Fort Lewis, I think the sun shone three days, and the rest of the cycle it rained, morning or evening, or sometimes all day long. I remember two other South Dakotans from Basicmost of us ended up in the same company because we were so fewJohn Elston from Rapid City and another college grad, Rops, from the eastern part of the state. When it came time to graduate and receive our AIT assignments, Elston was ordered to Fort Holbird in Maryland for military intelligence; Rops, I think, stayed at Fort Lewis for infantry. I was ordered to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to be artillery, the 13A10 MOS.

I reported to Fort Sill in January, after a Christmas leave back in Custer. Being home had been wonderfulleaving again was tough. In January, 1969, there was no doubt where draftees were going to be posted once they had finished AIT. Nixon had barely beaten Humphrey in the election (it was the first election in which I’d been able to vote, and like a good Democrat I’d voted for Hubert), but there was no plan to withdraw from Vietnam yet, and the Joint Chiefs were still building up troop strength. At Fort Sill, our training battery had a large contingent of National Guard recruits. We were housed in World War II-era barracks re-opened to handle the training needs of the Vietnam build-up. The battalion area featured barracks squared around a parade ground with a communal bath hall at one end near the headquarters. We trained hard at Sill, and with more awareness of where most of us were headed. I had the opportunity to go to something called LPCLeadership Preparation Courseoffered to the “older” men in the unit during our first few days. It was a two-week course to develop squad leaders, and when I figured out the calendar, I took the opportunity. Two additional weeks at Fort Sill would be time off an extension of the TDY if I went to Vietnam and wanted to get the early-outthe option of being discharged if you were within six months of your normal two-year discharge date when you got back to the States. NCO’s who had been to Vietnam helped us figure out the timing.

When I finished LPC, I went back into the normal training cycle, although every one of us who finished LPC were pressured to go on to OCS. Hardly anyone took the baitthe rumors of the high casualty rates for new-minted Second Lieutenants in Vietnam were widespread. I was assigned as a squad leader (I still have my temporary-rank Sergeant’s stripes) and during the 8-week training cycle managed to avoid being demoted. That wasn’t easyabout halfway through the cycle, I stayed out all night in Lawton, was technically AWOL, but didn’t get docked since about half the battery had failed to make it back for bed check that particular night. Our training battery commander was wise enough to just ignore that anything odd had occurred, since everyone showed up for reveille in the morning. However, when the next timepasses were issued, they came along with a whispered warning that anyone not back in time would be spending time in the brig.

We trained on 105 mm Howitzers at Fort Sill, the workhorse cannon that was prevalent at fire support bases throughout Vietnam. The basic design had to be 40 years old. These guns were simple to operate, easy to maintain, and versatile. Live fire exercises were not frequent, and we paid attention to what we were doing since we were told we weren’t going to get that many opportunities to train before things turned real. I got to know a few Hispanics during trainingZuniga and Quinonesand they were good guides when we headed into Lawton to find some bars that weren’t on the strip and would therefore be inexpensive. As I recall, our E-2 pay grade brought in about $60 a month after taxes. The other major thing I remember about Fort Sill is that it was cold and clammy all the time. I didn’t know Oklahoma had such miserable weather in January and February. Eventually, though, we finished our eight-week cycle, and on the last week, we received our orders. The RA’s (regular Army) in our outfit were mostly assigned to a rocket battalion in Germany. The National Guard men were going home, of course. I remember a few of them looked a little embarrassed when the orders came in; they’d been through the training, but they knew they weren’t going to have to do anything more, while the men they had gotten to know in AIT were headed for the shooting war. All the rest of us, the draftees, were posted to various battalions in Vietnam, and had earned about a week-and-a-half of home leave before reporting to Oakland, California.

I don’t remember much of that leave, other than that it seemed to be over almost as soon as it started. I flew out of Lawton on a little commuter airline which took about eight hours to get to Rapid City with smalltown stops along the way. The next thing I remember is being back in Rapid City to fly out to Oakland. I reported in at Travis AFB, where they had warehouse-size holding barracks with hundreds of bunks and not much to do while you waited. As soon as I had checked-in, I called some friends who lived in Stockton and spent the next day and a half with them before reporting to the transient center at Travis about 12 hours late and spent two days on KP as a result.

Our group of 206 left Travis on a United flight in the late afternoon on April 14, 1969. The military chartered civilian passenger jets to fly the troops to Vietnam. A similar flight was about 1and a half hours ahead of us, and another flight was about 1and a half hours behind. Our itinerary was Honolulu, Wake Island, Okinawa, and Vietnam. The flight took about 22 hours, and the in-flight movie was “Paper Lion”. The stewardesses were real. So were the nerves that began to show over the Pacific. We stopped for about 45 minutes to refuel in Honolulu, and I had time to call Bill Honerkamp, who was stationed there, and then down five beers. Most of the guys on the flight were underage, so they didn’t even get a chance to drink. I slept all the way to Wake Island. All I remember of that speck is that it was dead dark and you heard and smelled the ocean and felt the spray but couldn’t see anything. We stopped again at Kadena in Okinawa, and it was April 16 and dawn was arriving with us when we flew in over Saigon. I remember that dawn because the sun was coming up huge and red over the misty jungleI had a window seatand you could hear a few of the fellows throwing up. Vietnam was green and brown and here and there were strings of circular ponds in the flat jungle, the residue of bombing runs from B-52’s. We landed at Bien Hoa, as I remember, and as we newcomers in our wrinkled fatigues got off the plane, there was a line of dusty men in worn and faded fatigues waiting to get on our plane. It struck me that they all looked old.

Our first two weeks we were in Long Binh attending an orientation program called “Redcatcher School”. It was intended to familiarize green troops with the realities of Vietnam, but mostly it was just catching details while waiting to go to a unit. I remember a few lessons from those first two weeks: (1) it was incredibly hot and muggy all the time, and western skin burns quickly and painfully in the tropical sun, (2) underwear is useless and just leads to severe jock itch (the old-timers said to just pack it away), and (3) the enemy was skillful and everywhere. A “chieu hoi”, a Viet Cong who had turn-coated and joined the ARVN, gave a demonstration one day at Redcatcher. While a company of us watched disbelievingly, he stripped to his shorts and then crawled in through perimeter rolls of razor-sharp concertina at least 20 yards deep in about 30 seconds. Once inside he stood up, smiled and took a bow, unscratched. The officer putting on this demonstration assured us that the Viet Cong could do this sort of thing while fully-armed and in the dark. It was an unnerving thought.

I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but the month I arrived in Vietnam coincided with the maximum troop strength of United States forces in Vietnam, something over 500,000 men. By the time I reached my assigned unit, B Battery 2/35th Artillery, new policies in the Nixon administration had capped our field strength and begun the long process of Vietnamization. I reported to my unit at a place called Nui Dat, where I saw that I would be in a battery of 155 mm self-propelled howitzers. A 155 is about a six-inch gun, and while it superficially resembles a tank, it is not one. An SP is a 27-ton aluminum skinned tracked heavy gun. Its hull offers no protection. I remember my section chief saying an AK-47 round would go right through the aluminum plate of the M-109, the official designation for the 155 mm.

There were two good parts of being assigned to a self-propelled battery. One was that the size of the guns meant that they wouldn’t be airlifted to remote jungle firebases like 105’s. We would only go where we could drive. Secondly, Nui Dat was the base for the Australian Army division fighting in Vietnam, which meant B Battery was attached to the Aussies. This was good, as they had a fearsome combat reputation and were said to have thoroughly “pacified” their area of operation. Only the White Tiger ROK Division had a (deservedly) nastier fighting reputation among our allies in Vietnam.

For a young fellow from South Dakota, Vietnam was total weather shock. Besides the heat and the humidity in the lowlands, I’m sure anyone who has been there will tell you that they will never forget the smell. It is unlike anything out here on the prairie. Thick, wet, fermenting, the air reminds you that the jungle is a huge living thing, but it is also a huge dying thing, and underneath the fresh green smell is always the scent of decay. There are only two seasons in Vietnamthe dry season and the monsoon season. The monsoon season began a few weeks after I joined my battery at Nui Dat. It is incredible; day-long sheets of rain, unending rain, with brief intermittent periods of heavy overcast and roiling clouds before there is more rain. It was possible to soap up, shampoo, and finish a shower just in the rain. Along with the monsoon, of course, came the mosquitoes and the other insects. You learned to be wary and shake your boots in the morning. Sometimes a scorpion would drop out. Insects grow to immense size in the tropicsI saw a pie-plate sized scorpion one time, and a foot-long two-inch wide centipede another.

When I arrived at B Battery, I was assigned to the Third Section which was the “base piece”, the gun that sights in the whole battery when you move to a new location. There are six SP’s to a battery divided into two halves. I was oriented to the gun by the chief, Sgt. Marken. He was an E-5 and, if I recall, from Wisconsin, who couldn’t have been more than 21 or 22 years old. I quickly fell into the routine of our firebase, which had, apparently, been in this one spot for almost a year outside occasional excursions into the boonies. Guard duty, KP, latrine duty, working on the gun, etc., quickly filled the days. I was trained into driver duty on the M-548 cargo carrier, which is the 11-ton vehicle that hauls the powder, shells, fuses, and miscellaneous cargo when the battery moves. There was a 548 for each gun.

I quickly got used to fire missions while at Nui Dat. They would all begin the same with the comm phone calling “battery adjust” followed by target coordinates. Once zeroed in on a target, we’d usually get the “fire for effect” call, which meant shoot as fast as you can. I noticed real soon that the training camp protocols weren’t sacred. No one used the power ram to seat a shell in their gun tube. The biggest, beefiest guy in each section threw the shell in by hand because it was faster. Our section had a husky young Californian, Benson, who was able to get a 98-pound HE shell seated when the tube was up to a 20-degree angle. (Before I left Vietnam, I could do that too.) We did a lot of what were called H & I missions, “harassment and interdiction”, which basically meant throwing a lot of shells into areas where the Viet Cong – “Charlie” – might be, just in case he was. H & I was meant to keep the VC feeling insecure, I guess, or maybe it was meant to keep our troops feeling secure, like we were accomplishing something. I remember I used to think we were shooting up a lot of taxpayer money. We had a good reputation with the Aussies for speed and accuracy of fire when it was meaningful. On one occasion at Nui Dat, the Aussie FO kept calling battery fire in closer and closer to his unit as they were under heavy pressure. Charlie kept trying to close with the Aussie company under attack in order to avoid close support artillery, until the FO called in the last round within 15 meters of his position. The Aussies later told us that ended the ground assault; they added that the VC had apparently been led by a white soldierwas it a Russian advisor? We never found out.

On May 10, 1969, we finally had marching orders, and left our safe haven for Xuan Loc, a provincial capital north of Saigon. (In 1975, Xuan Loc would be the site for one of the last major stands by the ARVN against the NVA.) During my TDY, I would eventually be at 24 different locations in South Vietnam, most of them fire bases carved out of the jungle. Xuan Loc was a real city though, small but populous. I remember we drove through old rubber plantations on the way, and settled into a well-established base camp with two other batteries. One was a 105 battery which faced the jungle on one end of our compound behind a high perimeter berm. We were on the other end of the compound facing a row of businesses along a Xuan Loc street. Between our two gun batteries was a headquarters battery, with a lot of officers, NCO’s and Spec-4’s. We kept busy building up the defenses, including laying extra rows of concertina outside the berm and beyond the road encircling our compound. Rumor had it the countryside was lousy with Charlie, so we were motivated. When a 548 left the compound to make a run to the trash dump less than a mile away, it went with armed guards.

Rumor proved to be accurate on May 18. About 1 a.m., Charlie struck the north side of the compound with RPG (rocket propelled grenade) fire into the bunkers manned by the 105 battery. Four or five bunkers were blown apart in moments, and everyone in my bunker on the east side came bolt awake scrambling for flak vests, helmets, and M-16’s. The explosions seemed thunderous in the dark with sudden red flashes and fire. Our five or six men gathered at the entry of our bunker to make a run for our gun which had only two men staying in it at night as emergency crew. Mortar shells blossomed in inverted white pyramids out in the battery area. There would be a quick whistle and then a shell burst would go up. As our men ran one by one for the gun, sniper fire came from the tops of the dark buildings across the perimeter road in Xuan Loc. Then it was my turn. I waited until the man in front of me was behind the sandbags around the gun for a few seconds, then took off. Halfway across, I heard a bullet whine, then I saw out of the corner of my eye a puff of dust a few feet behind my heels kicked up by another round. The surge of adrenaline I got carried me that last 20 yards in a couple of seconds. Our gun was firing illumination rounds, popping them into the sky just over the north berm. We got a call from Headquarters to send our 548 up to the north end to pick up wounded; McCray was our 548 driver (I was the assistant) and Sgt. Marken sent him off with Rodriguez riding along as gunner. We switched to HE rounds to try to inflict some damage on Charlie. By now we knew he was inside the compound. Fifteen or 20 minutes later Rodriguez was back with the 548. McCray was dead with six or seven AK-47 rounds through his flak jacket. Marken pounded on the gun tube and cried when he heard the news. (Half a world away were McCray’s wife and two small children in some town in Arkansas, and it would be a few more days they would think he was alive before they knew the truth.) Rodriguez said Charlie had captured one of the 105 emplacements and turned the gun around, but couldn’t figure out how to fire it. A sergeant major with HQ personnel was trying to lead a counter-attack, and about that time we heard the welcome drone of rotors in the sky as choppers armed with mini-guns began to lay down fire all along the perimeter road. Charles was losing the battle. He couldn’t get any more men inside through the thousands of rounds coming out of the mini-guns (the sound of mini-guns firing is like tearing cloth the bullets are fired so close together), and his troops inside were slowly being rooted out by the HQ personnel and the remains of the 105 battery.

The next morning, the compound was in shambles. No one had slept. Word went around that all the VC who got into the compound were dead. I walked up there, and every one of our bunkers was collapsed and burnt out. There was a smell in the air, sweet and sticky and charred, the smell of the enemy dead and probably our own. I was one of the men detailed to help haul our dead to the chopper pad to get airlifted back to Bien Hoa. We were told to have our M-16s locked and loaded. I helped load stretchers on to the back of a 548 until it was full. Ponchos were thrown over the bodies, but you could see the twisted shapes of men who had died agonizingly underneath the plastic, and smell the burned flesh. I hung on the tailgate of the 548 on our trip to the chopper pad. The floor of the 548 was too slippery with body fluids to provide footing. At the pad, we started unloading the stretchers. Gusts whipped up by the rotors blew at the ponchos, and one I was helping with blew off, exposing the lower half of one body. Whoever it was had been laid open by shrapnel across the abdomen, his guts and organs exposed, smelling like chicken giblets. I stared and then flipped the poncho back. I remember how cold I felt despite the heat of the day.

It was years before I could comfortably be around fresh chicken in the kitchen.

The ground assault at Xuan Loc was the worst I would see in Vietnam. Thirteen of our men were killed, and there were about 30 wounded that night. One man from B Battery, I believe his name was King, earned a Silver Star up at the north end berm. There had been three understrength batteries involved for us, a total of about 250-260 men. Rumor had it that more than 300 VC had died. When I finally wrote home to Bill and Lorene about the event I left out most of the details. I knew I had changed that night, and felt detached and colder than I would have believed possible. Some weeks later I wrote a poem.

Consider, now, the night
Of mantled monsoon clouds, no Moon
And stealthy no-sound noises
Outside the concertina
When Charlie comes.

He hides in silence
Under dark blue distant rain
Under the forest table top
Waiting in the skirts
And jungle sheets of green.

His hiding place is fear.

On June 7, our battery split up, with our half staying in the compound and guns 4, 5, and 6 moving to the other side of a mountain east of Xuan Loc. A day later they were hit by Charlie, with 10 wounded. On June 10, our half of the battery moved out and headed back to Nui Dat. We overnighted at FSB (fire support base) Megan outside Long Binh, arrived at Nui Dat, then moved out again to arrive at FSB Virginia where we spent time with a company of Aussies for the next 10 days. The monsoon was in full swing, and every day brought more rain. We existed in mud, mud, and more mud. We were on fire missions every day. I remember one mission where, after dozens of rounds, our FO said we were pounding the heck out of a VC bunker complex with an underground hospital. After Xuan Loc, we didn’t care what the target was. On June 23, we route-marched back to Nui Dat, where we would stay through mid-October with one- and two-day route marches out into the boonies to conduct what were called “hip shoots.” While at Nui Dat on June 30, an Aussie General came by to look us over, and I spent a little time talking to him. Wish I could remember his name. On July 6, we pulled off a memorable fire mission, pumping out 50 rounds in half an hour in the middle of the nightboom-boom-boomone shell after another, onto the NVA 274th Regiment according to our FO.

On July 10, Colonel Powell commanding 54th Group Artillery stopped to say his goodbyes before leaving for Germany. He said that in the past three months, Bravo Battery had moved more than any other battery in Vietnam, and he praised us as “one of the finest firing batteries in Vietnam.” He also said, “Despite the mystique surrounding artillery and how complicated it is to fire the big guns, we know artillery is mostly hard work.” Then he was gone, and we gun bunnies were still there.

A week later we went on a hip shoot to FSB Horseshoe. On the way, our 548 engine blew, and Benson was injured and evacuated. At Horseshoe, our gunner, Marken’s assistant section chief, made a few mistakes laying the gun and instead of hitting our target, he managed to land a few rounds in the South China Sea. Rumor has it we nearly sink a Navy gunboat. Bad face for us.

Time passed with the routine of guard duty, maintenance work, fire missions and resupply runs. I broke 300 days to go on July 31. The night of August 8 we got march orders to head out on another hip shoot along Route 2 the morning of August 9. We set out at 0800 hours and were miles north of Nui Dat whenboom, black explosionour gun, # 3, jumps into the air and does a half turn, with people flying off in all directions. Mined! Our 548 following # 3 pulls to a quick stop, we anxiously grab our rifles (I'm thinking, "I haven’t cleaned this thing in a month") and fully expect an ambush from the tall grass on both sides of the road. Instead, within a few minutes, what we get is Aussie jets diverted from another target to lay bombs and rocket fire on both sides of the road within a hundred yards of our stranded column. They came in out of the air as small dots, then huge roars, and a sudden flash of wings, so close you could see the pilots, and then gone back to dots in the air. The noise was incredible. Any Charlie waiting to pull an ambush would have been flattened, not just by the ordnance, but also the screaming sound. Fortunately we have only one man injured, thrown off the 50 caliber atop the M-109 and nearly run over, but our march order is aborted. That afternoon we drug ourselves back to Nui Dat, hoping we won’t ever have to go north on Route 2 again. Within a few days, we had a brand new M-109 to replace our old gun.

I got my promotion to Specialist 4 on Sept. 6. That would be as high I’d get in rank during my service. Through the fall of 1969 our routine stayed about the same. I became the 548 driver, and also was working as the assistant gunner in the 109. (The AG’s duty is to get the elevation of the gun correct prior to firing; it’s the gunner’s job to get the horizontal track correct, and to give the fire order.) In mid-October, we moved out of Nui Dat for good, leaving the security of the Aussies for posting with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. Our first stop was FSB Nancy, a bit northwest of a village named Dinh Quan. At Nancy we fired a lot, averaging 180 rounds per day. Nancy was a base with some permanence. We built hootches out of empty 105 ammo crates and empty powder canisters, then sandbaged triple and quadruple layers over the top and sides. It was at Nancy one night when I was laying on a cot and I noticed a little movement on the floor next to me. Looking down, I saw a red-yellow-black banded snake heading for the wall, and in seconds, our freaked-out Sgt. Padula is firing at it with a 45 caliber hand gun. He killed it, and I’m thankful, given the accuracy of that gun and Padula’s state of mind, that I’m still alive. Padula came closer to me than that sniper at Xuan Loc.

We were at Nancy, then FSB Concorde in November and December, then back to Nancy for Christmas and New Year's. While at Nancy, we were joined for awhile by 175 mm Long Tom howitzers. Those guns had elongated barrels for long-distance fire. When they shot a round, you could actually see the barrel whip. Nancy is a spread-out fire base, and one part of it was occupied by a mortar platoon. One day, we were going about our duties when there was a big explosion on top of the hill inside the base perimeter. Two men of the mortar company had made a mistake unloading ammunition, and had disappeared in the blast. All that was left, according to some of the other men in the platoon, were bits and pieces.

By February 1970, I was becoming aware that I was closing in on being a “short timer”, someone with less than a month or so to go on their tour. From late January through early March, we were at FSB Ann. By now I was acting gunner at times, but was unlikely to make E-5 because I was too close to the end of my tour. Still, I am proud of my competence as an artilleryman. After I came back from an R & R in Tokyo in March, we moved to a new base, FSB Rita, and I got to “lay the battery”target the base piece, since Marken was on leave. I did a good job, too. According to the FO in a chopper, I knocked down the dead tree target he was calling in with seven shots, top to bottom, at a distance of 18 miles.

In mid April, my buddy Perrins and I took another leave to Tokyo, this time for the purpose of visiting the recently opened World’s Fair in Osaka. We were able to get a second leave because we had extended our tour past a year, and therefore qualified for a leave as well as the earlier R & R. We were lucky, and we took the leave. The night we got to Tokyo, we ran into a couple bar girls at our hotel and decide to have a few night caps before we turned in. One $90 dollar scotch-and-soda later, we both realized our mistake, and poorer but wiser, we quickly went to our rooms. The World’s Fair, by contrast, was worth the trip. The celebration of international amity was an unnerving contrast to the war zone that we knew we would soon be revisiting.

We got back to Long Binh on April 16, and I had now been in Vietnam for more than a year. But my time left was so short that I had started to wear my flak jacket and helmet most of the time. That’s a sure sign of getting close to the end of a tour, and I’ve seen it in other men who get less and less willing to take anything that looks like a risk. From Long Binh we caught a plane ride out to an air strip called Ham Tan in the middle of the jungle. Unfortunately, the chopper that was supposed to pick us up for the ride back into our new FSB, Mat, didn’t arrive. We spent the night nervously sleeping on the edge of the airstrip, three of us with no weapons and no bed rolls and no communications. We were very happy to be picked up the next day. Our battery commander had apparently been asking upsetting questions about his missing men.

From FSB Mat we moved on May 7 to FSB Rising Sun. By then, Vietnamization was obvious wherever we went. Rising Sun had our battery and a 105 battery and a platoon of mortars, and the whole base perimeter was defended by a local Vietnamese militia company. We didn't trust them. Padula went around the perimeter bunkers every night, and he was constantly waking up the militia, who apparently thought that guard duty ended at sundown. There was a constant undercurrent of tension. One night, we got called to a battery adjust and fire with the tube practically level with just enough charge to lob HE into the edge of the jungle. We did that until dawn. Charlie was nearby. So was the monsoon. I spent my last week in Vietnam hunkered down, tense all the time. On May 19, I was ordered to the chopper pad, and I said my quick goodbyes and good lucks and gave away some odds and ends.  Then I was flying off, looking down at the rapidly dwindling fire base.

Over the course of the next week, I spent a lot of time in the Long Binh and Bien Hoa areas getting my paperwork in order and putting up with “base camp b.s.” Then I was on the bus and taking a trip from Bien Hoa to Tan Son Nhut. It was the closest I had been to Saigon in more than a year. This time it was me looking at newcomers unloading from a civilian airliner, and I remembered how I had felt more than a year before. I looked at these guys coming off the plane, and I thought that there were fewer than 400,000 Americans here and fewer every month, and here are these replacements still coming over, smelling nervous and looking very, very young. I found that I couldn't smile at them as they came down the ramp.

It was May 27 when our plane lifted off the Tan Son Nhut runway and as the landing gear came up, a spontaneous yell and cheer swept through the passengers. Vietnam drifted away behind us, and we knew that we have survived.

On May 29, I got off another commercial airliner in Rapid City after the flight back from Oakland. My whole family was there to greet me, and there were hugs all around. There were also stares from people in the terminal, a reminder that men in uniform in 1970 weren’t greeted as returning warriors.

- Mark Young

PS: I was home just a month when I got a letter from one of the guys in my gun crew. About two weeks after I left, Rising Sun was hit at night, hit hard, and the battery suffered close to 50 wounded, he said. Fortunately, the attack did not penetrate the perimeter. The 50-cal position atop an M-548 that I would have been occupying was not filled that night; in his letter he said it was riddled with bullet holes.


I graduated from USD in June 1965 and was drafted into the Army in September 1965.  After orientation at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, we were sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training.  I was then sent to Fort Eustis, Virginia for advanced training in helicopter maintenance and repair (Huey and Chinook). After several months of training, I was stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. In September 1966, I received my orders to report to Oakland, CA and on to Saigon. I was assigned to the 605th Transportation Company – 765th Transportation Battalion at Phu Loi, Vietnam (a military compound carved out of the jungle about 25 miles North of Saigon). My job was to repair helicopters that were being used by the Big Red One. We worked 12 to 16 hours a day every day except Sunday.  Many of the aircraft we repaired were badly shot up. I remember one in particular that we had to replace the engine and transmission and rebuild from the ground up. We were proud of the job we did. Two days later, the same helicopter came back to us dangling from a cable under a Chinook all shot up.  I felt fortunate not to be one of the guys that went out into the jungle day after day in those aircraft.  All we had to contend with was an occasional rocket attack where the Viet Cong lobbed a few rockets into the compound. In September 1967, my one-year tour in Vietnam was nearly complete. I had the same short-timer apprehension I assume most soldiers experienced during their final days in a war zone. I arrived back in Oakland in late September 1967 and was home by October 1967.  No fanfare, no welcoming home party, but it was great to be back in South Dakota.

- Dennis Winters, Pierre, SD.


I served my country in Vietnam during 1967 and 1968. It was hard to believe how Vietnam vets were treated. In my opinion, the Vietnam vets were sold out by their country and treated like pariahs upon their return to "the world." I have remained proud of our military servicemen and women. I question, sometimes, if the veterans from other eras feel superior and if they do so, they need to avoid talking to me.

- Mike Elsberry, Herreid, SD


I'm still proud of my Vietnam service. After my discharge in 1969, anti-war fervor was at a high point. It seemed that every time I went out of the house, I'd meet some people who were anti-war. I hated to watch the evening news. I was not a fan of Walter Cronkite. I was wounded on Hill 1338 in the Central Highlands. We took the Hill after a 24-hour battle with NVA troops. We started up the hill with about 100 people, and came off the hill the next day with about 30 of us who hadn't been killed or wounded. I eventually missed the military, so I joined the SD Air National Guard in 1973. I retired from the Guard in 2000 as a Chief Master Sergeant with more than 30 years of service. In closing, I want to say how proud I am of the young people serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots. They are special people.

- Stanley B. Anderson, Blackhawk, SD


The Vietnam era was a difficult time for America and also a difficult time to be a soldier. I quit college after my first semester to join the Army and serve my country. I enlisted April 1st(April Fools' Day), which I consequently took a lot of ribbing for. While serving in Vietnam, I made several close friends, as you inevitably do in wartime. Some made it...some did not. We were among the first to invade Cambodia, May 1st, 1970 (May Day). I saw action from the delta to north of The Black Virgin Mountain into Cambodia. My unit was responsible for the largest cache of arms captured in the war. I felt it was my duty as an American to serve and protect my country. America was divided during these years as to the justification of sending its sons and daughters to war. Those in power are not perfect. They are only human as we all are. I believe we went for the right reason, and if some of us had to walk through hell so we all could get closer to heaven on earth (which I think America is even with its imperfections), then it was a very small sacrifice indeed. I, as a Vietnam vet, stood proud to serve my country, and I still stand proud of my country.

- Perry H. Anderson, Madison, SD


I missed being sent to Vietnam by two days. I was on a Navy surgical team alert for one year before being replaced. Two days later, the team was activated. I was an anesthesiologist who cared for the injured returnees, many with open wounds. They could arrive as many as 30 to 40 at a time at Great Lakes and Bethesda, requiring immediate further care, surgery, and rehabilitation. I had patients in the operating room and in their hospital rooms who had flashbacks of the jungle. I had the utmost respect for those men who suffered so. I wish I could have done more. While traveling on orders in my Navy uniform, I was spit upon more than once. I was simply a physician trying to do the best I could. One of my closest friends from college, Terry Ryan, was a Navy pilot killed over Vietnam in 1972. He was 28. I was at Bethesda when the POW's were released and met several of them. All those who served were heroes who did not get the respect and honor they deserved at the time. Thank you for recognizing them now. Ed Anderson, M.D., Seminarian for the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls

- Edward F. Anderson, Sioux Falls, SD


I was a pilot on a C-141 and flew on many missions supporting our troops in Vietnam. One mission that stands out is secretly bringing the first 2 POW's released home because their mothers were very ill.

- Daniel P. Apland, Sioux Falls, SD


I served as an electrician trouble shooter in a Phantom squadron with VF142 during two deployments. Our main objective was flying low-level troop support along with bombing North Vietnam daily. Our flight schedule usually went twelve hours a day with a strike each hour on a rotation between day strikes and night strikes.

- John J. Artz, Pierre, SD


It was the times that I would see or meet American women serving in Vietnam that would make it feel like the war was far away, and I was back in "the world" (USA).

- Kenneth R. Askren, Sioux Falls, SD


We went to Vietnam because 1) we thought we could make a difference and 2) for adventure. We went as friends and comrades and we returned as brothers forever. While in Vietnam, we lived a lifetime in those 13 to 15 months we were together because you never knew if you were going to come back the next day. We were not welcomed home by the people of the country which we fought for until years afterwards. The National Vietnam Memorial and now the State Memorial dedication will go a long way to give honor to all who served during the Vietnam era.

- William E. Atyeo, Sturgis, SD


I worked as an "Egress and Safety Equipment Technician" on the A-7E Corsair aircraft. For those who need a translation, that means "Ejection Seats". I am proud to recall that two of the seats that I rigged were used by pilots as a last resort to get out of jets that were going down. Both seats worked perfectly. One of the pilots was not able to fly again, but the other returned to his duties in the squadron and remained part of the effort that dropped over 40,000,000 pounds of bombs during our WestPac deployment.

- Greg M. Bade, Sioux Falls, SD


I am a 40% disabled veteran of the Vietnam era and retired after 20 years of service. I received my military retirement, but I have yet to receive my disability. Myself and all other disabled vets just want what is coming to us. We gave all for our country and were willing to give up our lives. Our government should give disability retirement to the well-deserved vets. We didn't complain when we were called, and did what we were told to do by our commanding officers. Now we are asking for what is rightfully ours.

- Lewis J. Bailey, Tyndall, SD


One night, during the Tet Offensive in the first part of January of 1969, three or four Viet Cong came through near the main gate of CuChi base camp. They killed three guards on bunker duty. From there, they went to the air strip with Sachel Charges and began to destroy Chinooks and other planes that were on the ground in bunkers. We did not know they had penetrated the perimeter until the timed explosives started going off. They almost made it back outside the perimeter through the same hole they entered. However, all were killed. One was hiding inside a empty 55 gallon barrel. That was the beginning of the Tet Offensive.

- Dean L. Jay Baker, Mt. Vernon, SD


I assembled 500 and 750-lb bombs. Our mission was loading 3,000 bombs per day to be dropped over Vietnam from Utapao, Thailand. Our largest mishap was when a fully loaded B52 blew up on the runwayWhat a mess.  Three lives were lost.

- Michael L. Ballweg, Pierre, SD


Theodore Ellis Baltezore is honored on Panel 22W, Row 95 of the Vietnam Veterans' memorial wall in Washington, D.C. He was born in Gettysburg, SD, on March 10, 1948. He will be remembered by friends.

- Theodore Ellis Baltezore


Sorry, but I don't talk about it.

- David G. Barnes, Castle Rock, CO


Roger told a story of almost being shot by a sniper and if it wasn't for a buddy in his unit, he wouldn't have had 34 more years to live. He helped build the harbor at Cam Rahn Bay and had several bullet holes in his bulldozer bucket from enemy fire. Later, after he moved to Presho, he became a volunteer firefighter. He rode his Harley in most every local parade with his POW/MIA flag flying on the back of his bike. He never let people forget those who fought and died there. He is missed.

- Roger K. Bartels, Rapid City, SD


The Life of a Marine Combat Corpsman

Many times I felt as though I had to play God, and I did it, as I often had to decide who would live and who would die.

I have killed many of the enemy with a vengeance, and I have had to promise to kill a brother out of mercy.

I have done these things...

For many of you, it is a memory of a gentle spring rain, For me and my brothers, it is a memory of haunting death in a rice paddy.

For many of you, it is a walk through a pleasant wooded area, for me and my brothers, it was a one-way path to death and devastation in a jungle or ten-foot tall elephant grass.

For many of you, it is a beautiful park with a wonderful atmosphere, for me and my brothers, it was an invitation to be ambushed or shot by a sniper or hit by a booby trap or an incoming mortar round.

Yes, it is true that I have changed. We are not who we were and we will never be again.

So as you wonder why we are the way we are, or why we do as we often do, please remember....

Sometimes we don't know why, after nearly forty years, these thoughts and images reappear  either.

Robert L. "Doc" Baty, Hospital Corpsman Second Class Alpha Co., 1st Battalion, 1st Marines - Vietnam 1966 - 1967.

- Robert L. Baty, Custer, SD


As a young Army nurse, I arrived in Vietnam on February 24th, 1969, and was assigned to the 12th Evacuation Hospital at CuChi. When I received my assignment at Long Binh, my helicopter flight to CuChi was delayed for several days because the base was under attack. I soon learned the base perimeter had been breached and the ammo dump and other strategic areas blown up. When the fighting was over and the perimeter area cleaned up, among the enemy dead was the South Vietnamese civilian worker who had been coming on base daily, hired by the US Army to work as a barber. He was carrying detailed maps of the base camp on his person and had been helping lead the attack against the base. This incident pointed out in sharp relief the message that in Vietnam you didn't know who was friend and who was foe. My first week at the hospital was spent in the emergency room and the personnel were planning ahead for the arrival of the 10,000th patient. They planned to give that patient a gold watch to commemorate the event. However, when the 10,000th patient arrived in the emergency room, he was missing both arms. The staff quietly put the watch away and never again talked of commemorating patient count. Even so, during my year on the wards, I personally noted we had cared for over 20,000 more patients. I remember hoping things would get better, but it just went on and on, and it seemed like nothing we did made any difference. But I've been told by veterans that we made a difference for them, and I'll never forget how tough, brave and selfless they were. Caring for them was an honor and a privilege and the most satisfying time of my nursing career.

- Marlene R. Bayer, Wichita, KS


In the summer of 1965, the draft was sending me letters, so I decided to join the Navy. I was trained as an Aviation Electronics Technician. After my training, I was stationed in Atsugi, Japan. One of my duties there was being an Electronic Countermeasure Equipment Operator. On our detachments, we would fly along the coast of Russia, China, North Korea, and North Vietnam. On one occasion, we were chased down the coast of China by a Mig. In 1969, one of our squadron's planes was shot down in the Sea of Japan, off the coast of North Korea. We lost 31 members of our squadron. Many were good friends of mine. I would like to thank the Governor and the people of South Dakota for this memorial. (I would like to furnish the names of these crewmembers for the record in about two weeks and maybe even read their names at the memorial.)

Thank you very much, Richard Bear

- Richard D. Bear, Minneapolis, MN


The Air Force was running fast when I entered in 1972, and I had the opportunity to meet and know many people as they came home or left for Vietnam. I had volunteered to go as well, but was assigned security duties in South Dakota with mother SAC and Alaska. It seemed like I blinked, and I was retiring after over 30 years as an Air Force Security Police member. Each day I thank God for being given the opportunity and great pleasure of serving our country and helping to preserve each and every individual's freedom to voice an opinion based upon their own personal convictions.

- Douglas D. Becker, Colorado Springs, CO


Congratulations to the War Memorial committee! If this Vietnam War Memorial is anything like the others on the banks of Capital Lake, it will be something to behold. The other memorials are fine tributes to the sacrifices made by the members of Armed Services who also proudly can claim to be South Dakotans.

- David E. Belatti, Honolulu, HI


Upon finishing finance and accounting training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana, we said goodbye to G Kent Elkins. He was off to Vietnam. Thirty years later, I found him alive and well in Greenville, SC. I was very pleased to hear his voice.

- Dean Bender, Rapid City, SD


I was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky after basic training and worked in the Finance and Accounting Office as a payroll clerk for several companies located there.

- Roger A. Berge, Hendricks, MN


I served with the 65th Engineers in Vietnam as a demolition specialist. I was attached to several Inventory and Mechanized Units throughout South Vietnam. As a Demo Specialist, I spent a lot of time crawling through tunnels, clearing foliage and destroying enemy cover. I am proud to have served my country and, knowing the risk and fears, I would do it all over.

- Arnold Wilme Bergstrom, West Jordan, Utah


I did not get to Vietnam. We were alerted so many times to go, but never left the airport.

- Darrol L. Birk, Rapid City, SD


I was drafted in to the Army in June of 1967. I did basic at Fort Leonard Wood and AIT at Fort Polk. I had about three weeks leave and arrived in Vietnam on Thanksgiving day of 1967. I spent 14 months in Vietnam, serving with the 9th Infantry Division. I served eight months at Bearcat and then six months at Dong Tam in the Delta. My MOS was 11C, Indirect Firecrewman on the 81 mm Mortar. After leaving Vietnam four years later, I joined the South Dakota National Guard and served until retiring in February, 2006.

- Michael L. Birnbaum, Rapid City, SD


I was enlisted in the Navy from 31 May 1972 to 29 May 1974, with a rank of E-3, and that is where I received the National Defense Service Medal. I was a supply clerk with the Army's 1st Infantry.

I saw Bob Hope in Vietnam at Christmas time in 1969 at Lai Kia. I was able to go backstage and get his autograph. He was there at Laikai, South Vietnam with Connie Stevens and a bunch of other stars.  I also met him again in Mitchell, SD in the late 1970s, and got his autograph then, too. I am very happy that Bob Hope brought such joy to so many men and women soldiers around the world. I am a 100% service-connected disabled veteran. 

- Allen M. Bishop, Rapid City, SD


Was in the Army and Navy. Seaman rank in the Nav, and Spe 4th in the Army.

- Allen Max J. Bishop, Rapid City, SD


I am a veteran who served in Korea during the Vietnam Era. My AIT was at Fort Knox, Kentucky as a clerk (71B). Our battalion had six companies with close to 75 clerks each. The class before us, 75 total, all went to Vietnam. My class of 75 had eight who did not go. The class behind us of 72 were all headed for Vietnam. There was a shortage of engineers in Korea. Soon I received my orders and became a 12B Combat Engineer. One day, a Spec 5 by the name of Jenkins came to our unit from Vietnam; he had not returned to CONUS. It was late October and the cold and wind had set in. SP5 Jenkins was a heavy equipment operator. SP5 Jenkins suffered every day during the winter of 1966-67. I pray that all the members of the First Platoon, Co C, 13th Engn 7th ID made it home all right. South Dakota has cold winters, but none like Korea when the wind blows. From building bridges on the rivers of Korea to filling and placing sand bags during the rainy season, I will never forget those I serviced with or those times.

- Wayne K. Blake, Sioux Falls, SD


Stepping into Vietnam was like walking into the heat of hell waiting for Satan to say, "Hello, and welcome to my world." I had to sneak into town when I got home and got spit upon.  It was good to be back home, but I missed my friends that died there. I remember walking with my mother at home and being called "baby killer" and "murderer", and hiding in the house before going back to active duty. All Vietnam veterans stay strong and stay true.

David Blodgett from Barre, Vermont has now lives in Sioux Falls, SD.

- David L. Blodgett, Sioux Falls, SD


This is not a story, but being from Iowa, I want to explain that I registered because I live right across the bridge from SD and am a member of the SD VNV motorcycle group.  I wish to attend the memorial with all my SD brothers.

- Chuck L. Blomberg, Sioux City, IA.


I am glad to see South Dakota will have a memorial for its Vietnam veterans. I've had involvement in the Brown County and Minnesota state memorialsthey are indeed a respectful way to say "Thank You" and most importantly "REMEMBER veterans and their sacrifice for all". I am proud to have served with many friends from South Dakota and elsewhere as well as my brother Duane in 1st Cav. 1969-71. Those from South Dakota and throughout the United States did their job. They did well and with served with HONOR. The Soldier, Marine, Sailor and Airman knew what needed to be done. Unfortunately they were not allowed to do it.

- Roger L. Bobby, Coon Rapids, MN


It was the best of times, and the worst of times. All at the same time.

- John M. Boos, Sioux Falls, SD


William (Bill) Boyd graduated from West Point in 1954 and was commissioned in the Air Force. In 1968, he was assigned to the Air Force 20th Special Operations Squad (SOG) in Vietnam Central Highlands. Their mission was to support the Army's Special Operation Group (SOG). These groups were usually small (six-man) inserted into Cambodia along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Boyd's mission was to insert the SOG teams into their areas and get them out again without loss of life or helicopters.  Their helicopter was void of any markings that would identify them as American and marked and identified with a stencil "Green Hornets" on their tails. They worked clandestine. From August 1968 to 1969, Boyd flew missions every day of the year, each lasting about 90 minutes. Many missions brought Boyd and his crew into the very jaws of death. One mission, Boyd returned from with a bullet hole in the nose of the ship passing near his head and exiting the cockpit top. If a firefight erupted, he and a second gunship would support with their gatling guns. On one mission, he remembered a trapped team on the ground advising him that the mini-guns weren't doing their job. He was asked to fire rockets on either side of their position. The team radioed up that the rockets were effective, throwing bodies in the air on both sides of them.

The Air Force Green Hornet Squadron didn't receive any public notice during the war. The SOG teams that Boyd and others inserted and protected operated in extremely dangerous missions with high casualties, but they served as a key link in intelligence collection. Bill was proud of what he and his fellow Green Hornets accomplished in Vietnam.

Submitted by friends, Roger and Ione Johnson

- William P. Boyd, Flandreau, SD


I received a call from my dad the morning of January 24, 1968, saying he was holding my draft notice. At 4:30 p.m. on the same day, I left for Lackland AFB, TX on my way to become a Munitions maintenance specialist (bomb builder). Eleven years, two months and two weeks later, I came back home, thinking to stay. Ten years later, I joined the SD Air National Guard and traveled to Panama for Noriega Days (Operation Just Cause) and two years later to Saudi Arabia (Insane Hussein World Tour) which was canceled 28 days after it started. Do I have any regrets? Not a one!! Would I do it all again? Not a chance; I may not be as lucky next time!!! A heart-filled THANKS to all fellow vets; I love my freedom and speech!!! GOD BLESS you and yours!!

L.L. (Lewy) Braa USAF (Retired)

- Lewis L. Braa, Sioux Falls, SD


While painting on the fantail with John Hardnack, incoming shells from the Viet Cong landed just off the fantail. As I headed inside for safety, I advised John to do the same, as he thought it was dolphins, the General Quarters Alarm sounded. John actually beat me to the watertight door and was at our station before I was halfway down the ladder.

- Stephen A. Bratton, Britton, SD


Was a combat photography specialist.

- Delvin Don Bren, Goodwin, SD


It seemed only my family knew I was gone to the service and returned. In this war in the Mid East, departures and arrivals have definitely changed for the better!!

- William J. Brennan, Sioux Falls, SD


I arrived in Vietnam on 7 October 1968. What a shock for a 21-year-old boy from South Dakota. Tet was in full swing and we received causalities by helicopters and we were busy day and night. I had arrived with the 312 Evac Unit but was transferred to the 27th Surgical Unit right away. As a registered nurse, I had a chance to see many young boys who would be going home with missing legs and arms and it was very hard to do my job and not be overcome with emotional feelings. We lost some of our doctors and nurses at the 312 Evac and the 27th Surg and it was so hard to lose a friend and yet go on doing your job and treating the wounded. The little joy we all enjoyed was treating the local villagers and especially the children. Many, I am sure, are alive today because of the care they received from American medical teams. The greatest thing about my service in Vietnam was coming home in one piece; the worst thing was the reception many of us received at airports when we got back to the USA. Of course, our families were wonderful to us, but not everyone treated the Vietnam vets with welcome arms. Let us never forget those who didn't come home!!!

- Richard Lee Briscoe, Mission, TX


I first enlisted on Jan 3, 1943.

- Harold Herbe Brost, Belle Fourche, SD


As written in magazine, the 2nd squadron 17th cav.101st airborne, in what was termed one of the 101st toughest missions in Vietnam. We killed 33 NVA on April 19, on April 20, we engaged a company of NVA. Weeks later, we had a fire fight that started at 10 a.m. and lasted until 4 a.m. next day; this was non-stop firing. We then loaded up on more ammo and re-swept the area for dead bodies and weapons. After this, there were many more fire fights, many at night-time.

- Douglas L. Broz


I lived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota from 1973 until my father died in 1975. During this time, I enlisted and affiliated in the Naval Reserve at the Naval Reserve Center, Sioux Falls. After my retirement in 2000, I joined the Tri-State Chief Petty Officers Association in Sioux Falls and continue to be an active member.

- Charles E. Brunsting, Sioux Center, Iowa


I was assigned to Clark Air Base, PI and spent 14 months total TDY at Phan Rang AFB, Vietnam. Upon return, I was assigned to Perrin AFB at Denison, TX until discharged. During my enlistmen,t my job description was Munitions Maintenance.

- Lawrence G. Bruyer, Sioux City, IA


I volunteered for the draft after my sophomore year at Northern State University. I entered the US Army in October 1967, taking my basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington and AIT at Fort Polk, Louisiana. After AIT, I was sent to Vietnam in April of 1968 and assigned to the First Infantry Division, with our home base in Dian, Vietnam. I served 12 months in Vietnam, and the final four months of my active duty, I was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. Upon my discharge, I returned to Northern State and with the GI Bill, I completed my college education. For the last 32 years, I have worked for a bank in Omaha, Nebraska.

- Melvin C. Buchele, Omaha, NE


I joined the US Navy after attending Huron College, Huron, SD for two years. I had lived in Huron all my life and wanted a chance to get out and see the world. I had four older brothers and three of them served in the US Navy. So, I joined and was hoping to follow their time and experiences they had in peace time. However, I went through the Hospital Corps Medical Training program and was transferred to Field Medical School & was attached to the US Marines as a Field Corpsman (Medic). I spent my over-seas tour as a "Grunt/Field Medic" on the DMZ doing daily patrols, night ambushes, and taking care of all the medical needs to a Marine Corps Company/Platoon from June 1967 to July 1968. This was a tough time and a very long year. However, if I had to do it again and ever had to be in battle, I would opt without hesitation to serve with the Marines!!!!!! They were great and really took care of me!!!!!!

- Roger W. Busch, Poway, CA


I'll never forget the eerie feeling as the USS Coral Sea (CVA 43) aircraft carrier was joined alongside by a supply ship. It seemed all too close as they shot the line across and then a heavier one until we were sending cargo back and forth. The ships would seem to pitch, and the load would swing as we steamed straight ahead. It was an ammo supply replenishment and we were taking on 500-pound bombs on a line stretched between two ships. What an awesome experience to be rolling 500 pounders across the hanger bay in a hurried fashion but yet slow enough to control in case the ship would shift in the waves. It's just one of the many exercises that happened and it is all too hard to describe. If you've never done it, it is hard to envision; if you have, you'll never forget. God Bless America, Robert K. Bush AKAN VF-151 Fighter Squadron ,1967-1969.

- Robert K. Bush, Grenville, SD


To this very day, I thank God and the US Air Force for the very fortunate fact that I served my entire tour of duty stateside during this "conflict." I never witnessed the horrors of war firsthand. Through family members who lived it and returned forever changed and good friends who lived it and died, and the mere fact that I, too, could have been shipped there at any time...my God, but were they heavy years on such young shoulders. Was it worth it? No, there has never been a war worth the price of so many young lives. And there never will be. I thank all the true Vietnam vets for their sacrifice...knowing full well they all sacrificed a part of themselves. To those who gave their all, may God forever hold them close, for they truly came to him from Hell.

- Ralph G. Bush, Pierre, SD


Perhaps another time.

- William B. Busse, Rapid City, SD


On September 3, 1966, we were in base camp at An Khe and I was writing a letter to my fiancee by candlelight. We then received incoming mortars, so I grabbed my rifle, ammo belt, and helmet and jumped into my water-filled foxhole (because of the monsoon) and spent a couple of hours there waiting and watching. What a way to spend your 21st birthday. Another situation was after I was home, my folks showed me a photo in the Watertown Public Opinion dated Jan.8 or 9, 1967 that had part of our company (with me included) standing in a bomb crater. They wanted to know more about that and other pictures that I took and sent home. I would like to thank whomever set up this web page and slideshow. I feel you did us justice. Thank you and GOD BLESS.

- Roger J. Byer, Lake Havasu City, AZ


Entered service 2 August 1943, and served 32 years on active duty.

- Robert J. Cameron, Burke, VA


Vietnam is a mixed bag of emotions that most of us will probably never really deal with nor be able to forget. That's not a situation unique to a Vietnam veteran. The acid taste of fear and your heart trying to get out through your throat is universal. The waste, the drugs that consumed so many young men, and the contempt of authority and the awkwardness of being in a position of authority probably is unique to Vietnam. There are lots of memories that are not so good. Yet, I'm extremely proud of my service. I did the very best I could and, I feel, for the right reasons. I have a deep respect for those who serve and those who served. We all have memories of coming home. Those aren't very good either. What people thought of me and where I was isn't important. I know how I feel about my service to my country and that can't be taken away. I had two occasions where my service was recognized. During Desert Storm, veterans were asked to stand during half-time of our son's basketball game. I cried. During the activation ceremony of that same son's National Guard Unit prior to deployment to Iraq, veterans of each war were asked to stand. I cried again. I'm fortunate ... many never had a chance to stand and many still can't cry. I thank those who are organizing this effort to recognize Vietnam veterans and I hope to be in Pierre for the celebration. Another chance to cry.

- Dale P. Christiansen, Rapid City, SD


Delayed enlistment USAF Sioux Falls, SD. Entered active duty June 1975.  Went on to serve four years USAF active duty and 27 years in SD Air National Guard.

- Reid A. Christopherson, Garretson, SD


A little about my tour in Vietnam: It was unusual since I served with two different divisions. I served in Vietnam from September 20, 1970 until September 20, 1971. The first division I was stationed with, the 25th Infantry Division 2/27th Wolf Hounds, C. Co., was located in Cuchi, which is in the southern part of Vietnam.  It was terribly hot and muggy down there. While I was in the 25th, we mostly went out on one-day missions and only a couple of times spent the night in the jungle. We were constantly working out of choppers coming and going to various places. We worked mostly in rice patties and rubber plantations chasing Charlie and the Viet Cong. In November, the 25th Infantry Division went back to its home in Hawaii. In order to go back with the division you had to have six months with them, and I did not since I joined up with them in September. In November, I got transferred to the 101st Airborne out of Phu Bai. Now I was up North in rugged terrain like the Black Hills, out in the jungle seven days and back on a Fire Support Base for seven days. We never got to the rear and you could see your breath at nights since it was cold at times. While I was with the 101st, we hardly ever got back to the rear since we were either manning a Fire Support Base or out in the bush. While I was up North, we went into the A Sha Valley twice and worked out of Fire Support Base Barbara which you could see the DMZ. What I can say about my tour in Vietnam is it was hard being over there, away from home, and hearing about the demonstrating going on in the States, but I met a lot of good people, made some good friends, and we were ALL proud to serve our country.

- Don S. Cisar, Scotland, SD


Welcome home, Brothers.

- Eckhard Clausen, Chaska, MN


Bill served one year, two months and 12 days as a truck driver in the 1st Infantry Division of the Big Red One in Vietnam.

- William M. Clouser, Aberdeen, SD


I was born and raised in Wall, SD. I entered the service after graduating from high school during the Korean conflict. I had a break in service (Dec 1956 - July 1957) when I moved the family back to Rapid City and worked in wholesale sales. I went back to active duty at Ellsworth and made the Air Force a career.

- Ronald W. Connolly, Grandview, TX


I "flew" from Oakland, CA to Saigon, Vietnam in a C-124 Air Force prop that had no seats. It took 44 hours to reach Vietnam. Enroute, we stopped in Hawaii, Midway, Wake, and Guamand were offered breakfast by the Air Force at each stop!!

- Craig J. Connor, Rapid City, SD



I do have a story, but not entirely of myself. It has a lot to do with another individual who did serve in-country for 11 years. I was three years old, almost four, when he departed for Vietnam in 1958, and the day he left is the day my journey began.

If anyone is interested in hearing my story of the Meanest Muthrs' in the Valleymen who could never tell their story because very few knew of their existence at the time, and took a vow of silence to protect this country's vital interest in Vietnam, and because they served and answered to the President. They were the Green Beret and their true story is yet to be heard.

Please contact me for more information.

- David J. Cooley, Rapid City, SD


ROTC at South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota.

- Thomas W. Curry, Elk Point, SD


Letter of Commendation 1: On the occasion of your retirement, I wish to commend you on behalf of the President, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations for the many honorable years of service you have given in support of your country. 2. You began your naval career as a construction man. Recruit enlisting on 16 April 1964. Following recruit training at the Naval Training Center, San Diego, you reported to Naval Construction Training Center, Port Hueneme, CA, and graduated from Builder "A" School. In November 1964, you reported to your first command, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion TEN in Port Hueneme, CA, where you completed five tours in Vietnam and Thailand for a total of three years and five months. During these tours you participated in a Marine amphibious landing at Chu Lau, built a base command post at Khe Sanh during the Tet offensive and coordinated construction projects for the Mao tribes in Thailand. Following service in Vietnam you received a split tour at Naval Air Station, Olathe, KS, and Naval Air Station, Fallon, NV. Upon completion of this shore tour you returned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion TEN with deployments to Rota, Spain, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In August 1973, you began studies under the Navy Associate Degree Completion Program at Olympic College in Bremerton, WA. You then reported to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FIVE in Port Hueneme, CA, where you deployed as the Training and Projects Manager at Diego Garcia: and as Rota Detachment Operations Chief at Rota, Spain: and as Embarkation Chief at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. You then reported to Fleet Aviation Specialized Operations Training Group Detachment in Warner Springs, CA, where you served as the Public Works Officer. On 23 November 1981 you reported to the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, Guam, as the Okinawa Battalion Projects Manager, where you managed 150 projects throughout the Philippines, Okinawa, and mainland Japan. As your final tour, Senior Chief Cutschall, you were tasked to establish and develop a Facilities Program for the Naval Communication Station Puget Sound. 3. During your tour of duty as the Command Senior Chief and Facilities Manager, you have repeatedly demonstrated your superior management skills by your ability to manage a blend of personnel, both military and civilian, which resulted in high productivity. Your contribution to this command's mission accomplishment has been truly exemplary. Signed by R W Baker Captain, United States Navy Commanding Officer

- Dennis Ralph Cutschall, Hemet, CA


I served with the fine Marines of K Co. 3rd Battalion 1st Marines in the Quang Tri Province of Vietnam. On February 28, 1968, one day after my 20th birthday, I was on a patrol approaching the village of Hhi Ha with ten other Marines. Approximately 100 yards from the village, we were ambushed, taking intense enemy fire from an estimated 600 to 800 NVA that were in this village. As I tried to crawl to aid a wounded Marine, a bullet passed through the left side of my helmet and grazed the side of my head. I started to crawl again, and a bullet passed through my right side passing through my right lung between my heart and spine and exiting behind my left shoulder. At this point, I was paralyzed from my waist down. I then rolled on my right side were I sustained four more gunshots to my left arm and shoulder. Marines under the leadership of Col. John Regal and Sgt. Major Haywood Riley directed aircraft and fellow Marines to assault the enemy positions. A Navy corpsman by the name of Bob Runge and another Marine crawled to my position and dragged me back under intense enemy fire. As the corpsman was giving me first-aid, enemy mortars started to rain down upon us. Corpsman Runge placed his body on top of mine to shield me from further injury. Corpsman Runge sustained a shrapnel wound to his neck in protecting me. This is but one example of how Marines and Navy Corpsmen take care of Marines. On April 1, 2006, I am returning to Vietnam with 13 of the Marines I served with on this day in 1968. We will travel from Saigon to Hanoi, revisiting the sites of where so many of our finest were killed or wounded.

- Dennis L. Daum, Yankton, SD


Enlisted in military in September 14, 1953.  Joined the Navy December 6, 1968. Retired in June 14, 1995.

- Vernon Willi Davis, Beulah, WY


Dale spent 20 years in the Air Force and enjoyed most of those years. He passed away at the age of 52 on March 5, 1992. During his military career, he was stationed in Japan and Korea before we were married. From there on, we were stationed on American soil. As a married couple, we were stationed at Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; Battle Creek, Michigan; Klamath Falls, Oregon; Johnson Atoll in the Pacific; Chunat AFB; and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. These are the bases I currently remember. He is missed by his family and many friends around the country and in his home of record: Hartford, South Dakota.

- Dale C. Decker, Eagle River, AK


The Years 1968-1970.

Richard Decker

The year 1968 found a young twenty-year-old male attempting to discover the true path to a perfect life. Obstacles seemed to be everywhere: no young lady currently in his life, college direction seemed to be the wrong thing to be doing at the time, and of course, the Vietnam War and the “draft” loomed as a real threat.

I had been brought up in a conservative family based on Midwest farm ethics. One of these ethics that would come into play was that everything worth having had to be earned. The obvious was a “day’s work for a day’s pay”, but the crucial driving thought was that what we have to enjoy as a country and government was fought for and preserved by the citizens of each generation. There was an inherent responsibility to respond when the country was threatened (either perceived or real).

The final but subtle force that drives some young men is a nagging question that wonders when the chips are down and your options are limited to only your survival skills against deadly threat, could you cut it?

When the opportunity to volunteer for a two-year hitch in the Army, it seemed to be the right decision at the time. Of course, my having two years of college would probably keep me out of the infantry and I would end up as a clerk somewhere.

The Army had other plans. I was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington for basic training and a whole battery of tests. Again, I thought they could find some use for my talents and worked very hard at taking the tests.

After basic training, I was sent to the Advanced Infantry Training course at Fort Lewis. Boy, was I surprised. I settled into the training realizing that the knowledge could save my life someday and I had to look out for myself. During the training, the Army gave me an opportunity to volunteer to go to Noncommissioned Officers School and learn how to be a Sergeant and a leader of men. I thought about it for about five minutes and respectfully declined. I figured taking care of myself was enough responsibility.

The next thing I knew, I was on the way to Fort Benning, Georgia for NCO school and the honor of taking a good portion of the Ranger School Training for our education. While in training, I was again given the opportunity to further my education in that I had tested out into a slot at West Point. The Army usually picks out a few enlisted men each year to join the Cadets. This one I accepted and after going to Fort Lewis as training NCO for Infantry, I went home and awaited orders. I received a call from a Colonel and he regretfully informed me that I would not be going to West Point because I would be too old when I graduated. Instead, my orders were to report to Vietnam. All the suppressed thoughts of "kill or be killed" and "survive or perish" came flooding back.

My first impressions of Vietnam were not good. We were transported to a receiving area and set up in large tents with bunks and mattresses. You had to walk on old pallet sidewalks to keep from sinking into the sand and the smell was so unlike anything I had smelled before. It was almost nauseating. As we were walking to our first meal in the mess tent, we walked by an elderly lady squatted down washing the cooking dishes with sand and a bamboo brush. She was also chewing betel nuts and spitting the residue onto the same sand she was using to clean with.

After a short time in this location, we were assigned to our units and shipped over for indoctrination. I was assigned to the First Calvary Division, Airmobile. After drawing gear, we were assigned to our actual units and I drew Charlie Company, 1/8th which was an infantry company that worked in company strength in a free fire zone to deny the enemy access to the area in question. In some ways that was good because no civilians lived in the area or were allowed to travel though, so we didn’t have the identity problems that the troops that worked around the villages had.

We were in the field for weeks and carried all our supplies on our backs or wherever we could think of hooking it to. We were lifted into the different patrol areas by helicopter, which allowed us to be moved where suspected activity was. After being inserted, we were re-supplied every three days by helicopter and they would try to bring us a hot meal for that day. The rest of the time we walked from sunup to sundown, and only stopped for quick meals or when we had enemy contact. At night, each squad was required to secure a part of the perimeter and guard was rotated every two hours.

For a break, sometimes we pulled security duty for an artillery base, which allowed us to have hot meals, cold showers and try to catch up on our mail.

One of the sad things about my service in the infantry was that I never developed any strong friendships. First of all, people came and went very quickly. Secondly, I went over as a Buck Sergeant with responsibilities of at least a squad of men. I was always the one who had to hand out the details and assign point when we were moving. I doubt many of my men knew me by any other name than Sarge.

Living conditions were terrible and the men all had jungle rot, leeches and either malaria or typhus sometime during their stay. During the monsoon season, it rained almost twenty-four hours a day and of course, we were wet all of the time. Hygiene was not entirely possible because of the shortage of purified water.

- Richard Decker, Pierre, SD


I took my training at the Methodist-Kahler School of Nursing. Being associated with the Mayo Clinic, everything involved with the operating room was sterile, sterile, sterile. My first day at the 91st Evac Hospital in Chu Lai, I was shown four ORs that were laid out, one after another, without any doors in between. I watched as the Anesthesiologist checked on one of the Nurse Anesthetist. When asked if he needed anything, the Anesthetist replied, "yeah, I could use a martini". Everyone laughed, but a few minutes later the Anesthesiologist showed up with a martini glass with clear liquid and an olive in it. The Nurse Anesthetist lowered his mask and drank the glass dry, handed it back to the Anesthesiologist and continued with the case. I am sure they could see my jaw drop even with my mask on. Later, I found out it was just water, but the way it was presented was great. The team at Chu Lai were the epitome of the word TEAM. Long before 24/7 was invented, this group of people demonstrated just what caring all the time really was.

- Marsha R. Dede, Sioux Falls, SD


My story is not dramatic. I served my country, which service entailed personal sacrifice. I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy after more than five years of continuous active duty. If permitted, I would serve again. God Bless America.

- James K. DeSaix, Beresford, SD


Highest rank was 3rd Class Fire Control Tech (Gunnery).

- Dean W. Deuel, Aberdeen, SD


Maybe I'll submit a story later.

- Casey C. Deuter, Ree Heights, SD


Born in SD.

- Terrance James Dillman, Lihonia, GA


My son Craig was in the paratroopers in Vietnam the same time I was there in the Marines.

- James R. Doscher, Oceanside, CA


I am the son of a WW II veteran who was and is proud to have served. My military service shaped my life in a positive manner which I have appreciated.

- Michael D. Dotson, Brookings, SD


I did not serve in Vietnamhowever, I did serve during the Vietnam War era.

- Nancy L. Dowding, Rapid City, SD


I had several experiences while in Vietnam, some too hard to mention. On my first assignment in Vietnam, I was sent to Tuy Hoa AB under Operation Turn Key. This was a DOD project to build a fully-operational Air Base in one year. It was accomplished in ten and a half months. My initial job (civilian experience) was to maintain the air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. Most refrigerators and freezers were gasoline engine operated. The Colonel, who was commander of the Support Group, found out I was a trained Club Steward. My dirty job came to an end. I was assigned to the Officer's Club. Great job. I was also an escort for a lot of USO show entertainers, ie. Martha Ray, Chuck Conners, Charlton Heston, Nancy Sinatra and Connie Stevens, to name a few. I also flew as aircrew on a AC-47 gunship/flareship over Pleiku and DaNang, Vietnam. After my tour and reassignment to the States, I was sent back to Vietnam on TDY status to help with flareship duties at Tuy Hoa and Na Trang. Another job I had earlier was as courier on a mail plane that flew out of Saigon, Tan Son Nhut AB. I would carry the Officer's Club bank deposit down to the bank in Saigon. I would look like some young airman going from here to there minding my own business. I would be carrying a paper bag or nap sack that contained $40,000 to $50,000. No one knew what I was carrying except the Club officer and the bank employees. It didn't bother me a bit, but now that I think about it, it's kind of scary. If other guys on the bird knew what I was carrying.....Who knows what could've happened. Oh, another thing of interest........I also know that 11 bottles of Chivas Scotch can get you a new jeep to drive around in. Best car deal I've ever made. My Captain was speechless, but he didn't make me give it back. Of course, I did before I went back to the States.

- James W. Dowding, Rapid City, SD


I was an Aviation Electronics Repairman and I was lucky enough to avoid combat. No one in-country, however, was free from the threat of rockets and mortars delivered regularly in the middle of the night. My first evening in Vietnam, at Cam Rahn Bay, was my initiation to this "custom". I vividly remember the trip from there (Cam Rahn Bay was in the river delta area) to Phu Bai. It was less than a week later when I heard a group of "newbies" like myself was shot down in their helicopter flight to Phu Bai. None survived. Such is fate.

- Antone W. Downing, Aberdeen, SD


How time does fly by! It was just so short time ago (February 1968) that I came back from Vietnam. At this time, the Vietnam War veterans did not see the community "Welcome Home Banners" as our troops do today. Taking a look back, almost everyone who served came home as one individual, not as a unit. I know that I was given a true welcome from my family as most of us where. Yes, we all ran into into neighbors, friends, and veterans who were against the war at the time and seemed to take their protest of it out on us. This is in the past now and it is time for all Vietnam veterans to make sure that our veterans today get the "Welcome Home", "Thanks", and the benefits they deserve. We have done a good job of welcoming out National Guard units back home. Now we have to welcome the ones that come home individually because they are serving on active duty and come back home to the family as we did with no fanfare also. Vietnam veterans, it's our obligation today to look out for our present, future and past veterans to insure they receive the benefits they deserve. I welcome you, if you haven't already, to join at least one veterans' organization. It's a great and easy way to serve yourself and your fellow veterans.

- Russel LeRoy Dramstad, Huron, SD


Three years ago, I met two vets; a chaplain and a sergeant, who as disabled Vietnam vets were touring the country raising interest for the DAV. When I met them, I introduced myself and said that I, too, was a vet. The Chaplin shook my hand and said, "Welcome home and thank you for serving your country." After 30 years I finally heard the words I had been hoping to hear. I finally felt like I was home.

- L. E. Draper, Sioux Falls, SD


I served one year in Vietnam as an ammunition technician. Served at both ASP1 and ASP2 near Red Beach. We supplied the troops with ammo and supplies. A week after I left, the Ammunition Depot was totally destroyed. What I remember most of my time in-country was the overwhelming heat, the poor food, and the nightly attacks on the Ammunition Supply Point. I didn't get a lot of sleep, but I was relatively safe compared to my combat brothers, so I am very grateful for that. Thank you to all the Vietnam vets and to the State of South Dakota for this memorial. It was a long time coming but it means a lot to me and my family.

- Roger D. Dunn, Sioux Falls, SD


Life is a series of memories. During my tour with the United States Air Force I was stationed in Dover, Delaware as an jet engine mechanic for the C-5 aircraft.  But, for the month of July 1976, I was on a 30-day augment guard duty to the base military police. I was fortunate to be on evening guard duty on July 4, 1976. I still treasure the memories of seeing fireworks going up that night on our nation's bi-centennial and my serving my country in guarding those aircraft. The fireworks appeared to explode over the top of the aircraft.

The military provided me with the financial ability to continue my education. Both my wife and I obtained BS degrees from SDSU through use of the GI bill. Most of the benefits I have enjoyed through life have been the result God's blessings on my life and my decision to serve my country.

- Daniel C. Dvorak, Rapid City, SD


My wife and I were together only one and a half years out of our first four years of marriage. Our daughter was six months old when I first saw her.

- Terry J. Eachen, Watertown, SD


I was born in Rapid City, SD and raised in Keystone, SD. Attended RCHS and enlisted in the USMC in 1953. My family (maternal) worked on Mount Rushmore during the 1930s and 1940s. My immediate family are all interred at Keystone Mt. View Cemetery. I served two tours in Vietnam and received two wounds. The second wound was received in the fight for Hue City RVN and I was MedEvaced to Long Beach Naval Hospital,CA (March 5, 1968). I subsequently retired from active duty on l  March 1974. I currently reside in Monroe, NC, however, I have built a new home in Fort Mill, SC. (June 2006).Upon retirement, I graduated from Palomar College in San Marcos, CA and received my BS and MBA from SDSU, San Diego. Upon the death of my wife Beverly in 2003, I moved to Washington DC and am now in NC awaiting the completion of my new home being built in Fort Mill, SC. The Black Hills will always be home to me...Semper Fi.....

- Ronald D. Eckert, Monroe, NC


Served with hotel company 2nd battalion 9th marines as a field radio operator. Was assigned to FAC forward air control.

- Duane Eckert, Pierre, SD


I was on the first ship shot on in the Tonkin Gulf incident.

- Milo P. Eckert, Pierre, SD


Joined SD National Guard as a pilot in September 1971, retiring from the Guard in 2007.

- Francis J. Effenberger, Rapid City, SD


I served five months with 82nd Airborne and then was reassigned to the 1st Infantry Division for four months and then reassigned to the 101st Airborne for three months. I was in-country from July 1969 to July 1970. I spent five months with a recon platoon, four months with a 4.2 mortar battery and three months with a Cobra helicopter battery. I just returned from a three week vacation in Vietnam where I revisited the places I served and even traveled to Hanoi. I went there with a group called Vets With a Mission who build medical clinics that serve the poor. It was a worth-while experience. I can't wait to go again.

- Charles D. Eggebraaten, Indio, CA


Was born in South Dakota.

- Harvey Samps Eliason, Salix, IA


On May 31, 1969, I was the door gunner on a UH1D Huey helicopter. We were sent to pick up a Special Forces team southwest of Khe Sanh. As we were on short final approach to pick up a two-man team, we started to receive a large amount of small arms fire. As the pilot started to pull power, he was hit in the left forearm. No longer able to pull collective pitch, the aircraft was going to crash nose-first very hard. At that time, the co-pilot pulled back on the cyclic stick, changing the attitude of the aircraft, and the crash changed from a nose-first crash to a belly-flop type of crash, saving the lives of all on board. After the aircraft crashed and thrashed itself to death, it was lying on its left side. I was on the right-side gun. As I stood up and was getting out of the crash, I could hear rounds hitting all around us and cracking through the air. I found my M-16 in the wreckage and jumped out and made an attempt to hold off the advancing enemy. As I looked back at the crash, I saw the co-pilot's door open and he rolled out. I saw that his face was banged up real bad. With rounds still hitting all around us, he pulled the pilot and others from the crash, once again saving lives without thinking of his own safety. Shortly after that, our chase ship dropped off two Special Forces members and they helped get us together and set up a good perimeter. There were other aircraft in the area and some came to our aid and got us all out alive. The co-pilot that saved lives that day, I am proud to say, was also a native of South Dakotathe former state pilot that lost his life with Governor Mickelson, Dave Hansen. How I wish he could be with us for this dedication.

- James M. Elkins, Watertown, SD


I served during a war/conflict in which to be in the military was a disgrace. Those of us who served were looked down upon. I fortunately did not have to go to Vietnam. I show no physical battle scars. It took years to have a good feeling about serving when I did. I now take pride having served my country. My heart goes out to those who served in Vietnam, to those who lost their lives, to those whose lives are forever changed, and to the families that have suffered loss; May God Bless.

- Ernest L. Elliott, Inver Grove Heights, MN


I spent all of 1967 and part of 1968 in Vietnam. I was proud to serve my country. Upon my return, I learned quickly that there were individuals who did not understand that serving my country made me feel proud. What disappointed me most was that the veterans in other wars deserted the Vietnam vets. This, to me, was unconscionable. Subsequently, I joined the Vietnam Veterans of America and learned that there were thousands who were treated the same way. I readily adopted their belief: "Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another."

- Michael J. Elsberry, Herreid, SD


Shortly after arriving in Guam, I was stationed as a sentry in a isolated area of Anderson Air Force Base. On a lonely night, I heard a faint roar that continued to grow louder. Since I was new to the base, I could not tell what it was or where it was coming from since there was a huge cliff on one side of the area from which the roar was coming. It was not until the roar cleared the top of the cliff that I could finally see it was a group of B-52 Bombers returning from a successful night time bomb run on North Vietnam. I finally found out that the "roar" I heard was from the eight jet engines on the giant B-52s.

- Ronald Leo Ensenbach, Yankton, SD


When I was wounded in Vietnam, I was carried out of the field to the dust by my friend Dennis Foell from South Dakota. He now works for the SD Division of Veteran Affairs in Pierre SD. I credit him with helping to save my life; we keep in touch even to this day.

- Donel T. Erickson, Albuquerque, NM


I am very proud to have served. Our country needed volunteers and we stepped up to the challenge. The aircraft carrier on which I was stationed made eight combat deployments to the Gulf of Tonkin, two of which I was privileged to be a part of. Long months were spent at Yankee Station launching innumerable strike missions. Our ship's performance won her two Navy Unit Commendation Awards. I will never forget the many hours of hard work involved in bringing an aircraft carrier to life and making it a powerful fighting ship as well as a secure home for sailors away from home.

- Glenn R. Erlenbusch, Sioux Falls, SD


The 69th Engineer Battalion was formed in Texas where all of the personnel and equipment was brought together over a period of about a year and then everything was shipped to Vietnam. I was a heavy equipment mechanic for the battalion, building helicopter pads and causeways in the rice paddies around the Can Tho and Vung Tau areas.

- Robert R. Ernst, Glenham, SD


I remember the smells. The local Vietnamese were hired to work inside some of the fire bases. One job was cleaning latrines. They would pull the half-barrel out from under the seat then add a little jet fuel or diesel and burn the feces etc. What a smell!!

- Max M. Evans, Lewis Center, OH


The year 1968 began with a mixture of hope and worry. I would graduate from Northern State College with majors in math and business, but I was worried about the draft. The draft board made it clear that I was on their list to start a journey through hell. In the spring, my mom died in an automobile accident. Shortly after this experience, the draft board advised me that I was in their sights to be drafted within a short time and advised me not to take a permanent job. The short time lasted until December 1968 when I was drafted. On December 11, 1968, I went through the spread the check ceremony and was welcomed into the US Army as a foot soldier. Basic training resulted in the Army selecting me for the Infantry. After Infantry training, the Army sent me to the Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) training at Fort Benning, GA. After the shake and bake, my orders were to train the next class of NCO candidates. As each selection was made, I realized the skids were greased. I was going to Vietnam, where I would experience nearly a year of life in hell. In December 1969, I shipped out on a big bird to Vietnam, arriving at TonSonNhut just prior to Christmas. At the processing base, Long Binh, the Army assigned me to the 9th Inf. Div. A short trip in a cargo plane dropped me at Tan An for processing with the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Inf. Div. I celebrated Christmas and went through the important processing for NCOs. A jeep delivered me to Rach Kien where I joined the 5th of the 60th Bn. Assigned to Bravo Co., the 1SG (TOP) introduced me to two soldiers from South Dakota leaving the country (in my training and service, there were only two other soldiers from South Dakota that I met).

New Year's Eve was spent with these GIs playing buck-ucker and getting advice on how to survive. As we played cards, a racial fight between the whites, hispanics and blacks broke out around us. Fortunately, the MPs arrived before there was any damage to any of us. On New Year's Day, 1970, I convinced TOP to get me out of the base to my unit. I was deposited by helicopter with the first platoon to learn the ropes. Walking point, inspecting houses and bunkers, setting up ambushes, finding booby traps, and disarming the booby traps and learning radio procedures, etc. became my basis on which to survive. After a couple of weeks, I was transferred to the 3rd platoon and assigned the position of platoon sergeant. Now, I continued to experience the sinking feeling of combat. The dead enemy soldiers laying in grotesque positions, my men dying and suffering horrible wounds and the constant fear took me to the impersonal depths of war. I withdrew from wanting to know the men personally. I only wanted to know their skills and abilities to help with my platoon's survival. In the later part of April 1970, Tricky Dick, the Commander-in-Chief, decided to kick the butts of the North Vietnamese one last time and then Vietnamize the war. As a result, my unit participated in the assault into Cambodia. Shrapnel from a B40 rocket found me on May 9, 1970, removing me from this Cambodia campaign. After recuperating and going on R&R to Australia, I returned to my unit in an operation near CuChi in the Hobo Woods where my unit experienced the Viet Cong tunnel system. It seems like the VC had the ability to appear and then as if by magic, disappear.

The Vietnamization lead to the 9th Inf. colors going home, but my men and I were reassigned to other units. Going through the reassignment at DiAn, the Army ripped me away from my men and sent me to the 1st Calvary Division. Deposited by helicopter at my unit's base camp, I was assigned to special missions. Finally, I was assigned to my platoon in the field operating in the jungle north and east of Saigon. Again, I was assigned the position of Platoon Sergeant. During the reassignment, I removed the medical shot records which showed that I went on R&R to Australia. Then, about 45 days prior to the end of my year, I applied for another R&R to Bangkok. I seemed to have a feeling that I needed to do this to survive. The removal of the shot records worked, I received permission to go on R&R, and because of the lack of shot records, I was ordered back to the base for all shots and the new shot record. On returning from Bangkok, orders were waiting for me to go home. I requested permission to go back into the field to visit with my unit before I left. I wanted to do this because my men were ambushed when I was gone and some of my men died and a number of my men were wounded. I was not allowed to make this final trip to say good-bye. Again, I was torn apart from my men, but this time, I was deposited on an airplane leaving Vietnam. Thirty-six years later the smells, the sounds, feelings and experiences of Vietnam are as real today as it was in 1969 and 1970. I was fortunate to have the experience to serve with the Infantry and survive. I think I served with the best men in the military, the infantry soldiers of Vietnam! I have nothing but respect for the men I served with. I will never understand why I survived as well as I did and why others died, others suffered disfiguring and horrible wounds and others suffered mentally to the point where they are partially or completely disabled.

- Dennis David Evenson, Clear Lake, SD


I thank God for those who served in Vietnam and all the other wars this country has fought to keep us safe and free. In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

- Jeffrey L. Falin, Rapid City, SD


The very first time I saw Vietnam was when my ship was approaching DaNang Harbor in the wee hours of the morning. It was still dark and as we were along the coast close to shore. I saw a flare pop and light up the hillside and all hell broke loose. Tracer bullets were going in both directions and explosions were going off. This lasted for a few minutes then stopped. I knew then that this was Vietnam and the real war. When we anchored in DaNang Harbor, we had sailors with rifles patrolling the decks and boats in the water circling the ship, dropping concussion grenades in the water to deter any would-be swimmers who might try to attach an explosive device to our ship. We carried an Admiral and his staff aboard our ship which would have made it a good target. The hospital ship Sanctuary was anchored nearby, and it had constant activity with Huey helicopters bringing in the wounded for treatment. The fact that we were at war in Vietnam set in for real at this time.  I knew I would be seeing and experiencing more things in the future...which I did.

- Terrill R. Ferrie, Sioux Falls, SD


Born in Sioux Falls then moved to California in 1967 after graduating from SDSU.

- David M. Ferrin, Fort Collins, CO


The day I got married, I went to the State Bank of Alcester to get money for our honeymoon trip to Canada. As I went in the bank, a friend of mine came in also and we walked up to the counter. We visited for a while about what we were doing. He said he was done with ROTC and was going to his duty station. I forget where it was. We started to look around the bank to see where the clerks were. All of the lights were on and the safe was standing open. Then, the bank owner and a loan officer came in and said "Hello" to us and sat down at their desks. After a few minutes, they looked at us, and then at each other, and said, " Are you the only people in here?" We told them that we had been there for maybe twenty minutes and hadn't seen anyone. It turned out that the person who opened up, thought someone else was there so he went back home. The other person with me was Arvid Thormosgard. It was the last time I ever saw him. His name is on the wall.

- DeLane E. Fickbohm, Alcester, SD


During my tour in Vietnam, I was assigned as a Port Operations Officer at the US Army Terminal, Newport. This transportation facility was just up river from the city of Saigon and was on the Saigon River. This facility had been constructed by the US Army and during my tour (15 March 1972 - 16 February 1973), it was the largest and most important military port facility in Vietnam. During my tour, we were involved in the mass movement of used military equipment out of the country, the mass movement of new equipment into country for the South Vietnamese Army, and the turn-over of all our port facilities and equipment to the South Vietnamese government. I was part of the last remaining US Army personnel to leave South Vietnam after the 1973 Cease Fire Agreement.

- William F. Flannery, Des Moines, Iowa


I was 17 when I joined the US Navy in March 1970. I was given orders to the USS Alamo LSD-33 after bootcamp in San Diego, California. The USS Alamo LSD-33 was home-ported in Long Beach, California. We deployed for a 90-day turn-around to bring Marines and equipment out of Vietnam and ended up staying over there for 11 months my first West Pac. I remember seeing the B-52 bombers slamming the beaches with a lighting storm of bomb barrages. We were approximately 30 miles off the beach and we would sweep three inches of sand off the ship during morning sweepers. I remember the helicopters would fly in swarms of all different sizes of hellos, like a swarm of bees. At night, you would see them engage the enemy with red tracer rounds. The Vietnamese used green tracer rounds and would fire back at the choppers. It was quite a light show. There were always parachute flairs being fired on the beach. Most were white, but occasionally some were red. Sometimes they were followed by tracer fire. I spent nearly three years out of a four-year enlistment in Vietnam. I came back to South Dakota in March 1974. After an 11 year break from the service, I went back into the US Navy and served during Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and War on Terrorism. With two stars on my national defense ribbon, I decided to retire. I retired from the Navy July 2005 and I am back home in South Dakota.

- Peter L. Fleming, Hermosa, SD


I served in Vietnam with pride.  When I got back to the States, my pride was lost for years.  I covered the fact that I was a veteran of that war.  But now, I have no fears of what I did over there.  I am now blind and glad that I served my country.  Thank God for the United States and the people that defend it. 

- Larry James Folkerts, Sioux Falls, SD


I flew in support of Vietnam in-country for almost two years.

- Dale R. Fonken, Willow Lake, SD


I was inducted in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on 2/12/1969 after graduating from Langford High in 1966. I completed Basic Training and Combat Infantry Training in Fort Polk, Louisiana. In August, after a month of leave, I shipped out to Vietnam where I spent one year to the day. I was in combat for the first nine months, ducking bullets and flying shrapnel. I spent every night in the field sleeping on the ground with my rifle on my chest and my boots on my feet. Within the first three months in the field, I was one of the most senior men left. Everyday in Vietnam was eventful, and some 35 years later, I can still recall most every day whether it was a positive or negative experience. I remember my buddies and especially Dennis Hill from Reading, Pennsylvania. He and I made a truce that we would see each other through everyday and make it back home NOT in a pine box. From reports from buddies, he and I both made it back to the US without any missing or damaged body parts. I have never been able to locate him. One of the things I remember most are my friends and relatives that used to send me letters keeping me informed about the news back home. The first and most important helicopter to arrive in the field was the one carrying the mail. I will always remember my 21st birthday and the cake my mother made and sent to me. My unit happened to be on Hill 411 for a few days and my cake arrived on my 21st birthday. She had baked it, placed it in a plastic bag and filled the bag with popcorn. Everyone in my squad celebrated with me and we ate that special cake and the packing. I would like to thank all my comrades for serving and fighting for our Great Country. I Love the USA! Robert M. Foote, SP4 US Army ’69-‘71

- Robert M. Foote, Whittier, CA


My story is short. My father had 13 family members and out of the 13 there were nine boys. Out of the nine boys, there were seven that served in the service for their country, all for a period of three to four years.

My dad's brother had 13 family members also. Out of the 13, ten were boys. Out of the ten boys, I believe six to eight of them served in the military for periods that vary from three years to some that retired. Also, one of them gave up his life in Vietnam for his country. I am very proud of our two families and everyone else should be also. Thanks,

- Ronald E. Fortin, Glendale, AZ


Entered the US Navy 1961 and  left April 1966. Served two years Helonlisbron HS-10 Emerial Beach, CA at Ream Field. Transferred to HS-2 at Ream Field, CA. Went to sea aboard the USS Hornet, where we were deployed off the coast of Vietnam. In Sept 1965, in Helicopter Squadron, went on rescue missions for downed pilots. When the USS Hornet went for R&R, we flew to the USS Sacramento, then on to the USS Kitty Hawk, where our squadron went on to fly rescue missions. Got back to the States in March. Received my honorable discharge in April 1966. I would like to acknowledge my parents, Lester and Corriene Fortin, for their contribution as out of nine boys, seven of us served in the military, all honorably discharged.  Three served in Vietnam, one in Korea, one in Hawaii, one in Germany, one in the USA. Thanks, mom and dad, for raising 13 kids.

- James D. Fortin, Springdale, AR


I was a small unit engineer leader in Vietnam. Not much is said about the work we did there. Our job was to build roads and bridges. Our soldiers worked tirelessly to build roads that would be the envy of any state under conditions that most construction companies are unfamiliar with. I learned a lot and am proud of what we accomplished.

- Ronald A. Frary, Chamberlain, SD


When President Kennedy was shot, because I was in the radio group, it was my job to deliver the message to the sister ships and the admiral onboard. It was the middle of the night, and we were half way between Hawaii and here coming back.

- Stephen L. Fredrickson, Groton, SD


Each year, I sponsor an entry in the Phoenix Veteran's Day Parade to remember the contributions and sacrifices of the Vietnam War Dog and all the canines that have served in the military.

- James M. Frost, Phoenix, AZ


I entered the Navy flight program two years after graduating from the SD School of Mines and Technology when the Sturgis Draft Board notified me my number was coming up. I didn't want to be a grunt, so I asked the Navy what they had and ended up in Pensacola, Florida. It was a small world. A few weeks after arriving in Pensacola, I was in the gym and saw a face that looked very familiar. However, I figured Bob Pederson from Sioux Falls, who I went to the School of Mines with, wouldn't be crazy enough to do this. Turns out, he was thinking the same thing about me. We relived a few old times, our wives met, and we all became life-long friends. I followed Bob through training and eventually, my squadron relieved his squadron in Saigon. We felt guilty that we lived in a hotel on the river front, and came back each night to a bed and hot shower, but we lived with it. Bob got out, and I stayed in and later returned to Vietnam on the USS Kitty Hawk.

- Donald R. Gapp, Coronado, CA


I entered the Air Force in 1971 as an air freight specialist, fully expecting that I would wind up in Na Trang or some other aerial port operation in Vietnam. To my surprise, I wound up assigned to Norton Air Force Base, CA. The closest I came to the war was trans-shipping supplies (and unfortunately) the remains of some of our war dead. It was a sobering enough reminder of the tragedy that war can bring.

- Robert D. Garcia, Rapid City, SD


I hated every minute that I was in the Army. I now look back and can see that I also had a lot of fun, but I don't want to do it again.

- James W. Geditz, Selah, Washington


When I arrived in Vietnam on my first tour, I was assigned to the engineer battalion responsible for maintaining the heliport at An Khe, then base camp for the 1st Air Cav Division. The heliport was home of the division's hundreds of helicopters and had the nickname 'the golf course'. It earned its nickname by its appearance, with lush green grass and gently rolling treeless small hills. The morning following a particularly long duration rocket and mortar attack that was concentrated on the heliport, our First Sergeant greeted us as we stood around the neat hole in a pad that had taken a hit from an 82mm mortar round with the pronouncement that "we provide the greens keeping, but Charlie reset the pins overnight."

- Carl H. Gehring, Harker Heights, TX


While in Vietnam, I sent a request to our governor for a South Dakota flag to be flown in Vietnam. About two weeks later, I received the flag and was very proud to let it fly in the skies of Vietnam!!

- Richard C. Geraets, Sioux Falls, SD


I served in the SDARNG from October 5, 1959 to March 15, 1968. While the Vietnam "police action" was under way in 1961, bigger headlines where emanating from Europe. I must confess that none of us had heard of Vietnam when our company was loaded onto a troop train and shipped to Fort Lewis, WA in the fall of 1961. My active duty service lasted for 13 months.

In the summer of 1961, President Kennedy was challenged by the Soviets, who began construction of the Berlin Wall as a ploy to get the Allies to “deal with” a divided Berlin. On July 25, Kennedy put the military on alert and in short order, obtained congressional authorization to call up of 250,000 Guardsmen and Reservists for 12 months. Army and Air Guard units were activated in the fall of 1961. A total of 40 Air Guard squadrons containing 21,000 personnel were mobilized. Within 30 days of mobilization, 22 squadrons had deployed to Europe. In early October, 44,317 Army Guard soldiers were ordered to active, federal service. Wisconsin’s 32nd Infantry Division was stationed at Fort Lewis. My unit, along with a Wyoming combat engineer battalion, was stationed there in a supporting role.

Of course, the details of the Vietnam War played out over the next 14 years, ultimately dominating our national consciousness. It is perhaps a coincidence that those of us who served during the Berlin Crisis are included with those who served during the Vietnam conflict. But we served nonetheless in a nuclear era and had no idea what lay ahead when we pulled out of Lemmon on that troop train. Military service is like that. We were lucky.

Some from our company later served in Vietnam. I believe they all made it back.

- David A. Gerdes, Ft. Pierre, SD


Served with Bravo 1/1 1Marine Division, MOS 0311 infantry, OJT to H&S Co. 1/1 1st Marine division as a bat. armoror. Served with the 1/1 1st Mar. Division Super Squad, infantry Competition for one year and competed in the Marine Corps wide infantry competition in Quantico, Virginia, and received third place. Honorably discharged as a Sgt. with three certificates of Commendation on 30 November 1973.

- Cary J. Gill, Lusk, WY


I joined the Army after high school, inspired by my uncles who served during WWII. I volunteered for airborne training and duty in Vietnam. Six weeks into my tour, I lost both legs from a land mine explosion. It was an honor to serve my country.

- Lloyd J. Gill, Sioux Falls, SD


From the hills of South Dakota to the skies of Vietnam, I volunteered to fight for the freedom of strangers. I stayed a total of 22 months straight. I fought, I bled, I watched my friends die for others' freedom. 3,500 hours of combat, Huey's, and months of sweat. The price others paid was higher and I appreciate them all. I began as a private and finished as a Captain, covering enlisted, warrant officer and commissioned officer on the way. My country and its freedoms are still dear to me and worth fighting for and even dying for. May God bless these United States and the greatest of them, South Dakota.

- Norman R. Goeringer, Deadwood, SD


I am not a hero by any means. I went where "Uncle" sent me. I was a lucky one (so they say) to have made it back to the land of the big PX. Life hasn't been easy by any means since I returned from "Nam". To exist, I have built a secure wall around myself these past thirty years, determined that no one would again hurt me. After some time, a wonderful woman who is the mother of our three grown and loving children came into my life. She is my soul mate and without her, I would be totally lost. I am told that I represent one of the 'so-called' normal veterans who was able to get on with his life. The trouble is that no one knows my inner state of existence so they cannot see the anguish that takes place on a daily basis. I thank my mother for getting us to church and Sunday school as children because if it wasn't for this background, the evil would surely win over the good. Like many of my fellow soldiers of the time, I may not carry any battle scars on the outside but please try to understand the daily struggle and conflict that lies within me. I am thankful to my Lord and God for keeping me out of harm's way.

- Larry J. Goette, Rosholt, SD


I am disabled with PTSD and have a shoulder injury. I also have a heart-associated illness because of the PTSD. I was in Vietnam just before the Treaty and the coming home of the POWs. I was also in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon.

- Dennis Gosnell, Solon, IA


Service Record: Vietnam 1972-1973, Desert Storm 1990-1991. Joined the Army for three years from 1971-1974, Basic Training in Fort Lewis, Washington, AIT-Military Occupation School at Fort Gordon Signal School, Georgia. Graduated as Communication Center Specialist-Teletype/Crypto Operator. Unit: US Army Special Security Group, Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Department of the Army, (Military Intelligence Unit). Indoctrinated into the unit at the Pentagon, Washington, DC with Top Secret Crypto Security Clearance. As a 71B-teletype/crypto operator we did the “Black Books” and “Eyes Only” message traffic for Corps Commanders (Generals in charge of 100,000 troops). In Vietnam, I was in Saigon for a month, then for 11 months at Can To- Megong Delta region. After Vietnam, I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas for one and a half years. Enlisted rank Sgt. Joined the South Dakota National Guard, 153rd Engineer Battalion, Company B at Madison, SD in 1974. Was in the National Guard from 1974 to 2001 when I retired at the rank of Major.

- Darrel B. Goth, Madison, SD


I am very pleased to see that we are going to have a Vietnam Memorial after all these years. I am only sad for the fallen soldiers who will not take part in these fantastic festivities. Of all the fallen soldiers, there is one in particular that I wish could be here. My brother, Michael F. Gramlick, U.S. Marine Corps, in-country at the same time as I was there. We were stationed ten miles apart. He was at Marble Mountain and I was at Red Beach. He was shot down and killed in action. I finished my tour and went home alone. I pray for all of our brave soldiers who did not return home alive.

- Gregory L. Gramlick, Sioux Falls, SD


I was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, so I consider myself a South Dakotan who served.

- Gary Thoma Green, Tampa, FL


I don't have too many stories to share, but just memories of friends and comrades. There was a closeness that few know or understand; we were close as brothers and knew each other for only a short time. We took care of each other and watched each other's backs. This time was special in my life. Governor Daugaard, Thank you, for finally paying tribute to those who lived, served, died and have been forgotten until now.

- Douglas E. Greenwood, Sioux Falls, SD


While awaiting orders to ship over to Vietnam, I married the girl I loved. We were both poisoned by carbon monoxide at the new motel we were staying at. I awoke from a coma a week later to find out that my new bride had died on our wedding night, and I was barely alive, beyond explanation. After staying at military hospitals for eight months, I was temporarily retired and they would not ship me overseas, despite my desire to go. I was permanently discharged and retired in 1971 due to severe injuries received.

- Anthony F. Grieshaber, Watertown, SD


Service death connected to Agent Orange.

- David Allen Grimlie, Astoria, SD


Prior to going to Vietnam, I was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Fort Riley, Kansas, and after I returned from Vietnam, I was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

When we left Fort Riley, we went by train to San Diego, California. We boarded the USSN General Wiegel at San Diego, our heavy equipment was loaded aboard there and went with us.

After I arrived in Vietnam, I was at Long Bihn, then shortly after that, we were camped at Bien Hoa. We were sent to Gia Ray for awhile, and the last few months I was at Vung Tau, a rock crusher sight.

I was with the Australians and New Zealanders for a while. They drank cold coffee and boiled their bacon in water. Most of them played guitar.

One time, we went out on a mission and planned to be back the next day.  However, due to hostile fire, we were out in the field 30 days before we returned. A shower and clean clothes were a priority.

During the time I was in Vietnam, I was stationed with many of the guys that I went to AIT with, so I had many friends with me over there.

We had a donkey and that was our mascot. The donkey went to Vietnam and returned home shortly after my return. There was a big write up about it.

When I left Vietnam, it was 114 degrees in the shade.  When we stopped in Japan, it was 40 degrees and raining. When we arrived in California, it was around 70 degrees. The biggest chill was when we landed in Pierreit was 23-30 degrees and there was a lot of snow. It took a few days to get adjusted to the cold weather.

After we returned from Vietnam, I was stationed at Fort Sill, and we went to the base about 7:30 a.m. and were done by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. It was about like a regular job. Several of my friends were stationed there, also. My wife, Nila, was with me except for the time I spent in Vietnam and basic training.

I remain in contact with some of my Army buddies. We made a lot of friends and overall, it was a good life experience for the most part.

- Richard C. Groft, Redfield, SD


On the fifth day of working the Main Gate at the Air Force Base, I stopped an Army Military Vehicle to check IDs. The driver turned out to be a person who had lived in Platte and moved to Washington in his senior year. We were great friends and fishing buddies before he left. It was such a great feeling having someone else around who knew me and someone to talk to. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life when we first saw each other. We were 8,000 or more miles from home, but still together.

- Michael L. Gropper, Blue Springs, MO


Submitted in memory of Verdean Gross.  Verdean was a very active and devoted life member of the "Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1776" in Huron, SD. Verdean continued to serve veterans and their families up until the time of his death.

- Donald P. Gross, Spearfish, SD


As I look back to the reasons why I enlisted, it was because my dad had served in the Navy with the Seabees in WWII. I knew it would make him proud that I would follow his footsteps. The problem that I had was that he was in a war knowing what he did was necessary and everyone else did too. My generation fought in a war that we did not understand and when we came home, we were demonstrated against, yelled at, spit on, and called all sorts of names. We had no justification, no heroes, and no treatment for the wounds that no one could see. We tried to figure out the reasons in our heads, but many of us, unable to deal with the reality of what we did and what we saw, did the only logical thing, to go on with our lives.  We stored it in the back of our minds, deep inside where no one could see, and didn't want to talk about it. Some felt ashamed, some bitter, and some buried it so deep that they withdrew from the world around them and have never been able to reenter. I have learned from the bitter experience I had in Vietnam how important it is to question authority. The Vietnam War destroyed the trust I had in my government, which I now see not necessarily as evil, but as poor judgment of a few. It is sad that we are victims of the economic interests that exert so much control over our livesrendering some of us superfluous and often thousands of us dead. Things still haven't changed today. The thing that bothers me the most is that the people who decided to fight were never there and will probably never know what it is to kill a man, or feel pain and suffering from hunger and the absence of love. In war, every minute you are fearing for your life because the only thing you have in your mind is that if you don't kill first you are going to get killed. Our country is supposed to be made up of Christians, but yet most are just church-goers. They do not seem to realize that there is nothing worse in this world than killing a man who you know has a family, and destroying their future. Sad, it is very sad, but it is the truth, and it turns more complex when you realize that you were part of that truth. In closing, things are the same today, fighting a war so a few can gain a monetary gain, and the government endorses it with the lives of the future. This dedication brings back the memories that I have tried for 25 years to forget !

- Johnnie J. Guindon, Plankinton, SD


I have a lot of good and not-so-good memories of my tour of duty in Vietnam. It gave me the opportunity to know and work with a lot of great people. After getting out of the Air Force in 1972, I joined the SD Air National Guard and was fortunate enough to get hired on full-time as a Air Tech. I retired in June 2004 with 34 years military service.

- Robert A. Gundeson, Sioux Falls, SD


David H. Hansen was born July 11, 1947, in Plankinton, SD. After completing a two-year carpentry course at Southern State College in Springfield, SD, he entered the U.S. Army in 1968, taking basic training at Fort Polk, LA. Upon completion of basic training and Helicopter Aviation School at Fort Wolters, TX, and Fort Rucker, AL, he received his orders for Vietnam. In May 1969, he was shot down one mile southwest of Khe Sahn on a mission to extract troops. Despite serious injuries that kept him grounded for two months, he remained in Vietnam to finish his tour.

Upon returning to the U.S. in February 1970, he had attained the rank of CW2. His later service in the South Dakota Army National Guard brought him to the rank of CW3. He joined the South Dakota Highway Patrol on October 8, 1973. After 17 years in law enforcement, he left the Patrol as a sergeant and became a pilot with the SD Department of Transportation.

On April 19, 1993, Hansen was killed in a plane crash near Dubuque, IA. His fellow pilot, Ron Becker, South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson, and five other South Dakotans were also killed.

David's family includes his wife Diane and two daughters, Kristi and Cathy.

- The family of David H. Hansen


Our unit was direct support for the B52 at Utapio AFB, Thailand. We hauled all sizes of bombs to the B52s for delivery to Vietnam.

- Dennis L. Hansen, Dell Rapids, SD


While in the Navy, I served with the Marines and was Hospitalman 3rd Class.

- Russel M. Hansen, Wichita, KS


I was one of eight officers and sixteen enlisted men who took the first four CH-37B, the US Army's largest helicopter, by MSTS ship from Inchon, Korea to Saigon, Vietnam. I was a pilot with the two helicopters stationed at Vung Tau, and the other two were stationed at Na Trang. Our sole mission was to airlift downed helicopters back to a base for restoration/repair.

- Lloyd M. Hardy, Rapid City, SD


Our wing was part of unit move to establish Tuy Hoa Air Force Base, which was the first base (according to the Air Force Museum documentation) built by civilian contractors. When we arrived, a mountain of tents and a PSP runway was there, and we set up tents and bunkers to protect them. When we left, there was a fully established base. Our munitions squadron supported the F-100 fighter squadron by supplying bombs, napalm, bullets, etc. After leaving Vietnam in December 1968, I stayed in the Air Force until Jan 1969. After completing college in 1971, I rejoined the Air Force (this time as an officer), where I was part of a B-52 flight crew for 11 years. I served in multiple capacities in the Air Force after that, eventually retiring as a LtCol in 1994.

- Edward J. Hargens, Mina, SD


I served in Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division from September 1969 to February of 1970. While there, I was a platoon leader of a medical platoon caring for soldiers' medical needs in Pleiku, An Khe, and Bong Son, RVN. In February, 1970, I was sent to the 32nd Medical Depot in Cam Rahn Bay, RVN. I was supply officer of this unit until my ETS.

- John T. Harlow, East Moline, IL


I was a registered pharmacist upon entering the U.S. Army to fulfill my ROTC commitment. I was assigned temporary duty at the Fort Gordon Army Hospital and served there for 18 months until my discharge.

- Melvin H. Harris, Rapid City, SD


Welcome home, big brothers, from 'little sis'! I am president of the Nebraska Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Highwasy 83, and through my Veterans Music Ministry, I sing "Welcome Home" belatedly, and hand out healing heart medals at traveling 'walls' biker rallies and runs, tributes, and Vietnam vet reunions. I'm looking forward to meeting you in Pierre. Monica Harvey, Stapleton NE www.veteransmusicministry.com www.veteransmemorialhighway83.com.

- Monica M. Harvey, Stapleton, NE


Unfortunately, none of my experiences in Vietnam were pleasant. I would rather not talk about it.

- Charles W. Hay, Sturgis, SD


It was a sunny, bright day and I was surrounded by pineapple plants and banana trees heavy with fruit.  Flowers were in full bloom, and for a moment, I thought I was in Heaven on Earth. Suddenly, shots rang overhead and hit the dirt, ready for action. Reality sunk in that I was not in Heaven and that I had gone to another country to help them stay free. I thought, "God, I wish I could taste my mom's cookies just one more time. God, get me through this moment for another day."

- James A. Heilman, Denver, CO


The highest rank I obtained was Engineman 2d Class (E5).

- Rodney L. Heiman, Emery, SD


The weather in Vietnam was always unpredictable, especially during the rainy season. I was with the US Army 156th Ave unit which was part of the Army Security Agency. I was the aerial technical observer with two pilots on this mission which usually lasted about four hours because of fuel capacities. On this particular mission, we were flying near the Gulf of Thailand when a massive storm blocked our return to base. The storm also continued to push us closer to the Gulf. The RU6A "Bucky Beaver" is a single prop aircraft which is not meant to fly over large bodies of water. The pilots kept circling, trying to find an opening in the storm as the plane would not be able to fly over it and we had no place to land. The tension was high in the cockpit as we were not just being pushed over the gulf, but our fuel for the return flight home was becoming quite serious. The idea of going through the storm did not seem like a good idea as the aircraft, though very reliable, would probably not have survived the storm. Just when the options seemed against us, the storm gave us an opening even though it took the aircraft some circling to gain altitude to reach the hole in the storm. We did reach the opening and returned safely to base. How much fuel was left I really don't know and really I did not care to know as we got home safely and had to prepare for the next day's mission.

- Kenneth F. Hejl, Watertown, SD


As said by someone, somewhere... All gave some but some gave ALL. The USS Shangri-La launched air-strike after air-strike after air-strike. For those who gave ALL in-country, I'm sorry we couldn't cover you. For those who gave ALL on the ship, I'm sorry you didn't come back with the rest of us. For those who made it back, I am glad... Welcome Home! Always remember... POW/MIA.

- Dennis J. Hennager, Rapid City, SD


Rod says, "The US government didn't care 30 years ago....so why do they care now?" He cared...he went...he served! He cried then and still cries now!

- Rodney Raymo Henning, Grenville, SD


I joined the Marines to be one of the best. I signed up for four years, guaranteed combat duty for an extra $1500.00 dollars.  It turned out to be about a dollar a daybig bonus. Little did I know what I would or could be in for. I missed going over-seas twice, once to Saigon and once to Okinawa. When I did make it to Okinawa, Saigon had just fallen, and I joined Hotel 2/4, the company that had just evacuated Saigon. I was lucky again. Both times I got lucky. I never did see combat, but through my brother, two tours in Vietnam and other friends and relatives, I realized how much they gave, and they never received the recognition they so deserved. I am and always will be proud of my service to my country, but more proud of what my brother and every Vietnam veteran gave for their service. We were just doing our duty for our country; some people never understood and still don't thanks to all veterans of all times. Sincerely, Sergeant Larry Lee Henry, USMC. I am proud of my dad, Sgt. Nelson G Henry Sr, WW2, and my brother, Spc. 5 Merle A. Henry, Vietnam, We did care.

- Larry Lee Henry, Sioux Falls, SD


Serving in a time of such great unrest as was happening in the 1970s was difficult for many of us. Working on minuteman missiles was a very interesting job, but we all hoped and prayed that they'd never be used. Thankfully, that was the case.

- Timothy F. Hentges, Salem, SD


After three months of patrol-boat river training, I arrived in Saigon. In July, 1967, I took an army convoy to Nha Be with River Sec. 542. After three months, I transferred to Vin Long with River Sec. 535. The river patrol boats were 31 foot by 10 foot wide gun boats made out of fiberglass. With a crew of four, there was a forward gunner, middle gunner, aft gunner and driver. I was the forward twin 50 caliber machine gunner. Our job was to insert and extract Navy SEALS, as well search and destroy. My biggest challenge was during the Tet Offensive in 1968.  We were in Chou Doc on the Cambodian border, working with the Green Berets and Navy SEALS. We came under fire and stayed under fire for the next 36 hours, with only one SEAL member killed in action. By the time my tour was up, I had two boats shot up and one completely destroyed. Out of a four-man gunboat crew, I remained the only survivor. Admiral Zumwalt was quoted as saying that the river gunboat sailors has 70% chance of either being killed or wounded. I rotated back to "the world" in July of 1968. In December of that same year I went back to Vietnam on an aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise (CVAN- 65) off the Hawaiian Islands.  We had a fire on board that killed another 34 of my shipmates. I returned to the States in the summer of 1969 and was discharged in February 1970. The month following discharge, I turned 21.

- Richard Roy Hermann, Fort Pierre, SD


While serving in Vietnam from the years 1967 to 1969, I was assigned to assist physicians and corpsman in the villages that were liberated from the Viet Cong and NVA. The visions of the Vietnamese people who had survived over half a century of internal struggle will remain in my mind and in my heart forever. We, as Americans, should kneel down and thank the Good Lord that we have the privilege and honor to live in this great country.

- William R. Herzog, Las Vegas, NV


I was originally assigned to "B" battery, but when I came in-country, I accidentally got off the Chinook at the wrong LZ. Two months later, "B" battery was overrun by Viet Cong and NVA troops and only one GI survived. (Two, counting me.) God must have a purpose for me yet.

- Ross A. Hickenbotham, Aberdeen, SD


Arrived in Korat, Thailand right before Christmas in l965. Helped set up communications to support the Vietnam War.

- Terrence E. Hickle, Huron, SD


My tour of duty in South East Asia began in October, 1962, when I landed with MCB#3 at Udorn, Thailand. Our job was to move the battalion another 120 miles northeast to the Laotian Boarder and build a airplane runway out of jungle which would land anything the Air Force wanted to land, including cargo jets, combat jets, search and rescue helicopters, etc. I spent the next nine months in the jungle of Jungwat (county) Phanom operating heavy equipment such as caterpillars, bulldozers, scrapers, rollers, and other construction equipment necessary to clear the jungle and develop a base bed for a runway which would sustain the heaviest of Air Force transport planes and fighter jets. We were attacked only once by sappers from Laos (a scant eight miles from the airstrip). We lost three men, one due to accident, one due to illness, and one was captured in Laos, tortured and was murdered. Three Air Force men died when their airplane lost airspeed and crashed in the backyard of the local hospital. I left Thailand July 1963, landed in DaNang, Vietnam, then proceeded on to Kadena AFB in Okinawa.  From there, I headed backed to the USA and back for leave in Pierre, SD where my wife was living. My tour of duty included Adak, Ak, Guantanamo, Cuba, Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and various duty stations in the USA. I spent a total time overseas of 31 months and six days. I was honorable discharged

- Robert M. Hinckley, Pierre, SD


My father served in the Army during World War II. I always felt from very young on that I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps. I also felt it was every young man's duty to serve his country to earn the right to live in a free democracy as we have, and for our families to be able to live free. Little did I know that the news media would help to turn the nation's citizens against the Vietnam vets when we returned and look down on us rather than lift us up. Many sacrificed their all so that you and I can still live free. I was fortunate in that I was not looked down upon on my return to my home in South Dakota.

- Gordon A. Hintz, Mobridge, SD


I served as an Army Chaplain in Vietnam. Although exempt from military service as a clergy, I personally felt that I, along with others, had a responsibility to serve God and country as a clergy in uniform. I never regretted my decision to volunteer for active duty and always appreciated the encouragement of my wife, Wanda, to do what I felt was important to do at that time. The opportunities I had to minister to our people in Vietnam would prove to be unequaled anywhere else I would serve as a civilian pastor.

- John W. Hisel, Webster, SD


I am just happy to say that I came home alive and uninjured. I didn't have to shoot anyone and no one shot me. I am very thankful for the time I served my country and am always proud to be from South Dakota and represent this great state throughout the world.

- Leroy D. Hix, Box Elder, SD


While attached to Delta Battery 2/11, we had just moved to another hill (I believe 65). I was a radio operator, working with fire direction control.  It was either our first or second night at this new location and we started to receive lob bombs and mortars.  There were no bunkers built yet, only metal culvert sections sitting on edge to take shelter behind, as well as the communication bunker, which was already full of those on duty.  Corporal Jeff Brand (from Fargo, ND), and myself decided to take shelter beside a duce and a half that was parked beside a large square-shaped object covered with tarps.  We lifted the tarp to see what we were ducking behind, and saw it was 105 Howitzer ammunition!!  There were rounds and tracers flying all over, so we high-tailed it to one end of the compound.  Once at the far end of the compound, on top of the hill we were on, we crouched behind the brim of dirt, in front of the 105 Howitzers.  There were rounds, and tracers flying all around us, because below the hill was a fire-fight going on between other Marines, ARVN, and Viet Cong and apparently no one knew where the others were located.  Flares began to pop, so we could see if we were under a ground attack coming up the hill.  Only then did Corporal Brand and myself realize we were the only two Marines at the one end of the hill. Corporal Brand had two weeks left, and I had five weeks left.  We looked at each other and argued for about 30 seconds on who was going to look over the brim first, being we were both short-timers.  Ha! We decided we better stop arguing and just do our job and look over the edge (even though we knew our silhouettes would show with the sky lit up.)  Luckily, there was no ground attack at our end.  We were also lucky no stray rounds hit the 105 Ammo we were ducking behind when the attack first started. We laugh about it now, but at the moment, it was “pucker time.”

-Donald D. Hockhalter, Sioux Falls, SD


Graduated from SDSU in August 1967. Went through the ROTC program while in college and entered the military as a 2nd Lt. Assigned as the Battalion Transportation Officer of the 260 QM Battalion during the first year of duty. Served as the Commanding Office of the Headquarters Company during the second year of duty.

- Myron L. Hofer, Rapid City, SD


I grew up with Vietnam. It was a everyday thing. It was always in the news and the number of guys dying over there just kept growing. I never gave it much thought about servicing until I turned 18 and I had to register for the draft. I joined the Air Force because I wanted to work on jets; I didn't want to end up in the jungle and had no other plans for my life at the time. I did my basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas and Jet Aircraft Tech School at Sheppard AFB, Texas. I never gave it a thought that I could end up going to Vietnam. I was lucky and got my first duty assignment in the high desert, George AFB, Victorville, California. I got what I wanted working on the F4-C Phantom II's as an crew chief. I was pumped-up at George, the flight line was large and noisy. With 90 F-4 Phantoms and 45 F-105 Thunderchiefs (Thuds), it was a dream come true. My job was the next best thing to flying them. I was assigned to the F4-C Wild Weasels' Squadron, 35th OMS White Section at George AFB. I had no idea at the time of the scope and importance of what I would be doing, help train pilots for the Wild Weasel mission in Vietnam. I learned later that these guys (pilots) would be the "First-In" to blast the SAM sites before the main events and the "Last Out", keeping the SAM sites down until all of our aircraft had left the area. The Wild Weasels' mission started with the F-100s and was a bit dangerous. But it was all dangerous for everybody. I can look back now and see and understand the part I played in the "Big Picture" of Vietnam. Today I work on the F-16 Fighting Falcon in the South Dakota Air National Guard. I am not the young naive airman I was in 1974. Today, I stop sometimes and think about those days on the flight line in the high desert and look at the part I played. I hope all those guys (pilots) I helped train made it home. God Bless America, MSgt Jeffery D. Hofer, South Dakota Air National Guard.

- Jeffery D. Hofer, Sioux Falls, SD


The two and a half years served in regular Army were followed by twenty three years in the South Dakota Army National Guard where I earned the rank of Chief Warrant Officer W-4, as the State of South Dakota's Food Service Officer.

- Donald R. Hosek, Wagner, SD


Draft Number 54 with the last draft. Ended up serving in various positions for 22 years.

- David W. Hosley, Aberdeen, SD


Don't like to remember or talk about that stuff.

- James L. Huckabay Sr., Redfield, SD


Like my husband, I can only lay claim to being a Vietnam Era veteran. I have nothing but high praise and respect for those individuals who answered their nation's call and served in-country during that turbulent time in American history. It is appropriate, at this time, for the state of South Dakota to recognize these valiant sons and daughters who proudly served! At the same time, let us not forget our sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, uncles and aunts; and cousins who continue to serve Liberty's cause in the far-off battle zones of the world today. They carry on a proud tradition of service to country as taught them by our South Dakota Vietnam veterans!

- Katherine L. Hudlemeyer, Rapid City, SD


I trained as a medic and volunteered for Southeast Asia; the Air Force sent me and five of my classmates to "Southeast Alaska!" to the USAF Hospital Elmendorf. As such, I choose to claim the status of a Vietnam Era veteran in deference to the brave men and women who served and died in Southeast Asia. Here's to those who answered their country's call and gave their best!

- Larry E. Hudlemeyer, Rapid City, SD


We did our duty in the honorable tradition of the U.S. military. For a kid from SD, it was a great travel experience too; I got to Thailand, Japan, Subic (many times), Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hawaii, and South Korea. I liked the sea and ships so much, I later spent 20 years as a US Merchant Mariner, finally pulling the pin as Bosun on a container ship in November 2002. Living ashore is starting to agree with me.

- William G. Huggins, Rapid City, SD


George was always very proud to have served his country. He told everyone he met about the years he served in the Navy Seebees.

- George L. Hulbert


I may have been born into America's worst generation, but I didn't agree with its direction. I volunteered for military service and service in the Vietnam War... because it was the right thing to do. I stand proudly by my decision then and now.

- Tommy Irvin, Bloomington, MN


Welcome home, Brothers!!!!!!

- Tom A Jackson, Rosebud, SD


When I was in Vietnam and Cambodia, I was with the 7/8 Heavy Arty unit. We moved around a lot the year I was there, and I have blocked out the names of great guys and places that I was with and the places I was at. I'm sorry that I have done that because the guys were great and we all worked hard together on the 8in & 175 guns. (Ball of Confusion & Blood Sweat & Tears.) I do want to thank Ottie West for helping me through my time in the Army! From Fort Lewis, Fort Sill, Vietnam, and home again!! Thanks!! Thank you, SD for getting the Vietnam vets together again!! God Bless Us All!! Richard Jaragoske was from Gettysburg, SD. Served from 1969 to 1971.

- Richard A. Jaragoske, Sioux Falls, SD


I arrived in Vietnam assigned as a medic at the 12th Hospital in Cam Rhan bay. After two months, I had been reassigned to MEDCAP 842 and worked in the field with the ROK White Horse div, and out on the swift boats off the coast of Vietnam. We were working with community action teams who visited outlying villages where we would hold clinics and they would seek intelligence on operations in the area.

- Thomas F. Jaros, Pierre, SD


Served gallantry in the Service. Died 09/17/05 of Agent Orange.

- Marlin Larry Johnson, Aberdeen, SD


As members of the Mekong Delta mobile pay team, we would spend about 11 days at base at Nha Be computing and updating pay records for Navy and Marine personnel.  Then, we would spend about four days in land vehicles, helicopters, planes, outboard boats, or whatever transportation we could find to go to the bases and boats across the delta in order to pay the soldiers. Then we would head back to base to repeat the cycle.

- David R. Johnson, Alcester, S.D.


I went from high school to flight school to Vietnam.  I was twenty years old when I arrived at Vihn Long.  I was mortared the first night upon arrival.  I managed to make it to a bunker in my boxer shorts but without a weapon!  I never lived that down!  I flew Cobra gunships for the first six months and then transitioned into the Scouts (LOH's).  While flying Scouts, I was shot down twice.  I flew close to 1000 hours in 12 months. With just over 250 combat missions (low level-In Charlie's face-Search and Destroy), I became certifiably crazy, numb, and loaded with adrenaline.  I'm lucky I survived.  The men I flew with were men of courage and strength.  I would do it again to defend the right of others the freedom to disagree.

- Gale R. Johnson, Summerset, SD


Currently AGR in South Dakota Air Guard

- Terry C. Jones, Lennox, SD


Awarded: Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device Theater: Republic of Vietnam. Reason: Specialist Five Jorgensen distinguished himself by heroism in connection with ground operations against a hostile force on 14 February 1970 while serving as a loader with Company M, 3rd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, in the Republic of Vietnam. On this date, Troop C, with Specialist Jorgensen's Platoon attached, was summoned to aid an infantry unit who had engaged a well-entrenched enemy force. Upon arrival at the scene of contact, the tanks began to assault the enemy bunkers but could not employ their main guns due to the close proximity of the friendly troops. While his platoon advanced upon the bunkers, despite the deadly enemy barrage of rocket propelled grenades, small arms and automatic weapons fire, Specialist Jorgensen placed accurate suppressive fire upon the enemy, silencing two bunkers. Even though seriously wounded when his vehicle was struck by a rocket propelled grenade, Specialist Jorgensen continued to fight, placing an intense volley of fire upon the enemy. When his vehicle was again struck by a rocket propelled grenade, the crew was forced to evacuate. Specialist Five Jorgensen's actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military services and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

- Samuel J. Jorgensen


Also served in the US Army until retirement in January 1993 with the highest rank SFC     (E-7). Bronze Star, ARCOM 4th Award, AAM 7th award.  Served in the 101 ST ABN Div, Desert Storm. MSM received at retirement on 1 January 1993. 

- Raymond G. Juhnke, Marshall, MN


I wish I had more stories to share. My brother chose not to share too much with me.

He was a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe and was working on a degree in anthropology. He spoke four languages at the time and was taught Vietnamese in the Marine Corps. He became an interpreter and interrogator.

His unit was returning from a bivouac when they were fired upon by US Marines. They were speaking Vietnamese and as they were crossing a stream, they were mistaken as the enemy. My brother was carrying a large gun on his shoulder and the weight of the gun held him under the water. When he surfaced, he found his comrades dead.

He committed suicide in 1973. I feel his choice to end his life was due to his service in Vietnam.

I am looking forward to the dedication. I hope to meet some of the men he knew during the years he spent in the Marine Corps.

- Cheri Jumping Eagle Waara for Irving D. Jumping Eagle


Served two six-months active duties. This was the time of budget savings, Nov 4, 1957 to May 3, 1958. Then recalled from Oct 15, 1961 to Aug 7, 1962.

- Clyde Henry Jundt, Pierre, SD


I was a corpsman with the Marines in Vietnam. That is a rarity as there were not too many corpsmen from SD.

- Larry G. Kabris, Rapid City, SD


14th Reserve CMD 114th Civil Engr SQ serving at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls, SD.

- Donald Glenn Kasak, Brookings, SD


Dean joined the Marines in 1953, right out of high school. He served his country for twenty years. He served in the Korean conflict, three tours of duty in Vietnam, and in many other places across the world. He loved the Marine Corps, and followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Vincent, who served in the Marines in China and Korea. Dean died in November of 1975, from crushing injuries sustained in an oil rig accident. He is buried in Houghton Lake, Michigan.

- Dean Arade Kearns


Harold served as a Morse Intcpt Operator during his tour of duty in Alaska. This was a high-security operation and he was not allowed to discuss it. Harold died in April, 2002 and is buried at the National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD.

- Harold M. Kearns


I served in the Medical Service Corps of the US Army from 1970 to 1972.  During most of that time, I was assigned to the 36th Medical Company at Fort Bragg, NC. The 36th Medical Company was a unit that was a source of medics and officers both deploying to Vietnam and returning from duty. I was the first officer in this unit not to be deployed to Vietnam due to the scale-down in troop numbers. During my tour of duty, it was my privilege to serve with decorated enlisted personnel who demonstrated extraordinary courage and bravery while providing medical care to their comrades.

- Donald J. Kehrwald, Cherokee, IA


SDARNG called to active duty during the "Berlin Crisis" in 1961-1962 comm'd 1963.

- Ralph A. Kemnitz, Philip, SD


I was originally assigned to an attack squadron based at Whidbey Island, Washington with a detachment on the John F. Kennedy. While I was training in Whidbey Island, a young married man asked if I wanted to trade orders with him to Japan. I jumped at the chance. I was sent to a reconnaissance squadron at Atsugi, Japan. The squadron had EP-3s, EC121s and EA3-Bs. We had a detachment at DaNang airbase right along the flightline. We went there for six weeks at a time. I went there six times in the years from 1970 to 1972. I watched the process of the war winding down. Some of my favorite memories were watching the F-4s take off and land, watching "Puff the Magic Dragon" in the sky at night, going to different places around DaNang and getting to go to other countries. When I look at the pictures of those times I am always struck by how young and innocent we were. It makes me nostalgic for those times and people.

- Louis G. Kennedy, Hill City, SD


I was proud to serve my country.

- Richard D. Kennedy, Tea, SD


My husband tried for a week to come up with some sort of story to submit. But even after 37 years, it was too difficult for him to put into words his feelings. He said, "it's not something other people need to hear about, and they just wouldn't understand, because it wouldn't come out right."

- Robert Allen Kenzy, Rapid City, SD


I've been to the Far East and I've been to the Near East.

I've seen how people live and I've seen how people die.

When a soldier goes to war in a far off place,

You see worry and fear upon his face.

It may be to a hot and dry jungle land,

Where his training and knowledge will be the plan.

Then on a quiet moonlit night,

He's in his first firefight!

Bullets whizzing, shells exploding all around!

Through it all, he hears, "Stand your ground!"

When it's over, and a new day has begun,

All is quiet; but for the soldier, life is done.

I've been to the Far East, and I've been to the Near East.

I've seen how people live, and I've seen how people die.

Now I am going home, home to Heaven;

For you see, my life on earth is done.

- John A. Kimball, Black Hawk, SD


While serving in Vietnam, our ship was called upon to go to Korea and help in the attempt to rescue the USS Pueblo. Otherwise, our service was gun fire support, including the Tet Offensive of 1968. Our ship was fired on and received minor damage by the North Vietnam Army.

- William B. Kingsbury, Norfolk, NE


My father joined the Army Air Corps during WWII. Later, he made the US Air Force a career. He served in Vietnam and Laos. He is from Blunt, SD and is buried in the Blunt cemetery. His DD214 is on file with the Pierre Courthouse.

- Virgil J. Kjer


I was one of the last of the draft era. My draft lottery number was 94 and my draft board personal assured me that I would not be drafted. But in 1972, Uncle Sam called everyone up to number 95, so I was in. I was fortunate not to be called to serve in Vietnam and spent my tour of duty in Germany. It was a good tour and allowed me to experience and see a lot of the world as well as meeting a lot of great people.

- Keith R. Kleinsasser, Huron, SD


I was in the Judge Advocate' Corps and experienced a lot of contact with our soldiers, both the officers and enlisted men. For most of my tour in Vietnam, I was stationed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. I was continually impressed and proud of the care and concern that our soldiers had for one another. Without hesitancy, soldiers would risk their own lives to help fellow G.I.s.

- William J. Klimisch, Yankton, SD


I served in Vietnam from January l969 until February l970. Thereafter, I was assigned to the 6th MAS Sq at McGuire AFB, NJ, where I flew into Vietnam until the end of the war.

- Bruce L. Knauer, Rapid City, SD


In the South China Sea, we lost all our reactors. We were sitting ducks for three frightening days. We didn't know what was going to happen to us!

- Jerry L. Knispel, Rapid City, SD


The strongest stressors of combat service are, for me, the smells that are indelibly engraved into my brain. And the recollections that go with those smells. Fortunately, no one here burns human waste to use as runway lightsthat I don't miss. But the smell of cordite and av gas and the smell of day-to-day combat revives enough bad memories to prevent me and many vets from ever hunting again. Or maybe it's the explosive sound shock wave that unintentionally shorts out the 38-year-old memory nerves. Or meeting an appropriately aged Vietnam vet and knowing immediately the bond of combat brotherhood is there. But the bond to the dead remains also when you see a similar face in the crowd that causes you to relive your soldier friends' deaths. But time and the VA heals most wounds, thank God for them both. While I cannot do the Wall yet, maybe this dedication is doable. Thanks, and I am eternally grateful to my fellow vets for their assistance and understanding.

- John M. Knox, Montrose, SD


In the Marines and Army Reserve.

- Darrel Dean Knudson, Ashton, SD


In 1965, I was serving with the 4th Inf. Div. at Fort Lewis, WA. We were not being deployed to Vietnam and in March of 1965, I told my 1st Sgt to find me a unit that was going; I wanted to volunteer for Vietnam. I transferred to the 41st Signal Bn as a telephone lineman. We went over by troop ship (Breckinbridge) arriving at Cam Rahn Bay in June 1965. We were the first in along with a Bn of Engineers. The Rangers had checked it out prior. We dug in and began placing temporary wire and cable. In about a month, several of us were transferred to the 593rd Signal Company. We did a lot of traveling and installing advance communications in different parts of the country. I wouldn't say our unit (593rd) saw a lot of enemy action (we had our moments), but we did lose a few men to disease and injury while I was with them, and one KIA and others wounded right after I left. The 69th Sig Bn had some casualties while we were working with them. My ETS was February 4, 1966 and I left Vietnam on 1/28/66. I would do it again.

- Gary W. Knudson, Pierre, SD


What a change of life to go from a farm boy in South Dakota to a soldier in a cavalry unit in a country I had barely read about. It was a great experience to go over there, but it was even greater to get home, even though no one seemed to know you were gone or cared that you made it back. I am glad we are finally being recognized.

- David C. Kogel, Woonsocket, SD


I only had to look around and see soldiers dying. I knew at that point I had to do whatever I could to win the day! You do not win every day!

Specialist Kohl, Tunnel Rat (Mole 4) 1st Infantry

- Neil Kohl


While serving as a nurse in the hospital at Great Lakes, IL, we received men who had been wounded in the field every day via air evacuation within twenty-four hours of their rescue. The air evacuation planes made a brief stop in Guam. The men we received were still in the clothes they were wearing when they were injured. Each shift I worked, we would receive the evacuees which were then assigned to the appropriate hospital ward according to the injuries the soldier had sustained. In those days, one of us nurses was responsible for four wards of 50 patients each. We were the "charge" nurses. Naval Corpsmen were assigned to each ward and they were responsible for much of the immediate care of each patient. It was not unusual for a badly wounded soldier to be hospitalized for a year or two as they were not released until they were fit for duty. This was a very intense time for all. I specifically remember the unbelievable patriotism of these boys and men. In spite of their terrible wounds, amputations, and tremendous orthopedic injuries, they were committed to our cause and wanted to get well so they could return to fulfill their commitment. I also remember with a great deal of emotion, the Corpsmen, 18- and 19-year olds, who were surely going to get orders to Vietnam. It was just a matter of time. They knew it and when their orders came, they would come around to tell us. They never complained or questioned it. They left with trepidation and bravery. We lost one of our best Corpsmen over there. He had just been married shortly before he left. His death still brings tears to my eyes. We had a service for him in the Chapel at the hospital. His young wife was there. It hit us hard and the loss still resonates in my heart. These were extraordinary young people. I never heard one of them complain. I am proud to have served the United States of America in the United States Naval Nurse Corps.

- Geraldine C. Konenkamp, Rapid City, SD


I took my basic training at Fort Leonardwood, MO. I then received advanced infantry training in Fort Ord, CA. In March of 1967, I got a transfer to Camp Hovey, South Korea. I spent all my time in Korea in a secondary MOS which was communications. I received my discharge in Fort Lewis, WA on June 26th, 1967.

- Joseph E. Kostal, Tyndall, SD


My tour in Vietnam was extended by several day because MCB 128 was stationed in Gulfport, MS. Unfortunately, Hurricane Camille was hitting the gulf coast directly on Gulfport and Biloxi, MS. We had to wait until the hurricane was over and the C141 could land at Kesler AFB in Biloxi. We were then trucked to Gulfport and informed that all leaves and liberties were cancelled until we cleaned up the gulf coast. What a "Welcome Home"!!!

- Leonard A. Kourt, Winner, SD


I entered the service as a result of the draft. I was wounded while attempting to take "Hill 875" in late November, 1967. I spent four months in Vietnam, six months in the hospital.

It is interesting how many from the Timber Lake, Glencross, Isabel area were sent to Vietnam and were wounded and or died.

I love my country, and am proud to be from SD.

- David R. Kraft, Bismarck, ND


I was in charge of the AC generator room and the boilers on the USS Sphinx ARL-24. We supported the river rats up and down the Mekong River. Most fighting in Vietnam was done by the cover of night. Every night, our ship moved about in the dark of the night, so the enemy couldn't pin-point our location. During the day, we would anchor and support the boats returning from their night missions. It was the Tuesday steak cook-out and beer that helped us all get through from week to week. The steaks were grilled on the deck of a barge tied to the ship and everyone was rationed two beers. But all too soon, night would approach and it was back to cover and slipping into the night, moving once again, hoping and praying you would return from your four-hour watch on deck each night. On watch, you stood in total darkness, ready to shoot anything floating toward the ship, as it was most likely a mine ready for contact. It was a celebration every Tuesday, that you returned to enjoy one more steak and two more beers.

- Gerald D. Kreul, Madison, SD


No story but thought I would explain my dates of service. After my initial tour of active duty, I joined the Minnesota Army National Guard and completed a total of 27 years.

- Elwyn L. Kropuenske, Surprise, AZ


After boarding the plane in Oakland, California and before departure for Vietnam, this was my prayer:

God, please let me come back to America in the same mental and physical state that I am in at this present time. Thank You, God. Amen.

- Larry Gene Kruger, Aberdeen, SD


I served in the Republic of South Vietnam from 16 December 1969 until 4 April 1970 as a Rapid Area Maintenance (RAM) Team engineer. I received my mechanical engineering degree from South Dakota State University in January of 1967. As a RAM Team engineer, I would travel to various spots in South Vietnam to design structural repairs for battle/crash damaged aircraft. After I left active duty in 1978, I continued on in the Air Force Reserves and completed 30 years of service.

- Larry G. Krull, Layton, UT


Captain Arthur A. Krull was killed in a helicopter crash while on a training mission on January 15, 1968 at Hunter Army Air Field, Savannah, Georgia.

Captain Arthur Krull was excited about his career as an Army aviator and served in the military for nearly 11 years. He flew 882 combat hours as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and received 23 air medals while assigned to the 68th Assault Helicopter Company. Arthur was awarded the Purple Heart from injuries sustained after his aircraft crashed during a rescue mission.

Upon recovery, Arthur Krull spent the next year in the States as a student and a helicopter instructor pilot. With orders to return to Vietnam, Art began an instruction course on flying the AH-1 Cobra gunship On the night of January 15, 1968, Captain Krull was flying a routine night training mission when his helicopter crashed and burned approximately two miles from Hunter Army Airfield.

Arthur and his instructor pilot, CW02 Kenneth C. Weaver of Cleona, PA, were killed instantly. It was discovered that the crash was due to the design of a small door on the helicopter that flew off during take off and hit the tail rotor and then hit the main rotor.

Two weeks before his untimely death, Arthur spent Christmas with his family at his sister's home in Dearborn, MI. His parents had come all the way from Pierre, SD to see Arthur. Serving as a Godfather, he attended the baptism of his new niece, Katherine, who was born on December 5. He then drove his parents back to South Dakota to attend a family funeral in Willow Lake. Arthur wanted to leave his car in South Dakota since he was getting ready to go back to Vietnam.

Arthur Arnold Krull was born in Pierre, SD on March 30, 1940 to Heyo and Vera Fern (Stevens) Krull and had one younger sister, Edna. He attended grade school in Harrold, SD then moved to Pierre in September of 1953 and graduated from Pierre High School with the class of 1958.

Art played basketball for the Pierre Governors and during his junior year in high school, joined the South Dakota Army National Guard on March 27, 1957. He served four and a half years in Pierre's Battery C, 642nd Battalion.

Growing up in Pierre, Arthur developed a love for flying during the many flights with one of the Riggs brothers, Wayne, from Pierre. While attending college in 1960, he made a bet with his mother and won the prize of flying lessons.

After graduation, Arthur attended the SD School of Mines and Technology and South Dakota State University. He joined the US Army on November 7, 1961 and completed basic training at Fort Ord, CA. He was later assigned duty at Fort Gordon, GA and Fort Lewis, WA before entering Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA, where he earned his commission as a second lieutenant.

He attended the Engineer Officer School at Fort Belvoir, VA, Airborne "Jump" School, at Fort Benning, Helicopter Pilot Training at Fort Walter, TX, and Advanced Pilot Training at Fort Rucker, AL. In November 1964, he completed a nine-month assignment to Germany and returned to Fort Benning on August 22, 1965.

On November 5, 1965, he was assigned to the 68th Aviation Company near Bien Hoa, South Vietnam. The unit's motto was "Every Man a Tiger". During a combat rescue mission on August 26, 1966, Art's helicopter crashed due to mechanical failure. Despite a severe back injury, Art struggled to pull the crew and passengers from the wreckage. Art was taken to a military hospital in Japan where he was then promoted to the rank of captain.

Three months later on November 5, 1966, he returned to the States and became a helicopter instructor pilot at Camp Killen, TX. In March 1967, he completed a ten-week AEROSPACE Safety course at the University of Southern California.

That November, he reported to Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah, GA for instruction in flying the AH-1 Cobra helicopter where he was killed on the night of January 15, 1968. Arthur had his orders to return to Vietnam January 30, 1968.

Art will always be remembered for his warm smile. He always had time for friends, young and old.

Funeral services were held at the First Methodist Church in Pierre, SD at 10am January 23, 1968 with Dr. Harvey Sander officiating. Mrs. Sander was the organist and family friends, Leland and Bruce Johnson, sang his favorite hymns. Burial was at the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, SD with members of the Charles E. Thorne Post 2038 Veterans of Foreign Wars conducting the graveside military honors.

Current living family members include his sister Edna (Dean) Steinberg, Rapid City, SD; niece Katherine Michelle Cooper, Rapid City; nephew James Arthur (Lisa) Cooper, Valley City, ND; great-niece Jamaci J. Cooper-Jimenez; and great-nephew Cooper J. Crawford, Rapid City, SD. Submitted by sister Edna Krull Steinberg, January 15, 2006.

- Arthur A. Krull, Rapid City, SD


Entered the service September 8, 1963. Was on active duty until May 1, 1964. Served until Sept 8, 1969 in Army National Guard.

- Lyle R. Krumpus, Colome, SD


While serving aboard USS Hanson May 1972: "Freedom Train" (later called "linebacker") night raids were conducted off North Vietnam. Hanson engaged in over 30 of these raids, including entering Haiphong Harbor with another Gearing class DD to shell the airport a few days after the harbor at Haiphong was mined. 10 May 1972, USS Hanson participated in Operation Custom Tailor, a history-making strike that assembled the most formidable cruiser/destroyer armada in the Western Pacific since World War II. During this strike, military targets within four miles of Haiphong, North Vietnam were hit, and enemy opposition was heavy. All told, USS Hanson spent 183 out of 214 days at sea during the April through November deployment, expended 14,486 rounds of 5"/38 ammunition and successfully completed 97 underway replenishments. In June 1972, during night raids, Hanson dueled with North Vietnamese 155 millimeter coastal batteries near Hon La and Hon Mat islands and was hit numerous times. The shells used by the North were anti-aircraft, so most damage was shrapnel punctures to the aluminum superstructure. During one daylight raid, the Hanson was struck by three chicom rockets, with one unexploded warhead landing within a few feet of a damage control party in the main deck passageway.

- Steven J. Kudera, Madison, SD


Also served in the Army National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

- Wayne Lyle Kulm, Forest, VA


Member of the SD National Guard Army Reserve.

- Darrell Lee Kulm, Rapid City, SD


I was stationed at Kimpo International Airport in Korea the day President Kennedy was assassinated. At Kimpo, we were less than 30 seconds away by air if North Korea decided to attack. At the time, nobody knew who assassinated Kennedy or why he was shot, but being so close to a possible attack put everyone on high alert.

- Gary J. Ladner, Rapid City, SD


Some thoughts:

War is swell, Combat's Hell.

A War Without Heroes.

President Jimmy Carter gave amnesty to 20,000 draft dodgers so that they could return and add their insults to those of our un-traveled peers.

Your best bet, Don't be a Vet.

Semper Fi, Lift Your Glass, Raise It High, Gone to War, Home Again, Letter Said, Here's Your Son, Semper Dead.

- Lacey W. Lahren, Mobridge, SD


I will submit a story within a few weeks.

- Richard D. Lamster, Eugene, OR


I started my military career with the Wyoming Air National Guard as a Captain in the Nurse Corp, with our mission of aero-medical evacuation. I trained as a Flight Nurse at Brooks AFB in 1978. On my first qualifying flight as a flight nurse, we stopped at Andrews AFB to transfer patients coming from Vietnam on a USAF C141 to our C121 and we flew them on to military hospitals near New Jersey. It was the first time that the ravages of the war were obvious to me. These patients were young men, still bleeding from their war wounds, without an arm or a leg, yet so happy to be on the final journey close to home. They were only on our flight for about 40 minutes, but it was my first real view of war. I later joined the USAF and was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines for 15 months in 1971-1972. The Vietnam War was winding down and we were waiting for the prisoners of war to be released. The new wounds were of drug addictions and they were the focus of treatment of Clark AB hospital. This part of the war was as tragic as the gunshot wounds, and the recovery is just as limited and crippling. Eve Larson,

- Effie A. Larson, Aberdeen, SD


I served as a radar control operator at an airbase in Thailand directly across from the DMZ between August 1968 until August 1969. The following link is a snapshot of the small airstation I was stationed at. http://www.squawk-flash.org/621st_tcs/viking/mukdahan.htm

- Douglas Lee Larson, Port Angeles , WA


I remember the end of my tour in Vietnam. My unit was getting ready to go back to the USA, but a lot of the men didn't have enough time there, so were moved to other parts of Vietnam. Myself and five other men were ready to go home, so they moved out and we were left behind to clean up. We were given three days to do this. However, we had company the first night. They left us alone, but we didn't get any sleep.  The next day, we were out of there by noon. My unit never lost a man the whole time I was there. It was good to be home. After returning, I joined the SD National Guard, and stayed in for five years. I was awarded the South Dakota medal for Valor, for the 1972 Rapid City flood. Thanks for the Memorial.

- Clarence K. Larson, Rapid City, SD


While I did not serve in Vietnam, I knew and served with many who did. I lost friends there and I had friends who were casualties long after the war had ended. I still felt it was my duty and a privilege to serve and I was willing to go, except the war ended before I was commissioned. On campus and traveling across the country, I was spat upon and called 'baby killer' and many other pejoratives. I watched as the Students for a Democratic Society took over the Marine offices and the administration building of the college was burned. After the war had ended and I was commissioned, I was either ignored or still looked upon with disdain. I saw men killed in training and on deployments. I lost friends in undeclared wars in other far-off places and later in Beirut. It was difficult to be proud of my service when the pundits wanted me to be ashamed or forgotten. The grief of our loss was shared only among our brothers and the pride of our service stored in a very small place. As the Governor said, I was never given a handshake or a ‘thank you,’ that is, until November 11, 2005, when I attended my daughter's assembly at the Custer Armory, put on by the students, kindergarten through high school. It was a moving, sincere, and heartfelt memorial. It was the first time in 34 years since taking the oath, I felt like someone cared and appreciated my service.

- James M. Laverick, Custer, SD


I have always had the utmost respect for the Vietnam veterans for what they endured both in theater and upon returning home. This memorial, like all of the others, is long overdue and hopefully it will give these veterans the acknowledgment they deserve.

- Bruce A. Lee, Valley Springs, SD


Helped to commission USS Fore 5 TAL (CVA-59).

- Leo James Leonard, Madison, SD


The following is a letter I wrote to my mom and dad after finding out I was a father of a newborn baby girl. As I remember, it took the Red Cross three days to find me, and when they did, I was out on an ambush patrol and it was around midnight. A medic friend of mine came over to my position to give me the information. I was one stunned guy.

I was in the 11th Armored Cav. and we were someplace in northern South Vietnam.

The Jim I refer to in this letter is my younger brother. He was in Vietnam at the same time I was, in fact, we were in the same unit. This was not supposed to happen, but it did.

Hello Folks, Sept. 20, 1967

I got the word yesterday. It was quite a shock. You'll probably wonder why it was a shock. We'll they've been keeping me so busy that I haven't had time to even think about home. After it came over the radio last night, I was in a complete daze. I didn't know what to do with myself. The sarge dug out a bottle that he'd had around for quite a while and we all had a short snort. Everybody came around congratulating me. They were just like a bunch of old ladies. I was glad to hear it was a girl.

By the way how does it feel to be grandparents? I'm in a pretty good mood today. In fact, I've never been in a gayer mood since I've been over here.

I'm out on patrol with three other guys and we've found us a nice shady place to rest. 'oh ya' we even get a few leg patrols in a cav unit. We've got a new guy with us and he's kind of careless. I got a little honked off at him this morning. We walked over a mile before I noticed he never had a clip in his rifle. He told me that he could get a clip in his rifle real fast. I asked him if he didn't think I could shoot him before he did. He didn't say anything, but he put one in. Then we had to cross some rice paddies on dikes before the sun came up this morning and he fell of three times before he made it across.

Right now it’s four in the afternoon and he ran out of water about 3 hours ago, so now he's drinking mine. I seen one of my buddies shaking his head a little while ago when I gave him a drink. They think he should learn the hard way. Which he probably should. Anyway, my water will be gone pretty soon so he'll probably suffer a little anyway. It doesn't bother me anymore, I’ve turned hard core and if you don't believe me, you should smell me.

We sleep, eat and work in the rain, but that's something else you get used to The only thing good about the rain, is when you need a shower you just take off your clothes and grab a bar of soap, sometimes you don't have soap. But it’s not so bad, we have our laughs too.

Did I ever tell you how our A-cavs are set up? Well they look something like this. (Drawing not included at this time)

On each track there are three gunners, 1 on the 50 and 2 60 gunners, a radio man and a driver (me).

It kinda looks like it's going to be longer then I expected before I see Jim. It sounds like we're going to be up here for about 6 more weeks. Were supporting the 9th engineering corps. Hell, I just as well have joined the marines.

Well, it looks like I'd better knock off pretty soon. It looks like it's going to be wet outside. You've never seen anything until you've seen a monsoon rain. The other day when I was driving up here, it rained so hard that I was afraid that if I didn't keep my mouth shut and breath through my nose I would drowned. When it isn't raining it's hot as hell. I'm getting a beautiful tan.

Linda said in her last letter that it was snowing back there. It's kinda hard to picture.

Speaking of Linda, I really miss that little broad. More than ever now.

I could write a book but I'd better knock off, before I wear out this pen.

Bob

P.S. Tell Paula, Jack and Deb I said hello.

- Robert J. Lester, Spearfish, SD


My father tells the story about how when they first got over to Vietnam, they would have to run to their bunkers every night in the dark because of mortar attacks.

- Leo M. Liesinger, Hartford, SD


While with USCG Port Security in Alameda, California, I was assigned to Bomb Loading Supervisory Detail in Port Chicago, California. The U.S. Coast Guard was mandated to supervise the loading of bombs on ships destined for Vietnam. This supervision took effect after Port Chicago was blown off the map during World War II when the U.S. Navy was loading the bomb-laden ships. Port Security Alameda was also active in assuring that pacifists did not interfere with U.S. Naval Supply ships being loaded in Oakland, California. Numerous arrests were conducted during this time.

- James E. Loesch, North Fort Myers, Florida


Bryan served aboard the USS Davis throughout his four years in the Navy and sailed around the world aboard this ship. He completed two tours of Vietnam where the Davis patrolled along the coast and fired rounds inland in support of operations. Bryan returned to civilian life and ultimately landed a career with Burlington Northern Railroad as a conductor. He was a patriot who flew the U.S. flag everyday and a lifelong Nebraska Cornhusker fan. Due to his unwavering loyalty to the "Big Red", he was commissioned an Admiral in the Great Navy of Nebraska in 2003 by then Governor Mike Johanns.

Bryan worked for Burlington Northern Railroad most of his life since the Navy. While he lived in Edgemont, SD, he served on the city council and was active in the local union. After moving to Gillette, he was again active in the union and even served a couple terms as the local union president. He passed away at his home on November 14 after battling lung cancer and a bad heart. Although he was very proud of his Naval service, he seldom spoke of his experiences.

- Bryan E. Lolley, Gillette, SD


Following completion of physical therapy technician school in San Diego, I reported for duty at the U.S. Naval Hospital (Oak Knoll) at Oakland, CA on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. His death created such chaos that I was placed in temporary quarters and basically forgotten for nearly two weeks. My most memorable experience at Oak Knoll was helping take care of young Marines who had returned from Vietnam without an arm or a leg. They exhibited extraordinary bravery and determination in recovering from their injuries and learning to use their "new limbs". They were an inspiration to all of us in the Physical Therapy Department and it was an honor to have met them and helped in some small way with their rehabilitation.

- Richard A. Lolley, Rapid City, SD


Fred is in Belle Vista Nursing Home in Rapid City, SD as a result of a motorcycle accident in 1995. James Long, his brother, is P.O.A./guardian for him.

- Frederick Leroy Long, Hettinger, ND


Shellback

- Kenneth H. Lore, Rapid City , SD


After completing Air Force pilot training, my assignment was to a stateside C-130 squadron and spent a lot of time TDY in the US and Europe. I then volunteered for Combat Talon training and was assigned to the 15th Special Operations Squadron (later changed to the 90th SOS) at Nha Trang, South Vietnam. I spent April 1970 - 1971 flying some rather bazaar missions throughout Southeast Asia. Our aircraft (12 modified 130's, four assigned to Southeast Asia, four stateside, and four to Europe) were equipped with terrain following radar for low altitude missions, most of which were at night. We worked primarily with the Special Forces and an outfit called SOG. I found the special ops mission more interesting than that of the standard C-130 "trash haulers". After completing my tour in Vietnam, I was assigned to the special ops squadron in Germany for three years and then went to Florida.

- Anthony E. Lucas, Pierre, SD


After thirty-nine years, my experiences are crystal-clear in my mind.  That year was the biggest event of my life.  I realized what my parents gave me and how great it is to live in the USA.  The first thing that I thought about when I came back from a year in the Infantry was, How did the people in WWII survive mentally after sometimes up to four years in the Infantry?  Today, we have Vet Center personnel to talk to any time we need to.  Thank God for them.  There are many stories I could tell, but I will wait for the right time.  Thank you.

- Kenneth P. Luebke, Rosholt, SD


I shipped out of Fort Bliss, Texas with the 6/27 Arty (8" and 175mm) in October 1965 aboard the troop ship USS General W.H. Gordon.  The battalion arrived at Vung Tau, Vietnam at the end of the month after a stop at Okinawa. After a few weeks at a staging area, the battalion moved to Phouc Vinh. My MOS was an Artillery Surveyor and I was also cross-trained in Fire Direction Control (FDC). Bill Stallman of Reliance, SD was also in the Survey Section and we shared the same fox-hole or bunker quite a few nights when we had "in-coming". I flew out of Tan Son Nhut on January 23, 1966 and was discharged at Oakland, California.

- Curtis D. Lunde, Sioux Falls, SD


I'd just like to say that after serving a little over 20 months in Vietnam 34 years ago that I am a proud Vietnam veteran.

- Dennis A. Lundstrom, Canton, SD


Kenneth Luvaas and LeRoy Tarbox, high school classmates, joined the Air Force the same day and went to basic training together. Kenny went on to communications repair and LeRoy as a C-130 crewchief. We didn't see each other for two years until we met up on the flight line at McQuire AFB, NJ.

- Kenneth Luvaas, Henry, SD


My flight helmet and my uniform were cut off me on July 2, 1967 and are in the Smithsonian in Washington DC. My flight helmet is on display in the National Museum of American History. It is shown in the Price of Freedom, Americans at War brochure. The helmet has 'CREW CHIEF' inscribed on the front.

- John M. Lynch, Sioux Falls, SD


Shawn Mack was wounded during his second tour of duty in Vietnam. He received RPG shrapnel wounds to his head and side. After the war, he was impaired physically and mentally as a result of these wounds. He received 100% service-connected disability from the VA. In spite of his disabilities, he was a positive and grateful man who was very proud of his country and his service to it. He seldom complained about anything. During the last few years of his life, he resided in Brandon, SD. This is when we became best friends. We had a lot in common (both serving two tours, etc) and we became instant friends. We found we could talk openly about our pasts and had some good laughs right along with the serious stuff. We took care of each other. Shawn often lost his balance and had an occasional seizure. On January 31, Shawn succumbed to his wounds and fell for the last time. He died on February 1st, 2005. At the dedication, I will be honored to wear his Vietnam service ring given to me by his parents. I miss my friend and brother deeply. Larry Ottoson

- Shawn S. Mack


Note: Discharge date above is from active duty as per DD 214. Retired from AF Reserves in 1990.

- Edwin F. Madigan, Hot Springs, SD


Four and a half years active duty Air Force, 3rd Combat COMM Group, Tinker AFB, Araxos AFS Greece, Luke AFB (1975-1979), 114 Combat COMM Flight, South Dakota Air National Guard (1980-1984), 315 Combat COMM Group, Air Force Reserve at Charleston AFB (1985-1988), 114 Combat COMM Squadron, Florida Air National Guard (1988-2003) [Saudi Arabia, Desert Storm 1], [Sarajevo, Bosnia, Joint Endeavour].

- David V. Mager, Melbourne, FL


One of the proudest moments of my tour of duty was when given the privilege of being asked to be a member of the burial detail from the 25th Infantry Division. We were chosen to honor the brave soldiers who had passed away and buried them at the various cemeteries in Hawaii. The honor in which these men and women served their country was reflected in the way they were laid to rest. It was a time in my life that I will never forget and am thankful for having had the opportunity to have been a part of it.

- Emil A. Magnuson, Rapid City , SD


On the first assignment to Southeast Asia, I was flying the F-105 out of Takhli AB, Thailand. On the 10th of May, 1966, I was scheduled to strike the Yen Bai Arsenal with two 3000# bombs (my 102nd combat mission). On pullout from the dive-bombing run (the target was destroyed), I was hit by AAA which left a three-foot hole in my right wing. After a few seconds, I started to lose control of the aircraft, so I ejected. I landed in a mountainous area just south of the Red River. Initially, I was capped by members of my flight, then A1-Es protected me until the Jolly Green helicopters arrived (about two hours later). I was picked up and as we exited the area, we were attacked by North Vietnam Migs. They fired heat-seeking missiles at the rescue aircraft, but the missiles did not guide. The helicopters landed on a mountaintop in Laos which was occupied by US Special Forces. They refueled the choppers from 50 gal drums using hand-cranked pumps. Later, I learned that my miraculous rescue was the furthest north that a pilot had been rescued. My second Southeast Asia tour was to the DAO, Saigon. I was very much involved in the 1975 evacuation of Saigon. After the chaotic evacuation was completed, we were taken by chopper to the USS Midway. The following morning, a Vietnamese Major flying an O-1 advised the Captain of the Midway that he wanted to land on the carrier and that he only had one hour of fuel remaining. He also said he had his wife and two children in the single-seated aircraft. The Captain decided to let the O-1 give it a try. The Vietnamese Major made a successful landing, which was a US Naval first. The Captain also told the Major that something like this could only happen in America. A neat ending to a sad war!

- Martin H. Mahrt, Custer, SD


I was at Khe Sanh during Lam Sanh 719 in March of 1972.

- Owen W. Maier, Wichita, Kansas


Most of all, I remember hitch-hiking to the base in Langley, VA after returning from overseas. I was spit on as a car drove by yelling "baby killer" and I continuing to walk with that lugie on my face, not wiping it off until they were far from sight so as not to give them any satisfaction in their action. There were no yellow ribbons, no cheering crowds, and many disappointed friends because I enlisted and was proud to serve America.

- Charles R. Mancini, Parmelee, SD


Born in SD.

- Nick L. Maranell, Esterville, IA


Light Vehicle Drive and Cook

- Russell Lowel Martin, Elk Point, SD


In the year and half I spent in DaNang, I tried to keep track of the number of rocket impacts we encountered. Up to my last day there, I came up with just under 2000 impacts. Thus the name: Rocket City.

- Delbert R. Maxwell, Rapid City, SD


I was TDY for much of my tour in Vietnam. The task was collecting data for a provisional Light Infantry Brigade. On on of my stops (a week or so), I observed a quote written on the side of a bombed-out building. It was, "You have not lived until you have almost died. For those who have experienced it, Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know." I noticed the same quote on Mickelson Memorial under one of the pilots who was killed.

- Kenneth G. May, Rapid City, SD


The Vietnam veteran's worst enemy was the Vietnam protesters and politicians who constantly railed against the support of the in-country servicemen. Inas Kerry, Mcgovern, Andall: their voices extended the war as the NVA were banking on them to weaken the resolve of the American people and thus weaken the effort of all. Do not let this happen now in Iraq. Be supportive of our men in their service to our country.

- Patrick J. McCarthy, Sioux Falls, SD


I initially enlisted "Airborne Unassigned" and served a three-year enlistment with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, KY. I was a Sergeant E-5 weapons squad leader when that enlistment was up and I returned to school. When I graduated from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion in 1966, I was commissioned through ROTC and was again assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. I subsequently served three years with that division in Vietnam as a platoon leader, company commander, and staff officer. When the division returned to the United States at the end of 1971, I joined Advisory Team 162, the group of American soldiers who served with the Vietnamese Airborne Division. I served as the senior advisor to the Vietnamese 5th Airborne Battalion. At that time, American forces were being drawn down in Vietnam and I was not replaced when I left the 5th Airborne Battalion in mid-1972. From that point on, Vietnamese units fought without American assistance until they were overwhelmed in 1975. My post-Vietnam career included schooling as well as service with infantry units, and for my last ten years (from 1985 to 1995), I served as a military attaché in the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia. In summary, my service can be broken down into three phasescombat as a paratrooper, schooling (to include graduate school, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Army War College) and peacetime infantry units, and finally service as a military diplomat stationed in American embassies in Southeast Asia. I have been teaching a high school level alternative program for the past several years, but make it a point to get back to South Dakota at Thanksgiving time for some pheasant hunting. Once a South Dakotan, always a South Dakotan.

- Michael A. McDermott, Anacortes, WA


We were in our share of firefights. Briefly, some that come to mind are listed below:

We provided “green line” support for an artillery base that almost got overrun. The enemy was in the second strand of wire. The enemy was beaten back by superior firepower, including small arms, artillery, gunships, and other aircraft available to us.

Another one that comes to mind is when the company was moving out of the wetlands up the side of a hill, we were hit by a large contingent of enemy soldiers. The lead platoon sustained heavy casualties and pulled back. My platoon was on the right flank and the platoon sergeant and I moved toward the front to try to haul all the dropped weapons back to keep them out of the hands of the enemy. Our remaining troops covered us and we were able to secure most of the weapons. I won the Army commendation with a “V” device for that one.

The last one I will mention is the one in which I received the Purple Heart. One of the things I had prided myself on was that in all the time I was either a squad leader or platoon sergeant, I never lost a man to enemy fire. It was toward the middle of my time in the field and we were securing a landing zone for the re-supply chopper. All the men were spread out in a 360-degree perimeter and we were alternating getting our re-supply. The enemy must have honed in on the noise of the chopper and began lobbing in mortar rounds. One of the rounds landed behind my squad and five of us had to be medevaced. I am glad to say that four of us came back to the field and the fifth got an early ride home on the Freedom Bird. No one was killed.

My last assignment in Vietnam was a month-long detail helping plan B-52 strikes known as Arc Lights. We analyzed enemy activity and made recommendations on targets.

Like everyone else, I was ready to get home and counted the days. When I got to Oakland, they processed us out and made everyone get into class A or dress uniforms to fly the rest of the way home. It really wouldn’t have made any difference what we were wearing, we just went home and if our parents or family could get away, they met us at the airport. For many years, people only wanted to forget Vietnam and didn’t want to be reminded by those that served during the conflict. There were several years that I didn’t even put on my resume that I was a veteran. At first I felt slighted, but as time wore on, it no longer was important.

It can now be a part of the history that we pass on to the next generation, and people are actually interested.


My first tour was March 1964 to March 1965 as an advisor to the High Yen Special Sector. We were the most southern MAAG. The Sector was the home of Father Hoa, a Catholic Priest who moved his parish from China to South Vietnam to avoid Communist rule. His story was in the Saturday Evening Post, Readers Digest and an NBC TV special titled "The Village that Refused to Die". It was an interesting year. My second tour in 1970 was at USARV HQs and I was the Army plans officer for identifying units to return to the USA during the draw-down phase.

- Mark E. McGlone, Flandreau, SD


A Story of Healing

Every five years, graduating classes at Gregory hold reunions. Since I graduated in 1970 and my brother in 1965, our reunions coincide. While home over the 4th of July, 1995 for my 25th class reunion, Ed Haines approached me. Ed took me to the American Legion Club and introduced me to the "Reflections" print by artist Lee Teter. The print depicts a 40-some year old man leaning against the granite Wall with his head bowed. One can assume he is thinking about the buddies he fought with that didn't come home. Looking back and reaching out to the man from within the Wall are images of six young soldiers. Their youth remains forever frozen with their names chiseled into the black stone Wall. Ed pointed out my brother's name on the print, which I could not believe! A local resident had discovered Denny's name just a week earlier. You see, there are over 58,000 names on the entire Wall, and only about 200 legible names on the "Reflections" print. What are the odds for this print to end up in the American Legion Club of my brother's hometown? Ed bought the print in Sioux Falls and donated it to the American Legion Club. It had been hanging there for about one and a half years before Denny's name was discovered. I often wondered if Denny became a Christian before he died. Given all of the above to unfold as it did, is too much of a mere coincidence. I believe God works in mysterious ways. There's no question that Denny found the Lord and God guided him home for his 30th class reunion.

- Dennis C. McPherson, Edwards, Illinois


Wow! In the military, you are given a choice of location where you prefer to be stationed. My first choice was Alaska. Boy, was I dreaming. In 1965, after basic training at Little Korea (Fort Leonard Wood), I was scheduled to be trained in the medic field but somehow I was changed to be a heavy equipment operator.  In this position, I learned how to operate cranes. Then, I was sent off to the 155 Transportation at Cam Rahn Bay. It was here that I was trained in my MOS as a Stevedore unloading cargo ships 12 hours on, 12 hours off, seven days a week. Boy, we hated to see a ship come in riding low in the water as we knew too often that it was a cement ship and most often, the bags had to be moved by hand to the hoist. I guess one of the memorable times was one time working the night shift when all the guys signed a petition about not getting as good of food as the day workers got. We were scolded by the company Commander, but the food was much better the next night. The other memorial time was when we were up to Tu Hoi to offload some ships which had some jeeps on them. Once the ships were off-loaded, they needed to have the jeeps taken back to the company area. With a bunch of 20-year-olds that haven’t drive for six months, that was no problem. So, off we went racing down Highway One to our company area 20 miles away. Our company was located next to the South China Sea, so the last mile traveled was a wide-open sandy and weedy area, so everyone was passing and having a hay day. One jeep wrecked when it tried to drive through a weeded area and crashed into rocks residing within. They never asked us to help drive vehicles again. We had one favorite saying, “What are they going to do, send you to Vietnam.”

What an experience!

- Jerry A. McQuay, Pierre, SD


I was happy to serve my country in the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. My mother, Majory, raised three sons in Tyndall, South Dakota and all three joined the Navy after high school. I, being the oldest son, joined after my brother Richard came home from Navy boot camp and I was very proud of him (not to mention that I loved his uniform). I joined in July of that year (1964). My youngest brother Mark also joined four years later in 1968. After boot camp in San Diego, my first duty station was EL Toro Marine Base in Orange County, CA. Then I went to Hospital Corps School in San Diego. After Corps School, I was sent to Bremerton, WA Naval Hospital. From there, I wen to Field Medical Service School at Camp Lejeune, NC where I became certified as a Combat Trained Corpsman (Medic). Not long afterwards, I was treating wounded Marines in the I Corps area of Vietnam. After Vietnam, I spent about two and a half years aboard the USS Piedmont (AD-17) where I reenlisted. I was discharged from Great Lakes Naval Base where my son Jamie was born. In all, I gave six and a half years and would be willing to give six and a half more.

- Clayton Lee Mennis, Farmington, MN


I served with the Military Assistance Command Vietnam in the Civil Operations & Rural Development agency from 1970 to 1971 at the Vietnamese National Training Center, Vung Tau. Vietnamese rural development cadre teams were trained there to go back into the countryside and reestablish civil government, health care, paramilitary village defense training, etc. It was a little-known effort which was having a tremendous impact on 'nation building'.

THE US MILITARY WON THE WAR IN SOUTH VIETNAM. All combat forces had been withdrawn by 1973 in accordance with the Paris Peace accords. In early 1975, the North Vietnamese broke the accords and invaded the South with conventional military forces. The US failed to respond to assist the South, and the Republic of South Vietnam fell to the North due to political ineptitude and lack of national will to reengage in defense of the South.

Thank you for honoring our comrades, especially those who gave their lives for an honorable cause, which we wonand the politicians gave away.

Dave Mikkelson COL (Ret) US Army Finance Corps

- David W. Mikkelson, Indianapolis, IN


I was a trained sniper for the 9 Infantry Division in Vietnam. I used NM M-14 rifles with ART I sniper scopes. At night, we used starlight scopes. The medals I received were a Silver star, three Bronze stars, three Army Com Medals, Combat Infantry Badge, and an Air Medal. After I came home, I tried to live a normal life, but I was a changed man. I married my wife, who deserves credit for supporting me. I started farming and became a workaholic, and stayed home most of the time. That was the way I coped with the war. The healing started in 1992. I looked up my sniper partner Howard Kramer from Pennsylvania. It was like the day we left Vietnam. In 1994, I looked up my sniper instructor in WA. In 1995, I got in contact with Col Holaday. We keep in touch with all these people. In 1996, I told my wife, "I have to go back to Vietnam." It was a hard flight of 22 hours. About 100 miles from Saigon, I thought, "What am I doing? Do they still want to collect the bounty they had on us snipers?" I have a successful farming operation, a wife and three girls. Am I throwing it all away? I was scared, but when the plane touched down, to my surprise, there were no guns. The people loved us, they couldn't do enough for us. We visited the area where we served as snipers. It was just like the day we left. They still farm the same. They don't hold a grudge against us. I took another sniper friend back in 1999. It helped him also. I go to all the Vietnam vet reunions. I am glad to have served my country. Thanks to my wife, three daughters, three sons-in-law, and my granddaughter for putting up with me.

- Deono D. Miller, Olivet, SD


Even though I'm considered a Vietnam vet due to my enlisted service dates, I did not serve in Vietnam. Most of my awards came in a later conflict (Operation Desert Storm) while flying F-111s near the end of my USAF flying career.

- Marshall C. Miller, Piedmont, SD


'Christmas through my wounded eyes'

It is Christmas time under the full moon in the year 2004. I see through my wounded eyes of 1966-1967 from the Vietnam War. Yet, this year, I desired to listen to Christmas music once again with the open heart wishing to confront my life's PTSD pain...

For the last six weeks, I have listened every day to Star 106.3. There were new songs that had awaked my Christmas spirit, "Last Christmas!" by Wham! and "This Christmas" by Joe, which also had awaken the young boy's heart of my soul....

Old Kenny Loggins sang "Let's be like Children Again" and "We celebrate being home for Christmas".  Amy Grant warmed my heart with "Joy to the World" and the hymn "Hark the Angels' voices are heard...".

Natalie Cole gave me her "Grown-up Christmas Wish" which, since the war, I have not made any Christmas wishes, and she sang the story of "No more Blue Christmases" that made me determine not to have any more bad PTSD Christmases....

There was a Christmas song from the spicy voice of Gloria Estefan that brought me home from the war to be her new spirited fan with an updated version of "Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow" and yet, it was hearing her sing "I wanna see Christmas through your eyes"....

Had to grow-up and see the world through different shades of doubt* give me one more chance to dream again, one more chance to feel again through a young's boy heart, if only for one day, help me to try I wanna see Christmas through my wounded eyes....

I want everything to be the way it used to be* back to being a child again, thinking the world was kind. I see the rain, you see the rainbow hiding in the clouds, never afraid to let your love show, won't you show me how....

Find the innocence in me again through my young boy's heart* I wanna learn how to believe again, help me find a way, help me to try back to being a child again, thinking the world was mine. I wanna see Christmas, Christmas through my wounded eyes....

A sonnet by Ronald E. Miller, a proud Vietnam veteran. Full moon, December 26th, 2004.

*last 9 lines except for 'my boy's & My wounded' are lyrics for 'Christmas through your eyes' written by Gloria Esteban and Diane Warren,1990.

- Ronald E. Miller, Rapid City, SD


Enlisted in 1942 and served 25 years. A severe bullet wound to his arm in Okinawa caused permanent nerve damage and he no longer participated in combat. SMAJ Millette went to Vietnam in January 1968 to serve in Personnel Service Battalion. He worked at Camp Evans near the DMZ and his duties included reporting information regarding war casualties back to the Pentagon. He died in Thua Thien Province and was returned home for burial with honors in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife Gertrude is buried with him. The Vietnam Memorial Wall Panel 52 W, Row 36 bears his name. Their children, Harlan Millette and Barbara Cover live with their families in Pennsylvania and Georgia. SMAJ Millette received many awards and citations through the years for his service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He earned the National Defense and United Nations Service Medals, the Bronze Star, two Army Commendation Medals and three Purple Hearts.

- Harlene Eugen Millette, Duluth, GA


In the Reserves until June 4, 1974.

- Jerry B. Mills, Aberdeen, SD


I was in Vietnam during 1966 and 1967. During this time, my parents would write to me and tell me that people in the farming community were asking them why their son was over in Vietnam fighting a political war. The also told me about the men that were burning their draft cards and those who went to Canada to get out of serving our country. This was very frustrating at the time and I have never forgotten it.

- George C. Moore, Austin, CO


In June 1969, my six-man recon team made contact with the enemy in the central highlands of South Vietnam. That day, I did not believe that I would ever see South Dakota again. When I think back on that time in my life, I always remember how hard it was to be doing a job that not too many people would be able to do, or that too many people would want to do. I'm proud that I served my country in the U.S. Marines Recon. I have had some doubt, from time to time, due to the fact that we never had the full support of the people in the US like we should have had. I think that it is a good thing that this state honors those who served in Vietnam. I'm sure the men who have already left this world before this dedication would be honored to see that it is being done. I know that I'm sure glad of it. Thank you very much for the memorial to us Vietnam combat veterans.

- Robert H. Moran Jr., White River, SD


I turned 26 while was in basic training and I was the oldest in my company; the next youngest was 19. I wondered why and how I got there, but was proud to serve my country. I feel our country did a lot of good for the future of mankind for being there.

- Milton L. Morris, Pierre, SD


Read a funny short story of me in "Mercy Warriors" by John "Doc" Coombs.

- John G. Mulholland, Sioux Falls, SD


NOTE: I have several photos.........worth sharing if you are interested.

- Donald R. Mundt, Spearfish, SD


In the summer of 1968, Company B, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry was attacked while in a night perimeter near LZ Swinger west of Kontum. The action was particularly heavy. My buddy, Gerry Smith, and I spotted an enemy mortar tube that lay about 50 yards away from us. Gerry grabbed his M79 grenade launcher and lobbed three rounds within ten meters of the tube. The fourth round was a direct hit, knocking the tube out of commission. We were packing up to move to a new location when we heard voices from a huge thicket nearby. They sounded like North Vietnamese Army troops. Soon they started yelling, "Boo G.I., Boo G.I." We didn't know what to make of it so Gerry and I set off a Claymore mine in the direction of the noises. We never heard from them again. The next morning, the Golden Dragon Squad patrolled the area in search of wounded or dead communists. They found three bodies in the thicket. Those three North Vietnamese soldiers learned the hard way to keep their opinions to themselves.

Specialist 4 James Nagel, Gettysburg, SD

- James Nagel, Gettysburg, SD


MOS: 153.10, Arty Surveyor.

- Dale L. Neely, North Sioux City, SD


I left the United States of America for Vietnam on January 1, 1968. My base camp was Dion. I went over as a medic, but most of my time was spent riding shotgun on a Supply Wagon. On September 15, 1968, we receive word that we were going to be attacked that night. We were sent out to burn out all the underbrush on the outside of our camp. I was in the middle of the area when the gas blew up, catching me on fire. I was burned on almost 40% of my body with 2nd degree burns. I spent over two months at the burn center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. I wasn't able to say my good-byes or get addresses, but I remember a few of the guys. We called our Sergeant Crispy Critter, there was Detroit, Moton Son, and a Dick Strickland from Detroit. I would love to hear from someone.

- Leo K. Nelson, Belle Fourche, SD


I was a Master Diver, so have many diving-related stories. I have participated in many diving-related activities all over the world and was also the Master Diver under Commander Scott Carpenter on the safety survey team for "Sea Lab 2".

- Arthur L. Nelson, Lead, S.D.


During my first tour of duty in Vietnam, I served under an outstanding colonel who was a seasoned combat veteran. We were traveling by jeep through some risky territory with the colonel at the wheel and with me riding "shotgun". We came under enemy fire and as the bullets whizzed past our heads, he calmly remarked, "Hoss, are those bees I hear?" So much for fear!

- Maynard L. Nelson, Spearfish, SD


I was given the privilege to process reconnaissance film for the SR71, as well as the U2 and various fighters. I did temporary duties worldwide as needed for the aircraft.

HABU!!!

- Stanley L. Newman, Pierre, South Dakota


Radio call sign in Vietnam: Danger 24.

- Craig W. Nickisch, Spearfish, SD


I was a Counter Intelligence agent with MACV Team 36, a Phoenix team dedicated to "neutralizing" Viet Cong political infrastructure in the Central Highlands. We did a good job and I'm proud of my service. Why do I still cry?

- Robert S. Nickisch, Sturgis, SD


The United States' bombing of enemy troop dispositions in Cambodia (particularly in the summer of 1973, when intense aerial bombardment (known as Arclight) was used to halt a Khmer Rouge assault on Phnom Penh) bought time for the Lon Nol government, but did not stem the momentum of the communist forces. United States official documents give a figure of 79,959 sorties by B-52 and F-111 aircraft over the country, during which a total of 539,129 tons of ordnance were dropped, about 350 percent of the tonnage (153,000 tons) dropped on Japan during World War II. Many of the bombs that fell in Cambodia struck relatively uninhabited mountain or forest regions; however, as declassified United States Air Force maps show, others fell over some of the most densely inhabited areas of the country, such as Siemreab Province, Kampong Chnang Province, and the countryside around Phnom Penh. Deaths from the bombing are extremely difficult to estimate, and figures range from a low of 30,000 to a high of 500,000. Whatever the real extent of the casualties, the Arclight missions over Cambodia, which were halted in August 15, 1973 by the United States Congress, delivered shattering blows to the structure of life in many of the country's villages, and, according to some critics, drove the Cambodian people into the arms of the Khmer Rouge.

The bombing was, by far, the most controversial aspect of the United States presence in Cambodia. In his book, Sideshow, William Shawcross provides a vivid image of the hellish conditions, especially in the months of January to August 1973, when the Arclight sorties were most intense. He claims that the bombing contributed to the forging of a brutal and single-mindedly fanatical Khmer Rouge movement. However, his arguments have been disputed by several United States officialsincluding the former ambassador to Cambodia, Emory C. Swank, and the former Air Force commander in Thailand, General John W. Vogtin an appendix to the second volume of the memoirs of the then-Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

From the Khmer Rouge perspective, however, the severity of the bombings was matched by the treachery of the North Vietnamese. The Cambodian communists had refused to take part in the Paris peace talks. When North Vietnam and the United States signed the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973, bombing missions over Vietnam and Laos were terminated. The fighter bombers and other aircraft thus released were diverted to strike Khmer Rouge positions in Cambodia.

Operations New Life and Baby Lift resulted in 773 aircraft transporting South Vietnam refugees in 19 days passing through Guam.

- James E. Nobles, Black Hawk, SD


Most of the Vietnamese people I met were happy with their family lives, even though they had next to nothing. It was good to be part of the US Army's work in building roads, buildings, and electrical power systems that are still helping them today.

- Steven J. Ogden, Louisville, TN


In 1970, I was hitching a ride on a helicopter between firebases northwest of Saigon. Much to my surprise the door gunner had "Wall Drug" written on the back of his helmet. I never had the chance to talk to him and always wondered who he was.

- David R. Ohlen, Rapid City, SD


200th Ordnance Detachment, 52nd Artillery Group

I was born in Timber Lake, SD and graduated from Timber Lake High School in 1959. My parents retired from the farm and move to El Paso, Texas that fall. I enlisted in the US Army in September, 1961, and graduated from Nike Hercules Guided Missile School (OGMS Redstone Arsenal, Alabama) in August, 1962.

I was sent to the 200th Ordnance Detachment Direct Support for and attached to the Nike Hercules 52nd Artillery Group, Fort Bliss, Texas. The 52nd was a STRAC 72-hour alert outfit. However, when the “Bay of Pigs” incident happened in 1962 and they decided they wanted us to go to Florida to Protect Miami from Castro, it took a couple of weeks to load Firing Batteries A, C, and D on flat cars and head to Florida. Our B Battery was over in Johnson Island doing some missile firings and testing. They joined us in Florida at Homestead, AFB. We set up C Battery in a cow pasture on the north side of Miami and D Battery to the west side in the middle of a ten-mile-square tomato field. A and B Batteries were set up south of the town of Homestead, which was south of Miami in the Everglades. In all, there were 72 launchers ready and waiting for Castro.

In 1964, the 200th Ordnance Direct Support was deactivated and our jobs were taken over by Civil Service employees. I wound up being the last man in the 200th to leave in May, 1965, when I was discharged from the Army. The 52nd Artillery kept operating until around the early 1970s, and then it was all sent back to Fort Bliss, TX.

- Robert J. O'Leary, Brush Prairie, WA


Many Vietnam-era veterans served in Thailand. There is a good book about all the units who served at the bases that were built in Thailand. Titled The Secret Vietnam War: The United States Air Force in Thailand 1961-1975, it can be found at www.secretvietnamwar.com. There are many pictures and stories in the book. My squadron, the 45th TRS, is mentioned in the first part of the book as we were on Project Able Mable at Don Muang Airport in November and December 1961.

- Leland G. Olson, Arlington, SD


Served on the DD845 USS Bausell from January 1970 to May of 1973. Was in the combat zone 20+ months and the ship fired over 15,000 rounds. The ship was hit at midship while doing surveillance off the coast of North Vietnam. The Mighty "B", as she was called, had to be pulled off the gun line and sent to the Philippines for repairs. The repairs were completed and the Mighty "B" was back on the gun line, handling her assigned duties. She now sits on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean as she was used for target practice after being decommissioned.

- Larry A. Olson, Brandon, SD


I remember volunteering for the draft, knowing that they would get to me sooner or later. I was just a young farm boy and didn't know much about the world outside of South Dakota. The Army educated me in a big hurry! I think all young men should serve in the armed forces for the discipline and training that it provides. I was a clerk at our headquarters in Germany and remember counting the casualties each day on "morning reports" that came into our office from local units fighting on the front lines. It was a humbling experience knowing that so many men were willing to give their lives for our country. If I could do it all over again, I would not hesitate to sign up for my country.

- Dennis M. Olson, Mina, SD


Twelve years active service. Served from 1967 to 1971 in the Navy, 1981 to 1986 in the Army, and 1988 to 1991 in the Navy.

- Jesse D. Olson, Mitchell, SD


Letter of Appreciation:  On the occasion of your transfer to the Retired Reserve, after over 24 years of service to your country as a member of the Navy team, I commend you for a job exceptionally well done! You entered the Naval reserve via active duty on 31 October 1956. After release from active duty, you rejoined the Naval Reserve on 11 December 1976. You and your family can be justly proud of your accomplishments in your service to the Nation. On behalf of myself, your shipmates, and the Navy, I wish you "Fair Winds and Following seas". J. M. Nugent Commanding Officer, Naval Reserve Center Sioux Falls, SD. Mar 11, 1995.

- Clarence Baxte Olson, Oneida, SD


I joined the Marine Corps three months after my 17th birthday.  I spent one year in California with the 5th Mar Divison.  I was sent to Vietnam shortly after I turned 18 at the rank of L/CPL.  I was sent to the 1 Corps area, near the DMZ.  I went to Quang Tri, then Dong Ha, Cam Lo, then on to LZ Stud and Vandergrift combat base.  I came home to Sioux Falls in 1970.  After seeing the family and my girlfriend for a bit, my father-in-law-to-be said, "Let's head over to the VFW. I'll buy you a 'Welcome Home' drink."  I felt honored.  (He had a Bronze Star and Purple Heart from Italy in WWII). We headed out for the VFW, me in my Marine Corps uniform and him with his limp.  We went in and he ordered two whiskey cokes.  He toasted me with his glass and I could see he was misty-eyed.  He said, "G--damn I'm glad to see you home.  Things are tough over there." About that time, some drunk jerk at the bar asked me if I was a "baby killer or a dope addict."  "You're all baby killers and dope addicts," he said. The bartender, wanting to avoid any trouble, asked me how old I was.  When I answered, "19 years old", he poured my drink out and told me to leave, that I wasn't old enough to drink liquor in South Dakota.  We left and went home, sat in my father-in-law's garage and drank my "Welcome Home" drink.  A double! Thanks, Gene.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about the Marine Corps, Vietnam, and a "Grateful Nation"!

- Calvin F. Olson, Rapid City, SD


I was 19 years old when I got to Vietnam. I was lucky enough to have a fan, a bug net for my bed, and refrigerator in my hooch. The food was good! We had a shower for us to use at anytime. I never got into drugs because I wanted to come home. As Military Policemen, most everyone hated us. Whenever I was on patrol with a jeep, I always tried to pick up GI's that I saw walking with big packs. If I was on guard duty at a gate, I would walk down the security boundary and meet all the other troops to show them I was not looking for trouble. These troops would ask me if I was "cool" and I would tell them I was the "ice man". This meant that they could trust me as just another GI. I saw a lot of GI's wreck their lives over there. As I look back after 30+ years, I would say it was worth being over there. We showed a lot of Vietnamese people there was a better life, but the cost came high for some; I was very lucky. Some of this luck I made myself. I would like to go back to Vietnam to see how it is today.

- David R. Osbeck, Brookings, SD


Almost daily, I am reminded of that fateful day in February 1965 when our base was infiltrated by Viet Cong sappers and simultaneously hit by mortar rounds. Twenty-three of my comrades were KIA. This and other memories cause me to question why some young men were struck down at such a young age and some of us survived to be grandparents. On the day of the dedication, I know they will be with us in spirit.

- Larry V. Ottoson, Brandon, SD


It was my pre-teen years when I was told of my great-grandfathers serving in the Civil War. Being wounded at Gettysburg, losing two to Confederate prisoner-of-war camps. My great-uncle served during WWII and had life-long nightmares after seeing action during the Battle of the Bulge. When my draft notice came, how could I not serve? I am and always will be an American and my family means everything to me. It is important for them to live in a country that provides freedom to aspire to whatever level their ambitions will carry them. There is no country greater or one that has more compassion. I do not feel guilty for serving my country. My only wish is that I would have the youth and health to be able to serve again. I am an American and proud to be a veteran.

- Steven Lynn Overby, Douglas, WY


Total years active and reserve: seven years and 11 months. Assistant squad leader at basic training 3d Battalion 4th CST Bde, USATC, Infantry Fort Ord, CA. Army Discharged July 20, 1978 Specialist Four USAR. Reupped after six years, then discharged August 31, 1978 as Sergeant, sixth US Army. Certificate of Recognition: Rollin R. Page Sr. of your service during the period of Cold War (2 September 1945 - 26 December 1991) in promoting peace and stability for this Nation, the people of this Nation are forever grateful. Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfield. RR Rollin Page Sr., AMVETS Finance Officer, VFW Post 9565, 11700 Wadsworth Blvd, Broomfield, CO 80020

- Rollin R. Page, Westminster, CO


HOAAAHHHH!!!!

- Timothy John Parker, Agency Village, SD


I was stationed at NAS Miramar, with the F4 Fighter squadron, responsible for training pilots to fly the F4 Phantom jets. I was in the aviation armament division, responsible for bombs and missiles flown with the Phantom jet. Pilots and radar officers came to our squadron to learn to fly the system. Bombs were the 580-pound Mark 2 general purpose bombs, sidewinder heat seeking missiles, and radar-guided sparrow missiles.

- Douglas R. Parker, Pierre, SD


I am submitting the names of South Dakota friends who lost their lives in Vietnam. David Morehouse and Darrell Hartman (high school friends), Vern Harris (college roommate) and Dennis Stockwell, a friend. They are in my thoughts forever and we will meet again.

- Gary D. Parry, Canistota, SD


I became the helicopter company's designated maintenance test pilot. One day in June 1964 after our company had lifted Vietnamese troops into an enemy-invested zone, a terrible fire fight broke out. Our armed ship 3rd platoon (named Cobra) needed a pilot to fill one of the seats on a chopper being scrambled to assist in the fight. They tried to contact me via radio while I was on a test flight and failed to find the radio and frequency we were using. Next they went into one of the "slick" ship platoon officer hooches and found 1/Lt James (Paige) Wright (Custer, SD). He went on the flight, which was shot down within the hour, killing him and the other pilot. Jim and I had both been graduates of SDSM&T and traveled together to the 114th in Vihn Long after flight school. He was my tie to a home life on the other side of the world. What a lossand he took "my seat" on that flight!!

- Walter D. Paulsen, The Villages, FL


From Long Beach, California to Haiphong Harbor on a wooden US Navy minesweeper cruising at nine knots is 48 days at sea.

- Patrick D. Penney, Sioux Falls, SD


No story, but my daughter passed away from Agent Orange and I got wounded three times, yet this is not in my disability?

- Raul M. Perez, Fresno, CA


I can't fit in my career in this space. I was drafted after graduating from Vivian High School in 1968 and reported for duty 24 February 1970. I did basic training at Fort Lewis, WA, advanced training at Fort Ben Harrison, IN, and then back to Fort Lewis, WA for shipment to Vietnam. I served a one-year tour in G-5 Psychological Operations, dropping leaflets and doing speaker broadcasts. I have been active duty ever since. I have served in every conflict since then. I will retire 30 April 2006 after 36 years of active military service. I wouldn't change a thing. It's been a great ride and I've enjoyed it through thick and thin.

- Ronald W. Peterman, Riverview, FL


Toby received orders for Cameron Bay, but since he was first in his class in pole climbing, he was sent to antenna maintenance school at Shepherd AFB which is why he was stationed in Germany and Turkey.

- Henry T. Peters, Sturgis, SD


I was an advisor to RVNAF HQ in Saigon and made numerous trips around the country. Continuing impressions on my mind are of the intense heat and humidity (98%) most of the year, the friendliness and keen intellect of the people, the absolute richness and beauty of the land, and the complete futility of the conflict. Our Army could go anywhere (we would take Hanoi if told to), but it was the wrong war in the wrong place and we knew the American public would no longer support it in 1969. My regret is that the lasting impression of most Americans is we lost the war. Yes, we, the US, quit. Our military forces did not lose, but politically had to withdraw from the field of battle. Perhaps for the better, since we shouldn't have been made to go there in the first place knowing the Vietnamese would not have allowed China to expand into their country. So much for the "Domino Effect", our reasoning for going there in the first place!

- Berwyn L. Place, Conde, SD


No story but proud to serve during the unpopular war. I am glad that the veterans coming back now receive the treatment they deserve.

- Don A. Porter, Sioux Falls, SD


I enlisted in the Navy on the 120-day delayed enlistment program. Four of my classmates and I went to see recruiters all on the same day, and I was the only one who chose the Navy. The others went to the Army and Air Force. I consider my time spent in the Navy as a real 'growing up' experience. I feel lucky that I received the type of jobs and duty stations I did. I enjoyed a lot of the travel, especially on 2 WestPac cruises. It was great to see so much of the world; most of those places were very pleasant with warm temperatures and so were not to hard to tolerate. I have a lot of respect for the guys and gals who served in more dangerous areas and were wounded, or lost their lives. It really brings home the statement to me, "that freedom isn't free". I try to be a part of the memorial services and the parade in my home town of Dell Rapids, every year that I can, as it keeps me humble and grateful for all who made the sacrifices for us left behind.  Also, I'm more grateful for the freedoms that we do have in this country because of those veterans who didn't come home.

One highlight in my career (that I didn't even realize until I was discharged) is that I was only about a hundred miles from where my dad fought in a battle in the Philippine Islands, on the island of Luzon. I found out more about it all when I was in college, and I was interviewing him for a World History paper on his experiences in WWII. I was very surprised and felt it sort of gave us something to have in common. I was the only one of his three sons to go into any military service, and I was his first son. He and my mother have set a great example for us kids by their service and involvement in the American Legion Post in Dell Rapids. They both have been so active and involved in that organization that I'm not sure it would run without them around. Both of them have over 50 years each or more of involvement. So, with that example being set, I had no doubt that I would also be involved in the military, and I'm not sorry that I did enlist when I did. It was a scary time for a lot of us boys just out of high school in 1970, and the draft was taking a lot of us who hadn't chosen to go to college. I'm happy with my choices and the ultimate outcome. I'm proud to be a Vietnam era veteran, and always will be.

- Burdette J. Posey, Bruce, SD


I boarded the USS Forrestal in the Philippines June 1967, joining VA 65. We arrived at Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin on July 14, 1967. We held our first strikes against North Vietnam on July 25, and then four days later on July 29, disaster struck as an inferno swept across the flight deck of the Forrestal. My worst memories where realizing how many people died that day and the destruction throughout the entire ship. I still have pages from the Life magazine covering the disaster and the cruise book from the Forrestal's cruise in 1967.

- Arden A. Price, Britton, SD


I served in Vietnam and really did not want to go, but I went to serve my country, which my father had done in WW2. The experiences I had there will be with me all my life, some good and some bad. After all these years, I can still remember all of the good friends I met there. Even though we do not keep in contact, I will never forget their faces. I have two brothers who also served during the Vietnam era, but did not serve in Vietnam. I am very proud that they fulfilled their military obligation (at the time). I do not want to go into specifics (conflict), but wanted to let you know I was proud to serve. Thank you,

- Anthony E. Rangel, Miller , SD


I will always remember when our MAC wing participated in airlifting Vietnam refugees to the USA, and how it took a C-141 to airlift all of Nixon's stuff to California.

- David B. Ransford, McCook Lake, SD


I was drafted in 1969 by the local board No. 45 Lake Andes, S.D. I enlisted in the USAF and served exactly four years and was discharged with an Honorable Discharge with rank of Staff Sergeant.

- Carl J. Remme, Carson City, Nevada


Served in Vietnam from August 17, 1969 to August 17, 1970. MOS: 05H (Morse Code Intercept).

- William F. Renneker, Brookings, SD


I went over with my unit 101st from Fort Campbell, KY. I arrived in Vietnam around the end of November or early December 1967. The high point of that time was the Bob Hope Christmas show. We traveled north until we ended up operating near the DMZ on the north end of the country. I was wounded during the Ashaw Valley operations on April 5th. I was eventually medevaced home by way of the Philippines, Japan, Travis Air Force base, and Fitzsimmons hospital in Denver. After treatment and recovery, I finally was stationed at Fort Reilly, Kansas until I was discharged with an early out Jan 12, 1970.

- Robert A. Rennolet, Menno, SD


I joined the Army on July 28, 1961 in Sioux Falls. I trained as a clerk typist and did a 13-month tour in Korea. On return to the USA, I served with the Army Security Agency at Fort Hauchuca, Arizona and was awarded a top secret/cryptographic security clearance. I returned to Sisseton and attended college at Northern State University. On November 16, 1965, from Chicago, I joined the US Navy and went to boot camp and Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes. From there, I went to Quantico Naval Hospital and next to Camp Lejuene for Field Medical School. I was assigned to the 1st Marine Division - Vietnam. On the way to Vietnam, I met a Chief Corpsman who had served on the USS Renville (a troop carrier with my last name). He asked me if I wanted to stay in Okinawa or go to Japan. I jumped at the chance to go to Japan (Iwakuna Marine Corps Air Station). I could have easily sat out the war. I was there for a couple of months and, being young and dumb, I asked to go to Vietnam. I was in Vietnam a couple of months and they needed some Corpsman to go back to Japan. Surprisingly, no Corpsman volunteered, so I raised my hand and they sent me back to Iwakuni. My enlistment was now nearly up and not having money saved up, I once again volunteer to go back to Vietnam where I was able to save some money and finish my 13-month tour. I was discharged at Treasure Island. Five months later, my brother Arden Renville, who was a medic with the 1st Infantry Division, was killed in action. I have always thought that the Chief Corpsman who had served on the USS Renville and the two side-trips to Japan probably saved my life.

- Grady W. Renville, Sisseton, SD


No story but I would like to say thank you to all those who served in Thailand and Southeast Asia for serving so diligently and tirelessly to support those serving in Vietnam.

- Dennis W. Reuss, Denver, CO


I was with the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division from 1966 through 1967. I was a mess sergeant. The unit's mission was to build bridges, air strips, and roads. We didn't get a whole lot of small arms fire. We got mostly artillery and mortar fire. We came under fire about 7:00 pm one evening, so my four cooks and I hit the bunker. When we came out about a half hour later, we saw where they had made a real good hit on our mess tent, and blew everything to hell. So I had C rations flown in, and that's what we ate for three days until I could get new equipment in.

- Dwaine F. Reuss, Titusville, FL


Our Auto-Track Radar units were sent to Vietnam to act as forward guidance for B-52s making their bombing runs. As such, our guys were in trailers placed in forward positions in the jungles with very little ground security. Not all of us went to Vietnam, but of the ones that did, the casualty rate was very high. I lost many good friends.

- Leo T. Reynolds, Sioux Falls, SD


I arrived at Korat RTAFB, Thailand in August 1975. My first impression was the smell, the intense heat and humidity, and the tremendous " walls " of rain of the monsoons. You could not see across the street during a monsoon rain. I was a medic and even though the war had ended in May, the 388th Hospital (a series of trailers attached together) continued to see its share of casualties: venomous snake bites, machete attacks, gunshot wounds, etc. I'll never forget the stench of blood, x-ray film, and the jungle as we worked feverishly to save a Captain who had six bullet wounds, two to the head, a few to the chest and abdomen and was having his second cardiac arrest on the x-ray table as we attempted to stabilize him for an emergency medevac to Clark AB, Philippines. I heard he made it. I remember many late-night emergency blood donations and, as we know, heroin was problem in Southeast Asia. I can still see young American boys acting like chimpanzees in the locked cells of our Heroin Detox Unit. Corpsmans' shifts were 12 hours on, 12 hours off, seven days per week. I am grateful for the USO for being there and staying open all night. I got rid of my uniform after my Freedom Bird dropped me off at Travis AFB because I, too, saw the "unwelcoming" home GI's received. Thanks for listening and thanks for the opportunity. Don Rickard, Mankato, MN. South Shore, SD class 1971. Inducted Milwaukee, WI 1972.

- Donald W. Rickard, North Mankato, MN


The reality of this hopeless conflict hit home for me when I watched a planeload of BOYS on their way to Vietnam wearing helmets two sizes too big, shopping for trinkets at an Okinawa gift shop to send home. I realized then that we were sacrificing these boys by politicians for politicians both in the U.S. and South Vietnam.

- Robert F. Riggio, Rapid City, SD


I served with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force which President Johnson called into action on March 8, 1965. We had been on "stand by" for three days when the official call came. We then mounted 6x trucks and rode from the north part of Okinawa to the southern tip of the island and flew out of Naha Air Base. We were told that hardcore Viet Cong (VC) were preparing to attack the DaNang Air Base and our assignment was to defend and hold the airfield. As we neared DaNang, we flew over Monkey Mountain, which was a VC stronghold, and they fired at our C-130's. When we landed, we saw that our plane wings looked like swiss cheese, but the underbelly armor had protected us. This further intensified why we were there. There has been much speculation and condemnation of the political reasons why we were there, but we Marines were only there for military and humanitarian reasons. And we saw a lot of the abuse and cruelty that had been administered upon the local people by the VC. Our unit was unique in that we were the first official unit assigned there, and that nearly all of us had been together for about three years before going to Vietnam. We had gone through boot camp, infantry training, and a year with the 7th Marines at Camp Pendleton. Our battalion was like a small town; we knew everyone in our unit. When someone was injured or died, it was like it happened to a brother, and that pain is still with us today. After we had been in Vietnam for about a month, a person from "Charlie Company" stepped on a French-laid land mine, and about a month later, our battalion ammo dump got blown up. After being on the air base for about three months, we were moved to the hills overlooking the air base and eventually we moved into the jungles where we conducted daytime patrols and nighttime outposts.

- Jones W. Robert, Brookings, SD


You knowwe thought we were doing what was right. Hell, we were raised to listen, honor and obey. What we got when we came home, I'll never forget. Hopefully, the time has came to put it to rest. Anyway, thank you.

- Donald E. Roberts, Inwood, IA


Stories of Vietnam….. I did two tours in Vietnam (1968 to1970) mostly in Chu Chi, South Vietnam. I have a lot of stories, but I prefer to keep them close to me. I can say that during my stay in Vietnam, my fellow brothers and I were not covered in a shadow; we knew how much the people back home despised us for doing our patriotic duty and we tried to focus on what we were there to do. We were more than brothers because we had to rely on each other each and every day. I remember the day I was to take my ‘freedom bird’ home. I felt a great loss in leaving those who I had considered my own, my friends, knowing that I would probably never see them again. But I left as so many did before me. I felt that time had stood still as we were processing for separation in Oakland, CA. We had our last meals on the Army and off we went. We were required to leave the base in uniform. Our departure was rude, insulting, and hateful but, I tried to put that all behind me. On my flight back home, I was not really surprised with the fact that the only kind word I received was from the woman seated next to me who thanked me for my service, but then on the other hand, she was from Canada. The next insult came when they pardoned all those traitors that ran to Canada to escape the draft. My greatest gift for serving in Vietnam has been an almost unrelenting anger that is inside of me all the time. They called in PVSS and the military was gracious enough to treat me to therapy for six months, and although they did help me to control my anger somewhat, it had already cost me a marriage and the respect of my kids. I'm remarried now, and to my wife’s credit, she has the patience of a saint. Would I do it all over again? At the drop of a dime. I felt that we were doing the right thing and it was my duty. Now I hear on the TV of all the heroes who have died in Iraq….. Don’t get me wrong, all the guys over there deserve this country's respect and gratitude! But if all of our fallen soldiers are heroes, doesn’t that diminish totally from those that were true heroes? I salute all those who have and will follow in my footsteps.

- Victor L. Robertson, Brandt, SD


I served as an infantryman for nine months, on patrol by foot for the majority of the time spent there. I was wounded in the Tet Offensive of 1968. I was quickly moved from the field to Fitzsimmons Hospital in Denver in 11 days with shrapnel wounds to the left hip from a B-40 rocket. I spent over one year in hospital recovery from a shattered left femur. I have been fortunate to make an excellent recovery. I am very happy to be home alive and able to participate in this celebration. Luckily, I have a motel reservation.

- John E. Roers, Sioux Falls, SD


While my ship was in Subic Bay, Philippines, four other ships were also in port for R&R (rest and recreation). I knew that some of my hometown (Redfield) friends were also on those ships. There were six of us in port at the same time and five of us managed to find each other. Needless to say, we managed to raise a little h--- before the night was done. We never thought that so many of would meet up that far away from home coming from the small community of Redfield.

- William H. Rose, Colorado Springs, CO


In December, 1972, our base at Udorn, Thailand, flew missile cover for the B-52s during the linebacker II operation with F-4E's. The pilots reported having to fly sideways to get thru the sam-missiles as big as telephone poles. Several F-4's were blown out of the sky over Laos. After five days of the ten-day Christmas bombing, they ran out of sams and migs. This around-the-clock bombing (fighters during the day and 100+ B-52's at night) also produced the first ace of the warCapt. Richie. I remember the victory roll over the flightline. On one mission, we loaded 2000lb laser-guided bombsfor targeting the perimeter of a prisoner of war campwith hopes some might escape. The best thing was it caused the Paris Peace Accord and the POW's to come home!

- Rodney M. Satrang, Mitchell, SD


Graduated from Edgemont High School in 1958. Attended South Dakota School of Mines for one year. Entered United States Air Force Academy in 1959 and graduated in the class of 1963. Did undergraduate pilot training at Craig AFB, AL, followed by F-105 upgrade and gunnery school at Nellis AFB, NV. First duty station at Spangdahlam AB, Germany as F-105 bomb commander. F-105 Combat tour at Korat RTAFB, Thailand, December 1966 through July 1967. 100 combat missions over North Vietnam and 15 combat missions over Laos. F-105 instructor pilot and flight examiner at McConnell AFB, KS, 1967-1971. Resigned commission June 1971 and entered University of South Dakota School of Medicine.

- Steven J. Savonen, Lamar, CO


Army Nurse Corps, Vietnam, 1968 to 1969...An experience that I approached with much reluctance and ambivalence. How ironic that the experience I most feared and dreaded has become one of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and gratifying experiences of my personal and professional life, an experience of which I am proud. I can say "proud" now; however, for many years after returning from Vietnam, it was too difficult to talk about being part of the unpopular war. People were too busy protesting the war to listen or be concerned about what was happening in the minds of the veterans. The 22-hour flight to Vietnam is somewhat of a blur in my mind. Women, of course, were in the minority, and I felt somewhat isolated realizing I was the only woman on the flight with approximately 200 young men. I will never forget the absolute quiet as we approached and landed at Bein Hoa Air Base. I felt fairly safe being in a war zone as a medical person, however, I wondered how many of us would be returning in a year. Reality struck home as we were shuffled quickly from the plane to buses in the black of the night. The windows were blacked out and armored guards briefed us on what to do if we were attacked, as had happened several weeks before. The bus drove without lightsalmost a total blackout. My first days of duty in the recovery room, Intensive Care Unit ward, were mentally and physically fatiguing. I soon learned a new and painful appreciation of what our young men were being exposed to. Our shifts were 12 hours, six days a week, and since we were few nurses, we depended tremendously on our Corpsmen. It was not unusual to receive 20 casualties at a time being flown in by helicopter. The sound of the choppers was constant, both day and night. At the 93rd Evac Hospital, we had daily evacuation flights. We gave immediate treatment and sent them to the States as soon as possible. Long Binh was the target of the Tet Offensive that year. For three nights, we were in total blackout with the hospital set up for triagethe emergency situation of sorting and treating patients. I was in the area to treat the more minor wounds and send the person back to the field. It was a frightening time. There were three evacuation flights a day, making a constant turnover of patients. As I was giving medication to a patient one morning, I noticed a photo on the table next to him. It was an action shot of guys running to the bunker, obviously under fire. He said, "that's the last picture I'll ever take." Yes, he stopped too long to get a picture, and the result was that his arms were amputated. My good memories of Vietnam are the friendships and a special closeness to my fellow Americans. The hardest part was seeing these young people die when you were over there to try to keep them alive.

- Bonnie M. Saxton, Centennial, CO


As an instructor, I trained Green Berets for three years off and on between other duties. As an in-country Special Forces A-Team member, I worked with many of the same people I had trained. After winning the Army's Expert Infantry Badge with the 1st. Cav. Division, I was recruited by the Special Forces where I spent the balance of my service. I was wounded and lost a leg during the Tet Offensive in 1968, and after recovery, went back to Special Forces as an Instructor and Operations until I retired. I received The Army Commendation Medal as an Instructor in SFTG.

- Lawrence W. Schmidt, Huron, SD


I served on Navy Swift Boats in the rivers in Vietnam and was wounded. Naval Special Warfare was SEAL Teams and Swift Boats. We were assigned the rivers and canals to keep the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army from gaining control of the waterways for transporting guns, ammo, and troops. The rivers were a dangerous place to operate, and our casualties were high. I am still in contact with the men I served with and we are a close group. In a unit that had almost 90 percent wounded or KIA, it was easy to get close to each other. I am very proud that I was selected to serve in these small units and on these boats and with these men.

- Wesley J. Schneider, Rapid City, SD


After high school in New Effington, SD, I went into the US Army. I went to Fort Rucker and completed Multi Eng Aircraft school. Next stop was Fort Bragg, NC. I was assigned to Caribou 62-4149 as assistant crew chief. On June 22nd, we left for Vietnam with our 18 aircrafts going the east route. We got to Saigon on the 4th of July, 1963. My first six months were at Hue and the last six months were at Vung Tau. In March of 1964, I was assigned as Crewchief on Caribou 61-2593. On May 4th, another Crewchief wanted to change planes with me so he could be in early, so I did. The next day, I took his crew and plane and he took my crew and my plane. At about 10am, we heard from my plane as it was on fire. They crashed and killed all 15 people on the plane. Because of him wanting to change planes with me, I am here, and he and my crew names are on the wall. This plane crash was the first major American military air disaster in Vietnam. I now am a Sky Soldier with the AAHF and am again the Crewchief of Caribou 62- 4149. I will be at Pierre in September with Caribou 62-4149. It will be a honor for me to show Bou 49 to the Vets in my home state.

- Robert G. Schrader, Kindred, ND


My career started out in the US Navy, being discharged in 1960. Then, I enlisted in the South Dakota Air Guard in February 1962. I was a full time Pneudraulic technician with the Air Guard until January 18, 1988. I then retired from the Air Guard as a Master Sergeant in US Air Force with 29 years and nine months total service. While in the US Navy, I earned the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal and many others.

- Alvin H. A. Schroeder, Tea, SD


I was fortunate enough to serve early in the war (I was in Vietnam from September 1965 to February 1967) before public opinion turned against it. It never occurred to anyone that I knew over there to question our mission. That was not our job. We were called by our country to serve, and we served with honor. I was a crew chief/gunner on Huey helicopters, and saw my share of action executing the varied missions that we undertook. In the one and a half years that I was there, I never once saw any drugs or knew anyone that did drugs. There wasn't any time for that. When we weren't flying, we were busy doing construction projects on our base, which was an abandoned WWII Japanese airfield when we arrived. My service there is a chapter of my life that I don't dwell on, but I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve with many brave young men of all races who were proudly doing what they were called to do. Not all of them returned alive. By the grace of God, I was never seriously injured.

I was raised on a farm near Corona, SD, Roberts County, and was drafted February 1965. I was working in Denver, CO at the time, so I enlisted there to insure an Aviation MOS in the Army. I want to thank the state of South Dakota for remembering us, and I will be honored to attend this event.

- Duane E. Schulte, Longmont, CO


I spent my first three months in-country as aide-de-camp to BG. Burton, CG of the 3d BDE sep, 1st Cavalry Division [Airmobile]. Each day, we would fly the area of operations visiting various units in the bush or on fire bases. Invariably, I would run into an SDSU alumnus serving in RVN at the same time. General Burton would say, "John, this isn’t possible. There aren’t that many people in South Dakota.” I had to explain that ROTC was mandatory back then, and many men continued on with advanced ROTC and received commissions.

- John T. Schultz, Brookings, SD


Coming home didn't seem to come quick enough.

- Joseph B. Schumacher, Madison, SD


Just out of high school, I turned 18 in June 1969. I volunteered for draft and went to Fort Lewis, Washington in July for Infantry training. I went to Vietnam on December 1st, met 20-some great guys at Camp Evans. We moved to the field and walked, walked, walked every day. "I only weighed 110 lbs, yet I never gained a pound in the year 1970!"

The war seemed to be fought at night! Land mines and booby traps were our worst enemy. We always worried when the choppers came to take a dozen guys for a "Eagle Flight" because some sensor would indicate movement in a tree grove. On March 7, 1970, we were near Hue point and Sg McCarthy stepped on a Bounce Betty which killed him and wounded three more of us. We were taken to hospital ship USS Hope, parked in the Gulf of Tonkin. Many guys lost legs in this war.

The country was beautiful, with sand flats, rolling hills, mountains and swamps. The local people seemed to take our presence very easy; they just wanted to be left alone. Coming home was another sad, lonely, experience. No one seemed to care where you had been the past year. My favorite line seemed to be I was on "my senior class trip" in Southeast Asia.  Many good friends were made in Vietnam, some of us still stay in good contact with each other.  Can't hardly believe I still like camping out after all that!

- Larry N. Schuster, Eden, SD


Main mission was to re-built the roads in Vietnam and clear the mines along these roads

- Richard R. Schwanke, Sioux Falls, SD


I worked in emergency room of the 95th evac in DaNang where I saw more than anyone should ever have to seeboth wounded and casualtiesSome were small wounds, some guys were blown in half.  We dealt with everything from druggies to guys with clap. The year I was there, I saw several people I knew from home or from basic training. It's a small world.  I got hard very fast, not letting some of the things I saw get to me. Where I came from, we didn't know about drugs, and thank God I learned about them from people who were using them. Seeing that made me never want to use them. Vietnam was a place where you grew up very fast. I made good friends and we made promises to see each other when we got home, yet I only saw one later in life. My time in the service and in Vietnam is a time I would not trade for anything. I am very proud that I am a Vietnam vet and spent time there. I think without the time spent in the Army I would not be the person I am today.

Several years ago the mobile wall came to our town.  I went to see it, but the first two times on the way there, I had to turn around and wait to see if I had the courage to see it. I did get there and when I walked on to the field where it was, it hit me like huge wave as I realized why I was afraid to see it. I realized that I had seen some of these brave men die and didn't know who they were or where the came from. To see the wall at half-scale is amazing and I can't imagine what feelings there would be to see the real one. I have been very lucky in life. I have a great wife, nine pretty good kids and ten grand-kids, plus a very good job and home. I have way more than I deserve. Thank you for doing this for all that were part of this time.

- Lloyd C. Schweigert, Sioux City, IA


I joined the Army in 1965 after deciding not to return to USD and losing my student deferment. I had always wanted to learn to fly and was fortunate to be accepted into the Warrant Office Candidate Program to train in rotary wing aircraft. Upon graduation from Army Aviation Flight School in December of 1966, I was assigned to the 498th Medical Co. (Air Ambulance) reporting for duty in Vietnam in January of 1967. I flew as a "Dust Off" pilot with the call sign of "Dust Off 47". I served ten months of a 12-month tour in II Corps predominately in the Bien Hoa area supporting US, Korean and Vietnamese troops as far north as Chu Lai and as far south as Nha Trang. During that ten-month period, I flew 600 combat hours and evacuated 1,875 patients. The reason I only served ten months of the 12-month tour was the sudden death of my mother in late November of 1967, necessitating a 30-day emergency leave and leaving me less than 30 days to serve in-country if I returned. Therefore, I was given orders for my next duty station. During that 30-day leave, I was fortunate to be reunited with my family, including my newborn son, who had arrived in September. During the Christmas season of 1967, we had a visitor at my wife's parents' farm east of Flandreau. A young man had heard that I was home and he had come looking for me. He said, "Gary, I want to thank you in person for Medevacing me in Vietnam". He told the story of being on a patrol, as I recall, and a booby-trap exploding, filling one or both of his legs with shrapnel. They called for a Med Evac and while his stretcher was being placed on the helicopter, he looked up and saw my name on my helmet. He said he was hurting too much at the time to say anything, so now when we were both home, he had sought me out. We compared where it had happened and the dates of the action and deduced that I was in that area at that time and didn't know of any other Dust Off pilot with the same last name, so it must have been me. This young man had worked for Terrace Park Dairy and delivered milk to my in-laws' farm while he was in high school. He and I had met but didn't know each other well, but we were both South Dakota boys. I have often wondered what the probability was of two men from SD meeting that way in a combat zone? I do recall his name and wonder if he will be in Pierre for the celebration as I have not seen him since that Christmas season of 1967.

- Gary L. Scofield, Watertown, SD


I was in the infantry in Vietnam for 12 months in the third platoon Charlie Company. We spent most of the time in Ashaw Valley and LZ Sally. John Perkins of Georgia was my platoon Sgt. and we became good friends.  We have had several reunions down south and also here at our farm in Scotland, South Dakota.  I still stay in contact with him and others that I met in Vietnam...such as Freddie McLendon, Steve Frojen, Wayne Holden, Jerry Palmer, David Strand, John Sandhoefner, Rudy Gonzalas, Don Scribner, Don Lewis.  If anyone recognizes any names, give me a call....

- Joseph W. Sedla, Scotland, SD


Note: Additional tour active duty 12 November 1987 to 30 September 1989, Naval Reserve recruiting command, Great Lakes, IL.

- Margaret A. Seljeskog, Rapid City, SD


I was at Asp1 at Hill 327 in April 1969 when the ammo dump went up.

- Ronald W. Selken, Sioux Falls, SD


Entered Service and attended an Indoctrination Class in Davisville, RI for four weeks. Orders for Gulfport, Mississippi to reopen WWII base for SeeBees. Volunteered for Advance party to Vietnam and departed on December 29,1966.Volunteered for detachments building support buildings for Army and Marines. Worked with NVA and Viet Cong prisoners, building shelters with help of a ten-year-old interpreter (Go Bah). Became a proud father of a son while deployed. Returned to Gulfport, Mississippi and went to Camp LeJune to build mock Vietnamese village for training purposes.

- Jerald E. Shantz, Pierre, SD


Home of record at time of entry was Winner, SD.

- David L. Sharkey, Goldsboro, NC


I grew up on a ranch 20 miles southwest of Gregory, SD, which I still call home today. I was drafted from Winner, SD. I reported for my physical in Sioux Falls, SD, on November 22, 1963—the day of President Kennedy’s funeral. As a result, my physical was postponed to the next day. On February 12, 1964, I reported for service. I took basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and Advanced Infantry Training (A.I.T.) at Fort Riley, KS, where I was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Division, also known as the “Big Red One.” In June 1965, the whole division, “equipment and men,” went by train to the West Coast, transferred to the U.S. Gordon, and departed for “Southeast Asia,” which turned out to be Vietnam. After 19 days, my seasick comrades and I landed at Saigon. The Big Red One was one of the first full divisions in Vietnam. We set up camp (which involved clearing jungle, building bunkers, and setting up tents) at Bien Hoa, located 28 miles north of Saigon. This camp was later named Camp Ranger, and it became our home base. We saw a lot of Vietnam by helicopter, tromping through rice paddies, and cutting through the jungle on search and destroy operations.

John E. Sell, originally from Clearfield, SD, and I joined the service together, belonged to the same company throughout our service, and returned home together. A hometown friend, Bill Schueneman, was also on the U.S. Gordon for 17 days when his unit was deployed to Cam Ranh Bay. While my company was securing roads for the transportation of supplies and troops, a motorcade, in which Bill was a driver, stopped right were I was standing. It was great to be reunited with friends, even in the midst of war and at a location over 17,500 miles from home (as a sign posted in Camp Ranger noted the distance from Bien Hoa to Pierre, SD.) His unit later moved down to Bien Hoa.

I am proud to be an American and to have served my country during the Vietnam War. After serving, I’ve realized how lucky I am to be an American and what a good life we have here in the “Land of the Free.”

Thank you, South Dakota, for this Vietnam War Memorial Dedication.

- Ronald C. Shattuck, Gregory, SD


I enlisted in the SD Army National Guard on June 6, 1963, only 19 days after my father died. I was still in high school and went to IDT on September 9, 1964.  I was held on active duty for more than 181 days at Fort Knox, KY until March 28, 1965. The active duty post I was at lost me in their movement of troops in and out of training. So I ended up with over the 180 days active duty. I was honorable discharged on June 5, 1969. I was out of the service until April 6, 1985, when I reenlisted in the 235th Sup Co out of Rapid City, SD. I was hired as a AGR full-time soldier again on Sept 29, 1985 Det 2, Belle Fourche, SD. I was discharged on January 31, 2005 as a SFC STARC HQ SD with a honorable discharge. I believed that I may have the longest break in the SDANG and came back on active duty. My wife has worked for 29 years at the Fort Meade, VA hospital as a psychiatric nurse and has worked with many Vietnam vets.

- Robert W. Siedschlaw, Sturgis, SD


I was proud to serve my country and still believe that we were doing the right thing in Vietnam and we would have won that war if it wouldn't have been for the negative news media and all the bad publicity the war got. I love this country and would do anything for it because it is the best country in the world, and I am awfully proud of the men and women that are serving this country in Iraq. It makes me feel terrible every night I watch the news and see all those young men and women that are killed or wounded in that far-off country, but I guess that is the way a lot of people felt when we were in Vietnam. Semper Fi, Stephen Siemonsma, USMC, retired.

- Stephen E. Siemonsma, Tea, SD


While serving in the delta in 1968 to 1969, I contracted a severe skin rash that took some months of treatment to recover from. At the worst period of this time, I really looked like a walking scab. Hence the nickname, "Scurvy". In later years, it was suspected to be a condition brought on by Agent Orange.

- Rollin W. Sieveke, Lead, SD


I have over 400 days TDY to Southeast Asia. Our crew flew several sorties over Hanoi, North Vietnam. We were kept safe by the good hand of God. Some of our B-52 folks were not as fortunate. May God bless them and their families.

- Donald W. Sievers, Rapid City, SD


1968 Vietnam Diary/Journal of SP/5 Larry D. Simon, 195th Assault Helicopter Company, RSVN 1968:

Thursday, March 7, 1968. We flew for the 199th Inf. (Turtle Group) and dropped off chow and ammo. Then off to FSB Pineapple for a 34 Huey slick and 12 Huey gunship combat assault on NVA/VC. During the assault we loaded on US WIA GI's on my helicopter and flew them on to nearby 93rd Med Evac. It sure wasn't a job for a weak stomach. I felt bad after seeing people just like me put on my chopper wounded, screaming, and dying. I worked two hours to clean all the blood off the deck and the blood which ran all the way to the belly of my aircraft. Larry D. Simon

- Larry D. Simon, Sturgis, SD


Still in Service with the SD Air National Guard.

- Roger Lee Simunek, Canton, SD


When I arrived at the base at Dong Ha, another Marine had a mongoose that his Commander was making him get rid of, as no pets were allowed on base. I took him and hid him in our hooch until I was able to get him to a Vietnamese veterinarian to get all the required shots. I took him the the P.X. and a General came into the P.X. and said to me, "Marine, don't you know it is a Court Marshall offense to have a pet on base?" I said, "Yes, Sir," at which time he reached over towards Snoopy (my mongoose) who was on my shoulder, and asked why he had dog tags on. Snoopy walked up his arm to his ear where he licked it, and the General said "What the hell is this thing?" I told him he was a mongoose and he replied, "One of those animals that can kill a Cobra snake." I told him the dog tags were a record of all his shots. He played with Snoopy for a while, then told me to be at the P.X. with Snoopy in the morning. I was sure I would be Court Marshalled and Snoopy would be gone. However, the General arrived at the P.X. with a camera-man and they took pictures of the General playing with Snoopy. When he left, he handed me a piece of paper giving me permission to keep Snoopy on base. The General later had me bring Snoopy over to his office a couple of times so he could play with him. The General tried to help me to get permission to bring Snoopy back to the States with me, but a mongoose was not allowed in the United States. Snoopy remained my faithful little friend all the time I was stationed a Dong Ha for five months.

- Richard J. Slowey, Yankton, SD


The smells of the country were so different from the smells of the "country" where I grew up; they were so pungent. The odor of the Nuc Mom(sp) where they harvested the fish oil will never be forgotten. The liberty in Saigon was good and seeing the beautiful buildings and the abject poverty was an eye opener; what a contrast between the rich and the poor. Seeing the women sweeping their dirt floors and even the dirt street in front of their homes to get the last little bit of trash. Then they would burn anything that could be burned to cook their food. The greatest memories are of those I served with. We were a large target in-country and we had to trust and depend on those who we served with. What a diverse and great bunch of men they were. I turned 18 just before shipping out, and I remember the fear that I had when we landed at Saigon. I don’t think the fear ever really left, it just turned into a numbness that I learned to live with. One of the very worst days was getting the letter from home telling me that my grandma had died. I was never so lonely as I was that day and there was nothing I could do about it. The Chaplin did get me a liberty to Saigon so I could go to the USO headquarters and call home. The tour was not the best of times for me, but I’m glad I was there.

- Rodney G. Smith, Chester, SD


While in South Vietnam, he was the career advisor for the 7th Motor Transport Battalion. He also went out on reaction platoon patrols.

- Ralph K. Snoozy


Note: Although I enlisted in Seattle, WA, I was born and raised in Wessington and attended school there for 12 years, and Wessington was my home of record throughout my military service. After being discharged, I returned to SD and worked in Huron for two years and was married there before moving to Minnesota.

I enlisted at Seattle, WA and took basic at Fort Ord, CA and then spent nine months in Cryptograph School at Fort Monmouth, NJ. I was stationed briefly at Fort Bragg, NC before re-enlisting for Okinawa. In November of 1966, upon completing my tour of Okinawa, I volunteered for Vietnam.

I was assigned to the 69th Signal Battalion located at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The 69th was tasked with operating communications in the Saigon area. I was responsible for Teletype/Cryptograph maintenance at Combat Operations Center at MACV.

The food there was repetitious and invariably bad, powdered eggs in the morning and roast beef for lunch and supper. As this tasted nothing like roast beef, I suspected it was water buffalo.

Saigon was a dirty place; garbage was piled in the streets and a haze hung over the thoroughfares due to the streets being clogged with air-polluting conveyances. It was common to see street vendors carrying their wares about suspended from a stick over their shoulder; the wares attached to each end of the stick. I once saw a mamasan scurrying down the street and she accidentally dumped a pot of noodles in the gutter. Incredible as it seems, she scooped them out of the gutter back into the pot.

There was a lot of brass at MACV but as our Com Center was located in an out-of-the-way place, we seldom encountered them. However, one day I came upon General Westmoreland. We were not indoors, but we were under a canopy. While I was covered, he was not, so the saluting situation was iffy. I went by the adage “when in doubt salute” and so I received a singular salute from the Commander of US Forces Vietnam

I left there in November of 1967, flying to Travis AFB and then on to Pierre where my dad met me. After being gone for two and a half years, I was never more pleased to set foot back in SD.

Charles Snyder, Apple Valley, MN - Born and raised in Wessington.

- Charles R. Snyder, Apple Valley, MN


I don't have any stories to tell. What I do remember is the heat of the flight deck during day operations and the heated breeze coming over the flight deck at night, as well as the many beautiful sunsets. As I think back, I think of the pilots in our squadron taking off and some of them never returning. It's hard for a lot of people to imagine what a veteran carries inside, remembering certain people, places or events that happened and even today hearing of someone that died because of the effects of that war. It is a necessary evil in order to preserve our freedom. If I had to, I would do it all over again. Least we never forget our POW-MIA's. David V. Snyder, Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class, USS Coral Sea. Attack Squadron 82.

- David V. Snyder, Salem, SD


I am proud to have served my country in a very "unpopular war". Regardless the outcome, it "was what it was" and we all need to go forward in life. The real heroes are those that did not return homeeither killed or still MIA, and those that have been permanently wounded, either physically or mentally. It is sad, but there were and are still many. I salute each of you. Lloyd Sohl

- Lloyd W. Sohl, Rapid City, SD


Sent home November 1968 hardship

- John F, Solon, Kadoka, SD


I remember standing up, outside eating with the cold rain running down on each bite. My wife never did understand why I did not like picnics. Thank God I spent most of the year in a secure area without anyone shooting at me.

- Lyle J. Sorensen, Comfort, TX


A Birthday Wish Fulfilled

The dedication ceremony for the South Dakota Vietnam War Memorial will be a birthday wish come true for one Freeman, SD man. Chester Sorensen of Freeman (a WW II veteran) will get his 80th birthday wish to have all four of his sons attend the ceremony with him. This will be the first time the five have been together since their mother’s funeral in 2002.

Chet often had to console his wife, Marj, during the six years and nine months they had at least one son in the military. Keith went in two months before Tim was discharged; and Sam went in two months before Keith was discharged. She often said it was easier waiting for Chet to return from WW II than waiting for one of “their boys” to get discharged.

Keith and Sam followed in Chet’s footsteps and served in the Army. Tim and David were the renegades that joined the Navy.

Tim served in California, Vietnam and the Philippines, while Keith spent time in Missouri, Alaska and Arizona. Sam spent most of his time in Germany with his new bride. David spent his one day in Omaha.

Tim and Sam followed their father’s lead and became actively involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Keith became involved with veterans in working with the American Legion. He began a full-time career as a Veterans Service Officer in 1978 and continues to do that work today.

- Keith A. Sorensen, Newport News, VA


Died 25 July 1971 at Asardia Lake, MS as a result of accidental drowning while on authorized liberty.

- Mark Dale Sorenson (deceased)


I was born on May 8, 1948 in Redfield, SD. I lived on a farm near Miranda and went to school in Orient and Faulkton. I graduated from Faulkton High School in 1967.

I didn't know much about the Vietnam War at that time. I do remember that our class dedicated our yearbook "The Trojan" to those who served above and beyond the call of duty for our country in Vietnam.

Little did I know that for my birthday present in 1968, I would get a draft notice and that I would be serving in the Army on May 7th of that year. I took basic training at Fort Lewis, WA, Co E, 3rd Bn, 1st Gde, 4th Platoon. I went straight from basic to SUATC Armor, Fort Knox, KY, A-5-R-2 and got orders to go to Vietnam. I was very homesick and scared to go into a war. I went home on a two-week leave and then went to Vietnam.

I served with B-Troop 1 Sq 11th ACR, 2nd Platoon on ACAV #20 from October 1968 to August of 1969. I saw a lot of action. On November 7, 1968, the driver of our ACAV (Kenneth Ybarra from California) whom I had befriended, went to dumb dumb school and all, was killed. Our ACAV was combat lost and its crew was split up. On November 8, our Captain, John Hayes from Florida, was killed, and I was in that fire fight with him. It was difficult losing friends. A few days later, the left gunner on the ACAV I was assigned to (I was the right gunner) was killed only a few feet from me. We fought the NVA for several hours with him laying by my feet. By this time, I didn't want to become too close to anyone for fear of losing a friend again. It gave me a serious reason to shoot back. Later on, I adjusted and just took one day at a time. We got a new ACAV to replace the combat loss and the Sergeant, and the left gunner, and myself, plus a new guy, were back in business. But I had to drive, which is not the safest place. We would lead for the troop and mines were a big thing. I drove for months and months and never hit a mine, but those following and not going in my tracks did. I remember going through a bombed-out area once and running over a log which tipped up a 250 lb. bomb that hadn't exploded yet. We were very lucky. I could have blown up the whole platoon.

Except for R&R in Australia, that is what life was like on my tour. After more fire fights and more casualties, on August 15, 1969, I was shot through the chest and sent to Japan. From there, I was sent to Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Colorado.

I married my high school sweetheart on September 27, 1969. We went back to Fort Knox, KY and I served with Co A, 6th Bn, 32 Armor until May 6th, 1970 when I separated from the Army at rank of Specialist 5.

Sheila and I have two children, Dulcey and Jeromy. We made our home in Redfield, SD. I started working in Ready Mix Concrete and am still doing that. Also, I am a member of the VFW, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and the 11th Armored Cavalry's Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia.

Vietnam was no walk in the park; it was more like walking through the valley of death. With an occasional bad dream I survived. But I thank God that I have had a pretty much normal life with a wonderful loving family.

- Earl R. Sprague, Redfield, SD


I was in the Medevac unit in Vietnam during 1969 to 1971 mostly in DaNang. I just wanted to say hello to all fellow vets who have been there and returned and also to those who lost someone there. My daughter Heather's high school junior class constructed a Veterans Memorial here in Herreid, South Dakota. I invite all to come and see it. Thank you, Heather. I also want to thank my wife and family for standing beside me always....Semper Fi comrades...Al Starkey Herreid, South Dakota

- Al E. Starkey, Herreid, SD


Although I did not serve "in country", I have many many friends that did. I trained at Fort Sam Houston in Texas as a combat medic and saw first-hand the destruction and pain suffered by many of my fellow soldiers. Fort Sam was the burn center of the army and as such, the wounds suffered were horrific to witness. These injured soldiers can never be repaid for the sacrifices they have made, but this memorial hopefully will give the rest of us a pause to appreciate them.

- James Steckelberg, Yankton, SD


TDY over a period of 18 months to Vietnam from Okinawa.

- Walter D. Steele, Rapid City, SD


No story. I grew up in Pierre. I served my country for 22 years and my only regrets was that I wish I could have served longer, but after Desert Storm, the military wanted to downsize the number of people in the service, so having served over 20 years, I took the retirement. I still miss the Navy. I think every young person should at least service a year or two for their country. It makes them grow up with a little more respect for what the United States stands for, and for their own rights.

- Raymond Lee Stehlik, Austin, MN


I arrived in Vietnam the 8th of April, 1970. I stepped off the plane and it was like getting hit with a wet towel. I showered four and five times a day until I got used to the heat and humidity. I will always admit that I had it pretty easy, being stationed right in Saigon. No amount of thanks would ever be enough for the soldiers in the field. After Vietnam, I got stationed at Ellsworth. I got out in 1972 and South Dakota has been my home ever since. I have now lived most of my life in South Dakota. I tell people that "South Dakota is my home, and California is where I am from."

- O'Malley H. Steven, Rapid City, SD


I was drafted into the US Army in June 1967. I completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Advanced Individual training as an artillery surveyor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Then I was PCS'd to Germany where I was assigned to the 569th Personnel Services Company. After approximately five months in Germany, I received PCS orders to Vietnam. I arrived at Long Binh and was assigned to the 91st Finance Company, later renamed USA Central Finance & Accounting. I worked at In/Out processing of every Army officer and enlisted person wether alive or deceased. We worked seven days a week and performed guard duty at nights at the Ben Hoa Air Base nearby. Duty was extremely good. All the script money used by the US troops was "changed" twice during the year I was stationed in Vietnam. All script were collected, counted at least twice and new scripts issued. An extreme task was usually completed within 24 hours after receiving notification to proceed. My term of service was complete after 365 days in Vietnam and I was out-processed at Oakland, California in early June 1969. This is where we met the anti-war protestors and immediately changed into civilian clothes to complete the journey home!

- Donald W. Stoltz, Rapid City, SD


Dear Sirs, I was born in Britton, SD in September 1942. I moved to California at the age of fourteen in December 1956. I joined the Army from there. I took basic training in Fort Ord, CA, then training in Morse Code at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I then served almost two years in Japan. While there, some of my outfit was sent TDY to Vietnam. When they finished and returned to Japan, they were very happy to get back safe. The worst I saw was communist demonstrators that would come in busloads to our front gate.  They would throw bottles, cans, rocks, etc. at us and chant "Yankee Go Home". We would protect our camp with fixed bayonets, but were not allowed any ammunition for rifles. However, this would deter them from doing anything else. Thank God. I respect those who served in the battle fields very much and they do deserve the utmost honor. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I am just proud to have been a part of the support they needed.

Proud to be an American, long may Her Banner Wave.

Sincerely, Orman K. Stand, RA 19 722 174

- Orman K. Strand, Colorado Springs, CO


The A-7E aircraft at the Watertown airport was one of the planes that came to my squadron VA-146 aboard the USS Constellation in the early 1970s. It was a replacement aircraft for one of the 28 aircraft we lost that cruise. One of my memories of the entire war that still ticks me off is that when we came back to the States, we were not allowed to wear our uniforms when we came off the ship/base at Alameda NAS.  Protesters like Joan Baez, John Kerry, and Jane Fonda were leading protests against us. We served the country and were not be able to feel proud about our uniforms.

- Richard J. Stricherz, Watertown, SD


In 1962, some of the soldiers in my unit were volunteering for training as helicopter pilots with the understanding that when their training was completed, they would be commissioned as warrant officers. Most of us had never heard of "Vietnam", and really had no idea where it was. Also, I believe that those volunteering for helicopter training thought they would be working as "advisors", not fighting a war.

- Gordon A. Strom, Sioux Falls, SD


There are many stories that we can write about what happened over there, yet too many that we can't or won't write. Some stories would be hard to believe, others are too hard to write. Rather than attempt to write any of those, I want to tell you about a real hero. My wife, whose maiden name was Maureen Earl. Maureen is a South Dakota girl from a farm near Mount Vernon. I hitchhiked home to Mitchell from Fort Monmouth, NJ in December of 1967 to wed my sweetheart, Maureen. Six months later, I received orders to Vietnam. I had to leave my 19-year-old bride who was six months pregnant. We drove back to SD from NJ in our old Mercury with everything we owned in a small U-haul trailer. Somewhere north of Des Moines, the engine of the car blew up. With help, we managed to drag it back to SD to junk it. Maureen had to move back to the farm to live with her folks. I requested the Army to let me delay going to Vietnam until the baby was born, but they refused. I can't tell you all that she went through the year I was in Vietnam. I know it was a rough winter. She did not have a car. Of course, I was never there to help. Thank God she did have her parents and her brother. Other than in photos, our son was nine and a half months old the first day I saw him. My unit was on the wrong end of a ground attack the day he was born. As battles go, it was a pretty small engagement and pretty common over there. Still, it was rough. I think about it often. Yet I can't imagine all that my wife had to go through here in South Dakota. Having a baby, as a teenager, without her husband around. No job and little money, just an Army allotment. Having to worry about him being in a combat zone and wondering if the child would ever see his father. Every day hearing the bad news about the war, in the newspapers, on the radio and TV. Waiting for a stamp-less letter (postage was free from a combat zone). Dreading a telegram. It had to have been hard to live every day that way. My wife, Maureen, was there with our son waiting for me when I came back from Vietnam.

- Lyle W. Sunderland, Mitchell, SD


While stationed on the USS Canberra, it made two deployments to the Far East, and joined the Seventh Fleet ships supporting RVN and USA forces in Vietnam. Canberra fired over 25,00 rounds from her 8-inch guns. The cruiser participated in operations ranging from riding shotgun for a truck convoy to supporting the first full-scale landing in the Mekong Delta. Canberra provided naval gunfire support in the I, II, and IV Corps areas, from the Mekong Delta to the DMZ, spending 88% of the time at sea with her. While stationed aboard the USS John King (DDG-3), it made one cruise to West Pac, connecting up with the Seventh Fleet. Thousands of five-inch projectiles were fired in support of US Forces.

- Leland L. Swensen, Wakonda, SD


Enlisted September 1941.

- Gerald Sylva, Fort Pierre, SD


Crewchief on C-130's. Flew in and out of Vietnam for 13 months. On his last mission to Saigon, he suffered a crushed leg, head injuries and spent the next six weeks at a Mash unit and at a hospital in Japan before being flown back to Offiut Air Force Base, Omaha. When the family went to see him, they got to take him home to heal. A ride from Omaha to Garden City, SD in a Pinto Sedan with a cast from his waist to his toes. It was a tight fit, but it was going home.

- Kenneth E. Tarbox, Bradley, SD


Best job I had for 34 years from crewing C-130's in Taiwan to becoming Command Chief Master Sgt. representing the 114th Fighter Wing at Joe Foss Field, Sioux Falls, SD. The people serving from South Dakota are the best!!

- LeRoy N. Tarbox, Sioux Falls , SD


CTF73, the unit I served with, spent most of its time on service ships within sight of Vietnam, North and South. I was a Radio Man 2nd Class. I served with CTF73 and ComServGru Three from June 1965 through August 1967.

- John Kent Taylor, Reliance, SD


I flew my first mission from Clark Field in the Philippines in October 1964. I was on a 60-day TDY from Ellsworth, flying a KC-135. I did many trips across the Pacific, 'mother henning' fighters going to Vietnam, always winding up at Anderson AFB, Guam. I did two six-month tours flying refueling missions for B-52 and fighter a/c, all services. A typical six-month tour started with 30 days at Kadena, 30 days at CCK on Taiwan, 30 days at Utapao, Thailand (refueling fighters), nine days at Guam, then the whole rotation would start over again until the 179th day. If I remember correctly, I flew some 300 missions while in the area. I finally retired 1 February, 1971. I have over 9,000 hours logged military time.

- Gerald E. Teachout, Piedmont, SD


Korean War Veteran 1950-1951 on USS Chara AKA 58.

- George D. Thaler, Augusta, Georgia


Still a current member of the South Dakota Air National Guard. I had no break in service from active to guard.

- Lee A. Thedens, Sioux Falls, SD


When we disembarked at Deep Water Pier, DaNang Harbor, the commanding General of the 1st Marine wing told us that we were not to fire our weapons until fired upon. We were also told that we would have to account for every round fired. This was apparently someone's idea in Washington, as to how to win the "conflict."

- Robert K. Thompson, Howard, SD


James N. Thronson died on October 6, 1985 from the affects of Agent Orange.

- James N. Thronson


Can I submit after more thought???

- Charles T. Tisdall, Selby, SD


I entered the Navy out of college in January 1965. My boot training was in North Chicago, and my "A" school was also based there. I completed Hospital Corpsman school in August 1965. My first assignment was Kittery, Maine Naval Shipyard, at the Naval hospital. I made E-4 (or Petty Officer 3rd Class) at that time. In May 1966, I got my invitation to join the Fleet Marines down in Camp LeJeune, NC, for some training with the "Mean Green Machine". I was assigned to Field Medical School and then, upon completion, the 2nd Marine Division, India Company. I then attended and completed "Jungle Warfare School" in Panama. I changed Battalions and thought I was going to the Med (Mediterranean for NATO training), instead I went back to Panama for more Jungle Warfare Training with H&S Company, Battalion Aid Station etc. In November of 1967, I got orders to report to California and the 3rd Marine Division for assignment, Southeast Asia (Vietnam). After two weeks of classes and shots etc. in Okinawa, I was airlifted to DaNang, Republic of South Vietnam. I don't recall how long I spent there before I was given an opportunity to "volunteer" for duty with the 3rd Recon Battalion moving up to Phu Bai. I volunteered because I believed I was as prepared as anyone in my group just entering the country for duty. When I arrived Phu Bai, I was assigned to Alpha Company and with that company and the advanced party, we moved up to our permanent base camp in Quang Tri. Quang Tri is in what was called the "Iron Triangle". Within this geographical area is 3rd Recon's area of responsibility: Khe Sahn, Camp Lo, Con Tien, Dong Ha, Camp Carrol, the DMZ, and some places I don't remember. Some outstanding geological formations are: The Rock Pile, The Razor Back, Dong Ho Mountain, Ashau Valley, etc. While on one of my first Patrols out of Phu Bai, my team saw a massive troop movement through our area of responsibility just a few hours before a holiday called "TET68"! That's right, my recon team of seven, heavily armed and dangerous, reported a violation of the TET holiday truce. We requested a legitimate fire mission on the offending masses and we were refused. That moment in time changed my whole perspective on how I was going to participate in this war. Sometime later in my tour of duty, my team of five reconners were ambushed along a frontier and we took out three North Vietnamese soldiers, one more limped away. We were evenly matched and thus, three of their number escaped with their lives, two were down in the field of fire. That was when I made my second resolution to survive and rotate Stateside in my turn. The rest of my tour of duty was relatively uneventful. I was to work exclusively the Battalion Aid Station as the "senior" corpsman until I was demoted by someone more senior to me with no bush experience. That was fine, as I was a "short timer" and due to rotate in a matter of weeks. On a pleasant day in December 1968, I was driven to a steel runway and "Air America" came down with a DC-10 and flew several of us down to DaNang for a date with a C-130 to Okinawa. I spent two weeks or so there for counsel and records collection and the re-issue of clothing, stores etc.  Then, I was on a Western Airlines Jet to El Torro, California. There was no fanfare when we touched down. There were Marine Corps and Navy buses to pick up the passengers for distribution to the various discharge or duty stations in the immediate vicinity. I was to report to Long Beach Naval Hospital for discharge planning and a thorough physical. I obtained a 48-hour pass and took a bus to Riverside, California to visit my sister and brother in-law, who was a Major in the Air Force at March AFB. While waiting for the bus, a man, not much older than myself, came over to me and put his hand out and said, "Thank you," while shaking my hand. I was stunned because I heard some bad stuff about how servicemen were treated. When my brother in-law took me to the officers' club on base, he called attention to me from everyone within hearing: "This in my brother in- law, he has just returned from Vietnam serving with the Marine's ..." I was given a standing ovation from everyone in the room. I was embarrassed, somewhat, and then I got choked up. I was offered more drinks than I could consume. I departed California two weeks later to fly to Rochester, MN and visit with my parents and siblings. Then I flew in to a small burg called, Exeter, NH, where my bride of one year was waiting with our four-month old daughter. As Robert Frost once wrote: "I have miles to go, miles to go before I sleep ..."

- Paul A. Tovin, Watertown, SD


After boot camp and a couple wins at Boxing Smokers, I was offered a spot on the 11th Naval District Boxing team and soon was transferred to Ream Field. I had orders to Vietnam twice but my orders were changed both times in order for me to complete in boxing. I was the fly weight champion four times and was called the West Coast Fly Weight King. I competed in the All-Navy championships each year. I was runner-up in 1963 and was chosen to go to Pan American Games, but I never went and took my discharge. I was in Smokers and boxing matches all over the USA with the team for the 11th Naval District. We were live entertainment for the sailors and Marines at many military bases, and stadiums Boxing Golden Gloves, AAU, and military.

- Telford L. Tofflemire, Dewey, AZ


I stayed in the Army Reserve and retired as a Command Sergeant Major in 1994.

- Bruce L. Trego, Vacaville, CA


Flew 149 missions into North Vietnam, South Vietnam and Cambodia flying A-7 Corsair II aircraft from the USS Oriskany (CVA-34). Feet wet, no holes, no hung.

- Robert E. Treis, Pensacola, Florida


On my first day in Vietnam, a corporal handed me my M-16 and rounds of ammo. When I put the magazine into the M-16, I saw the rifle was covered in dried blood. I glanced at the other Marines to see if they, too, had bloody weapons. They did. I realized training was over and I was in a place where I could die. A few months later, I was medevaced to the hospital in DaNang. My helmet, flak jacket and M-16 were added to the piles of gear. A plane loaded with fresh Marines would soon be arriving.

- Craig A. Tschetter, Brookings, SD


When he was 21, he was wounded in action. He was shot through the leg, fragments from a hand grenade hit him in the face, knocking out teeth, and shrapnel hit him in the muscles of both arms and the chest. At the same time, his commanding officer and battalion leader were killed. He was a graduate of Riggs High School, Pierre, SD. He enlisted November 22, 1966 in the US Army. After basic training at Fort Polk, LA, he received advanced training at Fort Lewis, WA before being sent to Vietnam in June of 1967. On December 10, 1967 he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery and valor by Major Gen John Hay and on December 19 was promoted from private first class to special 4. Urban's platoon is known as "Dracula," or "Black Scarves". He was among other soldiers televised by CBS and NBC news. The Presho man was holding the sling filled with dead Viet Cong as a big double-bladed helicopter picked them up, according to a letter received by relatives. The scene was shown later on Walter Cronkite's CBS evening news TV program.

- Anthony Frank Urban, Presho, SD


There was five sons or brothers in during the Vietnam era. There were three in Vietnam at the same time, I was serving in another part of the world, and the other was at West Point. Only one got wounded and is still living. (We were the lucky ones.)

- Libby Usera, Black Hawk, SD


People often asked me why I joined the Navy. I used to say quickly, ". . . for the GI Bill." My brother had served in-country and had come home safely; we were lucky. Those of us left behind when our fathers and brothers and sisters and upperclassmen went off to war tried to live normal lives in the shadow of the evening news. Enlistment was an answer to the daily visions of flag-draped coffins being gently tipped down ladders and gangways at dusk. We tried to pretend, then, that it didn’t affect us. Some might call us impetuous, but service was not just a call to the unknown, to the duty we felt; it was a response to the flag we had pledged allegiance to, a couple of thousand school days growing up. It was all of this, and a touch of guilt at staying behind . . . .

I was honored to read my poem to my brother, Larry, at his welcome home at Post 280 years and years after he came home. Maybe it’s time to share it so that others understand how sincere our welcome home really is.


1969 It was the Sweetheart’s Ball my freshman year all day spent serenely in the gym streaming wires with red and white crepe rushing home to shower and curl and squeeze into a thigh-high black and silver dress, my first date arrived in a “hot” purple car nervous and late having to run the gauntlet to pick me up, suffering through snapshots, then off to the dance on a polished floor in stocking feet to a blaring band, with curfew close we rushed as we drove the twelve miles home in the brightest moonlight I’d ever seen shining on a world of fallowed fields, a shy kiss goodnight in the crisp winter air, I floated inside to the warmth of the stove and Mom staring by lamp light at the latest letter from Nam

and I’d been dancing

and I’d been dancing

- Jeralyn V. Valdillez, Raleigh, NC


During the whole Vietnam conflict, there is only one incident that truly stayed with me to this day. That incident was the operation called "Frequent Wind". When we were evacuating Saigon in May of 1975, we witnessed an interesting landing of a fixed-wing airplane. They circled the carrier a few times and finally dropped a note on the flight deck to tell us to move all the helicopters out of the way so they could land; they we running out of fuel and were about to crash in the ocean. It was an awesome sight to watch them land on our carrier. Thank you.

- Keith Van Bockel, Blunt, SD


I was a gunner with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 11th Artillery of the 101st Airborne Division on firebase Ripcord in northern South Vietnam.  We had orders to block Communist infiltration across the nearby Laotian border. Since Ripcord was in an area where the enemy had long held, the GI's expected trouble from the start. After a period of relative calm, the onslaught began. Twelve Americans were killed and 58 wounded while on patrol a mile from the base. The following day, still under intense artillery fire, the paratroopers packed up and evacuated Ripcord. The commanding officer and two GI's were killed during the morning-long withdrawal. All told, 61 Americans had been killed and 345 wounded at Ripcord in three weeks. This was the most painful US military operation in Vietnam since the bloody assault on Hamburger Hill. I shot a 155 Howitzer by myself for a week because everyone in my platoon was wounded or killed during the siege of firebase Ripcord.

- David E. Voight, Mansfield, SD


I am now 100% disabled because of my service in Vietnam

- Wayne A. Vollmer, Sturgis, S.D.


We were deployed to Bangkok, Thailand in the summer of 1972. We were in an area of eminent danger and I remember getting off the plane into 100+ degree temperatures and high humidity.

In September 1972, Henry Kissinger came to Bangkok for peace talks, and I got to guard Air Force One that night. That is something I was proud to do and will never forget.

While in Bangkok, I visited the Army Hospital and saw first-hand some of the brave men who were badly wounded, and it changed my whole outlook on the war. I thought how lucky we are to have people who are willing to go and defend our country and risk ALL for fellow Americans.

I would like to add that I was very proud to serve my country. I did fall into the trap of alcohol, but I quit drinking in 1978. Serving in the military was a blessing because I learned a LOT about myself and my capabilities.

- Kenneth Harr Wallenstein, Huron, SD


I joined the South Dakota Army National Guard on February 11, 1965 and served with the 109th Engineer Group until June of 1970, when I was ordered to Army Aviation Flight School in Fort Wolters, Texas and Fort Rucker, Alabama. After completing Flight School, I was ordered back to South Dakota as a OH 6A helicopter pilot for the 147th Field Artillery Brigade. I have served as a helicopter pilot OH 6A, OH 23, TH 55, OH 13,UH 1A-B-D&H and UH 60A for the 147th Field Artillery, 109th Engineer Group and the 1085th Medical Company (AA) and C Company 1/189th GSAB. I am currently on active duty (AGR) as the Training Officer for C Company 1/189th GSAB and have over 41 years of military service.

- William V. Waeckerle, Rapid City, SD


Arriving "in country" in the middle of the monsoon season it was my first experience with "horizontal rain". I did not know that it would not quit raining for three months, and that being dry would become a distant memory.

- Wayne D. Wagenaar, Rapid City, SD


Stacey, my oldest daughter, was born while I was in I Corps near Phu Bai, Vietnam. I found out about her birth several days later by land mail and saw her for the first time on R&R in Hawaii when she was seven months old.

- Gary D. Wahlert, Surprise, AZ


It's the Monsoon season 1966 in Kontum Vietnam, the Highlands. The rains are relentless. We're B Company, 1st 327of the 101st Airborne Division. Major David Hackworth is our Battalion Commander, the highest decorated solider besides Andy Murphy. We had just been told we had to hump back to base camp because of the monsoon and the shortage of choppers. There were murmurs of mutiny until we heard Hack's voice and understood that "The Eagle" was humping back with us.

That humpout out of the Highland jungle is filled with memories, but one stands out. Among those captured was a woman with her leg off just below the knee. A discussion took place amongst a few "low-lifes" that had found her hiding under a rock overhang. The topic of conversation was, "How will she be left behind, dead or alive?" Our medic, Doc York, stepped forward and volunteered to carry the woman on his back. The Doc did so until we set up camp late that afternoon. Then the low-lifes showed up and made claim to the woman as "spoils of war" and threatened to return that evening to get what they said was theirs. Doc came to me and said he could not stay up all night and protect her. Would I help? Knowing Doc to be a bit of a pacifist (except when faced with injustice that required appropriate action, and I wasn't sure these low-lifes understood that), I stayed up all night with him. I was the Company Scout/Sniper. (Part of my baggage was the Hollywood reputation that snipers had no feelings and therefore no conscience.) This worked to our advantage, as the low-lifes poked around to see if we meant business and then stayed out of sight.

The next day, we learned that the woman was an NVA nurse. We always had bad feelings about turning NVA men over to the ARVN's S-2 and there was no way we were going to give them this nurse. Before we allowed her to hobble away on her makeshift crutch, she drew us a map in the dirt, indicating s "Bad Place" up ahead.

We shared this information and how we dealt with the NVA nurse with Hack. He chewed us out and said he would have handled it differently. He said he would have blown away those sorry SOB's the minute they indicated they had lustful intentions.

We reckoned by fire through the "Bad Place" and received retreating fire as our flanks moved in on those waiting to ambush us.

Doc York grew up in Menno, South Dakota and now lives in Bryant, SD. Hack said it was his proudest moment when we finally made it back to base camp, victorious in every fire-fight we had on the way. It was our proudest moment also.

- James P. Wainscoat, Viborg, SD


Actual enlistment date was October 24, 1942. He was in the Navy first and then in the Air Force.

- James L. Walker, Hopkinsville, Kentucky


My Seabee mob, MCB 11, had a medal of honor winner, Marvin Shields.  It was awarded to his family after our return from Vietnam in January of 1967.

- Gary L. Warne, Aberdeen, SD


After completing college, he was drafted and entered the Air Force. He was one of first support team members to set up an airbase in southern Italy.  (He was assigned to commissary in setting up accounting, stock control and sales procedures at Luigi Bologna Aeropuerto, Taranto, Italy.) The purpose of being in Italy was to support technical personal in erecting missiles. He completed three years at base and was subsequently honorably discharged.

- Gary R. Watzel , Pierre, SD


On Saturday September 25, 2004, Wayne was honored at a ceremony at Mount Rushmore where Senator Tim Johnson presented long-overdue medals to him. A copy of the published report from the Black Hills Pioneer appeared on September 28, 2004.

- Mundt R. Wayne, Spearfish, SD


My US Air Force duty ran from October 25,1957 to June 2, 1961.  My active duty then extended to October 24,1963 with Reserve Obligation. I chaired the 903rd AC&W reunions in 1997 and 2001. Then, I was treasurer of the 2005 903rd AC&W Sq. reunion. The 903rd AC&W Sq. of Gettysburg, SD was active in the USAF from 1955 to 1968. The 926th AC&W Sq. at Iqaluit, Canada closed down on November 1,1961, five months after my one year isolated-remote tour of duty there.

- Bernard J. Webb, Gettysburg, SD


Master Gunnery Sergeant Webster, a native of Huron, South Dakota, was born on 19 October, 1949. Upon graduation from Huron High School in 1968, he enlisted in the Marine Corps on 5 August 1968 and attended recruit training at MCRD San Diego, CA in December of 1968. Upon graduation from boot camp, he was sent to 2nd ITR and Basic Infantry Training School at Camp Pendleton, CA. Following graduation from BITS in May of 1969, he was assigned to 3rd Combined Action Group in the Republic of Vietnam, where he served as a rifleman, team leader and Combined Action Platoon leader. In June of 1970, he was transferred to Camp Pendleton where he served with Mike Company Third Battalion Third Marines. In July 1970, he was transferred to Alpha company First Battalion Third Marines, First Marine Brigade in Hawaii where he served as a squad leader until he was transferred to H&S company First Battalion Fourth Marines, 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa in February of 1971, where he served as the Flame Section Leader. He returned to the Republic of Vietnam with H&S Company First Battalion, Fourth Marines. In July 1972, he was transferred to Marine Security Guard School. Upon graduation, he was sent to Marine Security Guard Detachment, Caracas, Venezuela, where he served as a watch standard and Assistant NCOIC. In April 1975, he was transferred to Drill Instructor School at MCRD, San Diego, CA, and upon completion of school, was assigned as a drill instructor with Echo Company 2nd Recruit Training Battalion until June 1977. Upon his completion of tour as a Drill Instructor, he was transferred to Echo company Second Battalion Third Marines, First Marine Brigade in Hawaii, where he served as a Platoon sergeant until October 1979 when he was transferred to recruiter school at MCRD San Diego, CA. Upon graduation of school, he was sent to a recruiting sub station in Bemidji, MN. In February 1983, he was transferred to Third Battalion Fifth Marines 1st Mar Div at Camp Pendleton, CA, where he served as Dragon Platoon Sergeant, Company Gunny for Kilo company, 1st Sergeant for H&S company and Operations Chief for Weapons company. In October of 1986, he was transferred to MCB, Camp Pendleton, CA where he served as the Training Chief for H&S Battalion MCB, Camp Pendleton. In September 1987, he was reassigned to the School of Infantry Camp Pendleton and served as the Weapon Chief at ITB until September 1989, at which time he was reassigned to MCT Battalion to serve as the Operations Chief of the Battalion. In August 1990, he was transferred to First Battalion First Marines and assumed the duties as the Battalion Operations Chief. While he was with the Battalion, they deployed to the Persian Gulf for Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In September 1992, he was reassigned as the Operations Chief of First Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. In July 1995, he was reassigned as the Operations Chief of the School of Infantry MCB, Camp Pendleton.  He retired  from the US Marine Corps as a Master Gunnery Sergeant on 1 January 1999.

- Paul C. Webster, Oceanside, CA


I will submit a picture later and update my awards then also.

- Robert D. Weddle, Columbia, MO


I was never in Vietnam, but I have submitted to your committee a collection of Stars and Stripes magazines from that era that may have some entertainment value to those who did serve there. I also sent some photos from the Bob Hope show in Okinawa that will hopefully be useful to the committee. If you are interested, I also have an audio tape of the show which I have since converted to MP3 digital format. Tony Rae and I attend meetings together so just let him know.

- William S. Welch, Pierre, SD


I served as a Chaplain Assistant in Vietnam. Around Christmas of 1970, I had the honor of meeting Cardinal Cushing from New York and General Sampson, the man in charge of the Chaplain Corp. We had dinner at the Cathedral in Saigon and participated in a Catholic mass at the Cathedral. It was very interesting visiting with them. General Sampson was the Chaplain who appeared in the movie "The Longest Day" and he also retired in Sioux Falls a few years before he passed away.

- John H. Wellhouse, Pierre, SD


I was assigned to tower watch the first couple of nights after arriving in Phu Bai, Vietnam.  Not knowing my directions were 180 degrees off, we came under mortar attack, I reported it was coming from the south when it was really coming from the north. Needless to say, there was a compass painted on the tower the next day.

- Richard L. Wendt, Glenham, SD


When I became 18 and the draft was on my heels, I decided to enlist. I told my father, a WWII Marine veteran, that I was going to follow in his footsteps. His comment was, "I'll shoot you in the head to save the Viet Cong the trouble. You have two choices, Navy or Air Force." Here I am, 36 years later on the Ellsworth Air Force base. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I always thought I missed something not going to Vietnam, but the older I get, I don't think I would have changed anything.

- Timothy Charl Werlinger, Rapid City, SD


I was in Vietnam in 1971, primarily at the sprawling DaNang airbase. We had about 50,000 service people at the base, and you would have thought the area was secure. But when we landed at night in our KC-130, even without lights, we could see the tracer fire come up from right off the end of the runway. Our sleep was often interrupted by sirens announcing another rocket attack. I remember thinking, "If we can't even secure this little part of the country with all the forces we have here, how can we possibly control the rest of the country?" As a C-130 pilot, I was fairly safe. I have the utmost respect for all who served in Vietnam, especially the Army and Marine infantry who fought the most and suffered the highest casualties.

- Roger A. Whorton, Spearfish, SD


Medals/Awards Continued- Air Force commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Achievement Medal, Distinguished-Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor Device and three Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Good Conduct Medal with one Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Short Tour Ribbon with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with three Oak Leaf Clusters, NCO Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Small Arms Expert Marksman Ribbon with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Training Ribbon, Republic Of Vietnam Gallantry Cross With Device

- Larry A. Williams, Paris Crossing, Indiana


I was in Vietnam from 21 June 1970 until 20 June 1971. Even though I was in the Air Force, I was lucky enough to work with the TALCE of the 834th Air Division. TALCE was the Transportable Airlift Control Element that the Air Force deployed to Forward Operating Locations. I was attached to the US Army MACV Advisory Team 76 at Song Be Airfield and we also re-opened Khe Sanh Airfield in February 1971 for Operation Lam Son 719. Through my involvement with the Army unit, I earned the Army MUC ribbon.

- Bradford T. Wills, Black Hawk, SD


Served in the Navy and then joined the Army on October 15, 1976. Retired on October 14, 1992 from the Army.

- Patrick John Windschitl, Wentworth, SD


Semper Fi

- Mark B. Wofford, Sioux Falls, SD


I praise God that I was able to return to the great USA without serious injury. I recall entering Vietnam in the darkness, getting off the plane, and immediately feeling the heat and  sensing foreign smells. As we were patrolled to our unit, seeing the people squatting in their hutches, rather than sitting on chairs, I realized, "This is a different country than what I am used to." I am thankful for all the answers to my prayers as God protected me while going through the jungles of Vietnam, the rice paddies, and the pineapple plantations near Cambodia, as well as while I was guarding bridges in Saigon and guarding Signal Mountain. Probably the most memorable time was the big fire-fights experienced on May 13 and 14th in an area south of Saigon. I recall moving by choppers, by boat, and by foot as we, as a ready reactionary mobile unit, went to where the action was. The experiences were worth millions, but I would pay the same to avoid having to go through it again. Thank you, South Dakota, for making this memorial possible and for recognizing us Vietnam veterans.

- Kenneth R. Wonnenberg, Pierre, SD


Was a member of the Navy Pay Team that flew numerous missions by helicopter in remote areas to pay civilians, Navy personnel, and Seals.

- Robert D. Wood, Pierre, SD


I was sent to Vietnam as a 11B10 draftee replacement arriving in June 1966. Luckily, I was transferred to the Information Office at 1st Infantry headquarters in Di An. From there, I traveled to all areas of our operations to report on battles for our weekly paper, The American Traveler and Stars & Stripes. We also put out a magazine Danger Forward, a report of battles and operations in which the Division participated. A South Dakotan, General William DePuy, was the commander of the 1st Infantry much of the time I was there. I consider myself very fortunate to have returned home safely after my tour was up.

- Leonard G. Wormstadt, Custer, SD


Retired 5Dang Master Sergeant. Re-enlisted in the SD Air National Guard Oct 30, 1973. Retired January 2, 1995.

- Clifford Wulf, Lennox, SD


My story was published by the Custer County Chronicle as part of a Memorial Day edition a few years ago, which included many other veterans' stories as well. If I still have an extra copy I will mail to you, or you may already have already accessed that edition. I think it was published in 2001 or 2002.

- Mark A. Young, Sioux Falls, SD


After more than of a year of training and awaiting assignment confirmation, I arrived belatedly at my operational assignment in Wichita, Kansas as part of the newly formed 91st Air Refueling Squadron. My arrival was delayed just a bit since I had to return and complete Basic Survival school, having crushed my hand the first time going through. As a new pilot and eager to prove myself, I was delighted when I was notified in the summer of 1973 my KC-135 crew was going "Young Tiger". That news followed the disappointment I still felt over the promotion freeze that had gone into effect less then 30 days before my promotion to 1st Lt. Since I was so new to the unit, we were assigned an additional co-pilot that needed seasoning before getting upgraded to aircraft commander (AC). The trip from the States was uneventful, although we were forced to layover in Hawaii and Guam prior to coasting in over Vietnam enroute to Thailand. As we left maintenance debriefing, I felt odd since most of the civilians employed at the base were, I felt, staring at me. Imagine my surprise to find out they had not seen a 2nd Lt. at the base in many years, and certainly not a pilot. For the entire time in Southeast Asia I was known as "baby san" When we returned to the States in late November, we found a new squadron had been formed and we were transferred to the new unit; our leave was postponed and we were due to depart for alert duty at Goose Bay Labrador in 72 hours. We went from subtropical weather to the frigid north of Goose Bay in less than four days. What a memory!

- Jack A. Ziemer, Rapid City, SD


Did not serve in Vietnam. Served in the Navy from 1968 to1972 with VP-10 in Brunswick, Maine and the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC. Would like to give a special tribute all who served in Vietnam, especially guys like Deono Miller, Allen Adrian, and all the others from the Menno and Freeman area.

- Larry Aman, Marietta, GA


I am a Vietnam veteran that Agent Orange has eaten me up.

- Merle Anderson, Sioux Falls, SD


Steven Wade Barrows, son of Bill and Vivian Barrows of Stickney, SD served in the USAF.  He served 18 months in Vietnam.  He comes from a long line of family members that served in the military. His father's brothers, Art, Ernie, George (POW) and Paul Barrows all served in World War II.  His father's cousins, Cecil, Dale (KIA), Dorothy Barrows, Willard (POW) and George Rogers all served in World War II.  Steve's mother's cousins, Donald, Gerritt, Harrold, Herman, Lawrence and Marion Brink served in World War II.  Their younger brother Darrell Brink, served in Vietnam. Steve's step-father, Lawrence Meoska, served in World War II. Steve's cousins, Gary and Larry Brink, served in Vietnam. He went home on leave from Vietnam to get married.  A Vietnam vet friend (Bobby Miller) from Iowa, attended his wedding.  Steve introduced him to his sister and 13 months later the two of them got married.  This brother-in-law's niece, Danielle Wingrove, is presently serving in the Navy.  Steve's nephew, Barry Barrows, is making a career of the Navy as well.

 Steve's family history in the military is made up of the Army, Air Force, Merchant Marines, Marine Corps, and Navy; and includes World War II, Vietnam and Southwest Asia; 1942 up to the present.  The family has sixty plus years of proud service to the United States military.

- Steven Barrows, SD


I served as an aircrewman in P3 aircraft with Patrol Squadron Four from November 1970 to October 1973.  I have 1500 combat flight hours in the Vietnam war zone.  I deployed to Iwakuni Japan, Naha Okinawa and Cubi Point, Philippines with detachments to Cam Ran Bay Vietnam and Utapao, Thailand.

- Walter Bauer, Aberdeen, SD 


Born in Yankton raised at Irene, SD

- Marlene Bayer, Wichita, KS


I registered for the draft in Pierre, S.D.  When I was notified that I had been drafted, I moved my registration to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I was then living.  After basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, I was assigned to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.  I worked as a lab assistant on various medical research projects at Walter Reed and also worked as a technician in the hematology clinic at the Walter Reed Army Hospital.  I then was assigned to a research project to study the efficacy of gamma globulin in preventing contracting hepatitis.  The project was carried out at Kimpo AFB, Korea.  The project was to last two years. We were to give shots of gamma globulin of various strengths to 100,000 troops as they came into Korea at Kimpo AFB.  All male soldiers up to and including the rank of full colonel received an injection of ten cc's of gamma globulin in their buttocks as their first introduction to Korea as they came off the airplane from the States.  Evidently the project concluded that gamma globulin is a preventative for hepatitis, since it is routinely given as a prophylaxis for the disease.  I spent 14 months in Korea, came back to Walter Reed and was honorably discharged from the Army.

- James Bickley, Park City, UT


 Was a resident of Pierre, SD for 30 years I have just moved to Minnesota.

  - Thomas Birhanzel, Benson, MN 


I remember that when we landed, it was the end of the monsoon season and there was four inches of rain on the runway and the plane started to slide sideways. It got so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.  All 250 of us wondered if we were going to make it off the plane alive then.

- Neil Bishop, Sioux Falls, SD


 I graduated from Mobridge High School in 1956, and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1961, taking a regular Army commission via ROTC. After Engineer Officer Basic Course and Parachute School, I was sent to Germany during the Berlin crisis, spending four years there with the 317th Engineer Bn, twice commanding a company. In 1965, I went Ft Belvoir, Virginia and graduated the first class of Vietnam-era OCS officers. In July 1966, I went to Vietnam, commanding C Company, 1st Engineer BN, 1st Infantry Division, in what was the most exciting year of my life. One of my demolition men was Bruce Lebeau from Mobridge, and a "Dustoff" pilot who evacuated three KIA and several wounded for me one day was Page Wright from SDSM&T, who was killed shortly after.  We did a lot of minesweeping , booby traps, jungle clearing with bulldozers and demolition.  Also, we destroyed VC bunkers, built roads, bridges, and airfields, and rappelled and climbed down ladders beneath Chinook helicopters to cut landing zones out of the jungle, as well as fought infantry frequently. As I said: an exciting year.

After graduate school at SDSMT, I went back to Vietnam, and worked with the two Korean Infantry Divisions supporting us in Vietnam, where I approved all their engineer construction projects and material. After Command and General Staff College in 1971 [where Jim Mundt from Mobridge helped me out], I had staff assignments, in Vietnam and Korea. I then went to be Deputy District Engineer in Albuquerque, and finally Facility Engineer at Ft Carson, Colorado.  I retired in 1981, moved back to Albuquerque, where I headed the Flood Control Authority, and was Public Works Director for the City, retiring again in 2001. 

The Army was a fantastic career, giving me great friendships, incredible experiences, education and leadership training, and continuous challenges, all of which prepared me well for a second career in local government.  

Larry Blair, Albuquerque, NM


Thanks to all who served and to those who are now serving!  Remember some gave all while some are still suffering!  We must also never forget the MIA/POW's!  Airborne!

- Richard Boer, Dallas, OR


He was a Warrant Officer.

- Dean Bolhouse, SD 


Don Muang AB, Thailand 1965-1966:    

I am writing this because most of the American public doesn't know how much of the Vietnam War was conducted from bases outside South Vietnam in countries other than South Vietnam. The air war in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was conducted from the bases in Thailand. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the Don Muang mortuary was a very busy place when you passed the stacks of empty coffins in the 6th Aerial Port Squadron area at Don Muang AB.

My year in Southeast Asia began in October 1965 after a two-day Combat Orientation course at Hamilton AFB, California where the instructors taught grenade throwing, launching grenades with the M-16 rifle and how to shoot and clear jams in the M-16. Upon completing the course we were bussed to Oakland, CA where we boarded a chartered Boeing 707 that flew to Don Muang AB, Thailand with intermediate stops at Hickham AFB, Hawaii, Clark AB, Philippine Islands, Tan Son Nhut AB, Vietnam.

Thai-based personnel were assigned to bases including Don Muang, Korat, Ubon, Udorn, Takhli, Chieng-Mai, or Nakhon Phanom. I worked at a communication center, (Teletype Relay, located on a rice paddy about a mile from Don Muang Air Base. The communication center was under-staffed all the time because the number of military operations kept increasing while the number of people assigned to the communications center remained the same. We handled so much classified material that it took several hours each night to destroy the old classified material.

Even though I consider the people at the communication center as being the best people I have ever worked with, I have never kept in touch with any of them after going back to the "land of the big BX".

      - James Boss, Wright, WY


 Flying a C-7A Caribou is a lot like an illicit love affair...its fun while you're doing it, but you don't talk about it a lot.

- Art Braa, Rapid City, SD


Lived in Fort Pierre from 1958 to 1963.  Served with the U. S. Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Purple Heart among other awards.

- Edward Brendt, SD 


 Prior to entering the Navy, I lived in Fort Pierre from 1958 to 1963. My parents moved to Montana and I then joined the Navy in November 1963.  I served with the Naval Advisory Group Vietnam/Commander Naval Forces Vietnam from 1965-1965 in Saigon.  I returned to Vietnam in 1969 onboard the USS JENNINGS COUNTY (LST 846) - PBR boat tender.  We operated out of Ha Tien.

- Benard Brendt, Ipswich, England, SD


11B10 Light Weapons Infantryman

- Darrell Brewer, Elk Point, S 


I took my first tour in July 1965. I boarded ship at San Diego for a 30-day ride to Okinawa with an overnight stay in Hawaii.  Then, it was another seven days to DaNang.  The highlight of the trip was crossing the International Date Line on my 19th birthday.  We went straight from August 12 to August 14 so I officially missed that birthday.  We landed in the DaNang harbor in August of 1965.  We went down the side of the ship on nets into LST's just like the movies and waded ashore.

Over the next 12 months there was more aggravation than excitement.  We drank a little beer and only had occasional war stuff.  I volunteered to return in July 1967 & flew in from CA.  I was sent to Headquarters 5th Marines.  I worked with Air Liaison, close air-support, Medevacs, flare ships, etc.  It was a good job but they kept trying to kill us—Tet and all that. I returned July 1968 and have spent the last 34 years tying to forget.

- Les Briggs, Midland, SD 


I volunteered to go to Vietnam—took another man's place.  We were the first permanent party troops assigned there in 1962.  We wore civilian clothes at first.  The first man killed in the 1960s was in my unit; he was James T. Davis from Livingston, TN.  I am active in a Vietnam Army Security Agency veterans’ organization called the Old Spooks and Spies Organization.  We were the first 300 permanent troops; when we left in 1963 there were 16,000 troops there.  Many anti-Vietnam demonstrations at the University of South Dakota in the late 1960s.  Students even carried Viet Cong Flags.

- Thomas Burns, McCook Lake, SD 


He was a Warrant Officer.

- Roger Cameron, SD


In Vietnam, I was attached to the 1st Marine Air Wing, Marine Air Group 13.  February 1966 we were based in DaNang using the air field there.  The Marines under General Kulack saw the need for an all-Marine Air Base and got approval to build one 50 miles south of DaNang, at Chu Lai.  I was an engineer 1371 and assigned to build the base.  It was completed enough for air craft to land, and take off by November 1966, and it was the first all-Marine air field in Vietnam. I came back to the US in 1967, and while stationed in 5th Bridge Co. at Camp Pendleton, California, I trained young Marines in route to Vietnam in how to build bridges.  Now 40 years later, I'm in Iraq teaching the Iraqi Police modern police techniques.  

- Gerald Capps, Rapid City, SD


 I would like to have any fellow comrades e-mail me and let me know what they have done in their lives.

- Herbert Carstens, Bridgeport, TX 


In Vietnam from October, 1970, through October 1971.  Also served as aide-de-camp to General Stuart C. Meyer, Commander, XXIV Corp Artillery, I Corp South Vietnam.

- Jeffrey Chicoine, Lake Forrest, IL 


Nothing words could give justice to.

- John Clark, Black Hawk, SD


I voluntarily extended my tour in Vietnam so my younger brother wouldn't have to go over there.  The U.S. Army sent him to Thailand instead where he was involved in a truck accident.  They sent him back to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital to recover from his injuries.  On his way home to pick up his wife in South Dakota, he was killed in a car accident. The driver of the car was a Vietnam Vet who had lost a foot in Vietnam.

I was finishing up my three years at Ft. Hood, Texas.  I flew to Denver and escorted my brother Tom's body.

- Timothy Clarke, Rapid City, SD 


CPT, Armor, when I departed Germany en-route to Vietnam, attending Jungle Warfare School in Panama, and arriving in Vietnam June 1968.  Assigned to 1st Bn 5th Inf (M) as Battalion Motor Officer.  Two memorable events occurred to me before I was wounded and evacuated:

The first event was a routine recovery several miles from Tay Ninh fire base.  Four mechanics and I arrived at the site in a recovery vehicle to see a 2 and ½ ton truck on its side in a rice paddy with three pallets of 155mm artillery projectiles and a box of fuses mostly submerged in the water.  We recovered the fuses and projectiles as the afternoon turned into evening.  Uprighting the truck took place in the dark.  The truck started, and we loaded the projectiles and fuses and proceeded to a night defensive position in the area.  Later I learned that our ambush patrols in the recovery area were busy that evening.

The second incident, rather funny today, occurred when I was medically evacuated in a C-130.  I was on a stretcher and was placed on the second tier, outside row, at the end of the plane.  The soldier below me needed care, so I was placed on the cargo deck on the stretcher and allowed to sit up.  Then I was     placed back up on the second tier.  On take off the rear ramp was partially open and the steep climb resulted in my departure from the stretcher.  I hit the deck and slid toward the open ramp.  I had not been strapped onto the stretcher.  The ramp operator was unsettled as I slid toward him.  He caught me, another crewmember grabbed me and all ended well once my pants were changed.

I served another 21 years after Vietnam in challenging assignments and retired in June 1989.

- Patrick Collins, Pierre, SD


I joined the service in March 3, 1942.  I served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam for a total of over 30 years in the service of my country.

- Terrance Conner, Loveland, CO


My best buddy in the world is Francis Whitebird, the distinguished Lakota warrior from the Rosebud Reservation who now lives in Pierre, SD.  Francis was the medic in our company, Charlie Company, 2/1st, 196th LIB, Americal Division.  I was acting FO.  Francis was an inspiration to the new guys and certainly to me when I arrived.  He was a real leader, competent, courageous, and solid under fire.  He saved many lives while serving two terms there.  He later went on to become head of Indian Affairs for the State of South Dakota.  He and I have stayed close for 37 years, since 1969 when we served together and I was wounded in the Battle of Hiep Duc.  Our families have visited each other in SD and in New York.  Two summers ago, Francis adopted me into the Lakota Tribe, formalizing our spiritual relationship as brothers, and then inducted me into the Lakota Red Feather Warrior Society.  Both of these were humbling but great honors for me.  I will very honored to join the dedication ceremonies this fall and in particular to be part of it all with my beloved "chee yea," or big brother, and the many fellow veterans, family and friends Francis has introduced to me. 

- Paul Critchlow, New York, NY


 From July 1968 until June 1969, I was assigned combat duty as a USAF helicopter pilot in the 20th Special Operations Squadron based at Nha Trang AB, South Vietnam. I flew 988 combat sorties and 543 combat flying hours as a Flight Lead in United States Air Force UH-1P helicopter gunships for the 20th Special Operations Squadron’s ‘Green Hornets’. This combat tour, in support of highly classified U.S. Army Special Forces long-range reconnaissance patrols, was forward based at Ban Me Thout, South Vietnam (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group, Command and Control South, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces.

- Charles Cross, Brandon, SD


I attended a trade school at Wahpeton, ND for architectural drafting. Upon completion of my education there, I received employment at the Fullerton Lumber Company in Mitchell, SD. I worked there approximately 3 or 4 months when I received notice in the mail from the draft board. I had a low number and was advised to return to North Dakota and enlist in the military because my choice of MOS would possibly be higher than just being drafted. So I returned to North Dakota and enlisted. I took basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington. I was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia for the remainder of my army career. I was an oxygen acetylene specialist with the 56 Engineer Dept First US Army. Fortunately I was never called to go to Vietnam.

- Donald Dailey, Watertown, SD


Enlisted in the Navy February 8, 1944 until August 8, 1946 and served in the Pacific.  Enlisted in Army February 4, 1948 until March 30, 1966.

- William Deboer, Rapid City, SD


 I was a member of the 185th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Sioux City, Iowa. After attending basic, I spent several months attending meetings in Sioux City. I believe it was January of 1968, when the North Koreans seized a US spy ship named The Pueblo. As a result of this "national crisis" the president activated many of the air national guard units. Their goal was to get the F100 fighter planes over to Vietnam along with the ground support crews. I was a plumber in the civil engineering department. I was on a "Prime Beef Team" that traveled to several bases stateside putting up pre-fabricated barracks. My longest tour, 12 months, was at Clovis, NM working in the civil engineering department. I finished out my first months at the air base in Sioux City.

- Oscar DeVries, Sioux Falls, SD


 I left Brandon, SD at the age of 18.  Then, I enlisted in the service for four years.  I got out and worked and attended school in Texas and SD.  After receiving my BA, I was commissioned back into the AF as a lieutenant.  I served the           next 16 years in command and control of airlift operations.  I currently own a remodeling and repair business in Olympia, WA.

My hat is off to those who've served or are currently serving our country.  Stand proud!

- Timothy Dickey, Olympia, WA


I served in the National Guard for about a year, but my brother, Richard, talked me into going active in the Navy with him.  As irony had it, when we went in for our physicals, I passed but he didn't due to hearing problems.  I thought of him many times as I sat soaking up the Vietnam atmosphere.   

- Bernard Diedrich, Presho, SD


I used to go out the Joe Foss field when Dad was scheduled to come home and just wait.  One year, Mom left our Christmas tree up until Easter so my father could enjoy Christmas.  I believe that year was 1964.  Also, my grandfather would offer the Cateract Hotel as a refuge for the troops, which offered a bed, a shower, and writing paper and stamps so they could write to their loved ones.  My grandfather was Henry A. Ditmanson.

- Jerry Ditmanson, Sioux Falls, SD


There's so much to tell that once you start there's no place to stop.  I know what it means to be free and to earn freedom, I wish every American did.

- Joseph Dobbs, Rapid City, SD


Our ship’s television station news anchor did not do all of his homework!  He knew which Selective Service Board I was registered with (#66) and that I went to Oglala Community High School (now Pine Ridge) but I do not think he truly realized I made the same cruise as he did.         

During our first rotation on the Gulf of Tokin, the ship's television station news anchor wanted to interview me in an attempt to have me share my feelings on the occupation of Wounded Knee (December 1972).  He asked all the usual questions; who, what, where, when, and how... as I sat there I remember wondering; "where does this guy think I just came from?"  I watched him every darn night of the cruise over here and he is asking me these questions like I just jumped on the ship at Subic Bay after spending a couple nights at the Wounded Knee Occupation. 

I look back and realize the confusion caused by the Anti-war Protests was compounded for me by the Alcatraz and Wounded Knee Occupations. This "awakening" inspired by the American Indian Movement and other Indian Activists changed my self-perspective.  Where I once accepted the spoken word of the prominent population, I began questioning, "Why can't I do that?" "What makes them the experts on what I want, feel, or even want to eat?"    

It was an honor to have served this great country.  However, I even more proud to have represented and served my Tribe, Cheyenne River (Miniconjou) and the other two Reservations, Oglala and Standing Rock, as well.  I will also treasure the thought that per capita, the American Indian population was the highest represented population in all branches of the Service.

We are a proud People and we will always be one of the first to serve.

- Thomas Eagle Staff, Mobridge, SD


In 1946, I completed Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC and was assigned to the US Army Occupation Forces of Japan in 1947 to1948 with the 416th Engineer Utilities Detachment in Yakohama, Japan. I reenlisted in 1949 and was assigned to the US Army Occupation of Germany, with Company B 26th Infantry Regiment until March 1953.  In April 1953 I was assigned to Headquarters, Yukon Command, Fairbanks, AK and served as Supply Sergeant with the Engineer Troop Command until September 1956.  In October 1956, I was assigned to Headquarters, 34th Engineer Battalion, Ft Lewis, WA as Personnel Sergeant until May 1958.  In June 1958 I was assigned to Headquarters, X US Army Corps, Ft Lawton, WA.  As an Enlisted Advisor to the US Army Reserve Units in Bozeman, Livingston and Big Timber, MT.  In October 1962, I was assigned to Headquarters 7th Infantry Division, Camp Casey, Korea.  In December of 1962, I was evacuated from Korea for emergency medical reasons and assigned as Personnel Sergeant, US Army Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Denver, CO. In May 1963, I was assigned to the 5th US Army Advisor Group, Rapid City, SD, as an Enlisted Advisor to the SD Army National Guard.  In February 1966, I was assigned to the 1st Logistic Command, US Army Depot, Cam Rohn Bay, Vietnam.  In October 1966 I was reassigned within the 1st Logistic Command in Vietnam to the Can Tho Forward Support Unit as acting Sergeant Major.  In March 1967, I was assigned as the Unit First Sergeant of the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station, Omaha, NE and served in that capacity until retiring from active service on August 1, 1969 with more than 20 years of service.

- Melvin Eisenbraun, Sturgis, SD


I am proud to have been both an instructor and Team Leader in the search and recovery for the remains of Vietnam War MIAs.  We have gone from being treated like spies to today having open access to sites and documents to resolve MIA status and bring closure to the families. 

- Ben Elfrink, Pepin, WI


It seemed like the service members from SD were very willing to work hard and fight for their country.  This willingness put them in the line of fire quite often and increased the KIA percentages for SD.

- Joey Enders, Jenison, SD


I'm attending mainly to honor Russ Kayser who was a great friend and who lost his life in Vietnam while serving in the army.

- Dennis Ernster, Sioux Falls , SD


Dedicated to Leon Adams: KIA 6-6-69 in a battle of a loc1, and to all my fellow soldiers of the 2nd.

- Stephen Fee, Portland, OR


Support of Arc Light Mission from McCoy AFB, Orlando, FL to Kadena AB Clinic, Okinawa 1969-70 and assigned to 432nd TRW Hospital, Udorn RTAFB 1972-73 during the Christmas Bombing of Hanoi in December 1972, eventually bringing Vietnam Conflict to an end. Enrolled member of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

  - Francis Fielder, Orlando, FL


 The 10th Aviation Group was attached to 11th Air Assault Division Test which was sent to Vietnam and became the 1st Calvary Air Mobile Unit.  I did not deploy to Vietnam with the unit as my time in service was under the required days until discharge.

- Daryle Fisher, Chamberlain, SD


LT in Navy Reserve joined in December 1982 retired in April of 2001 from the Navy reserve.

- William Flanigan, Germantown, TN


I headed the convoy through the roads and waters of Vietnam with my mail truck, dodging mines and bullets. Delivering the mail was important for the morale of the soldiers. The MP's let me through first. I even ended up delivering my own "Dear John" letter.  I was also an entertainer at the officers’ club in Cam Ranh Bay with my band, "Group Therapy".

- Robert Folschow, Sioux Falls, SD


Attended University of South Dakota for four years. Graduated with a BS in History and Education, 1969.

- James Frost, Phoenix, AZ


My son was small when we were stationed near Baltimore.  We hardly ever saw the sun shine because of particulates (smog).  One fall, on a crisp, clear night after I had been discharged, my family and I were retuning to South Dakota.  My son Chip stepped out of the 1972 Ford Wagon, rubbed his eyes & said, "what's that funny smell"?  It was FRESH SOUTH DAKOTA AIR.  Fresh air was new to his inexperienced little nose.  THAT made us realized we were back in GOD's COUNTRY!

- Wm Fuhrman, Aberdeen, SD


 "A Night On Ambush"

It was the early part of my tour and I was serving as a medic for the 2nd platoon of Alpha Company. 2nd platoon was assigned the task of a night ambush - trying to catch the NVA moving in the A Sha Valley. That evening the weather was cool and we had light rain. Once we set up our ambush positions we put up our hootches by snapping together two ponchoes. Three of us tried to stay comfortable and get some sleep when we were not on guard - the 2nd Lt, the RTO & myself, the medic. When the opportunity allowed, I fell asleep. During this sleep period I was awaken by something sitting on my face—a small animal. I could feel the claws on both eye brows & on my lower chin. This creature was probably trying to survive as we were by staying warm with my exhaled breath. I tried not to move as to startle this thing and suffer a facial bite by something I could not identify. All I could think of was that I didn't want to die this way. Slowly I moved my hands up from my abdomen towards my face. After what seems like minutes I just couldn't take it any longer and with one quick motion, I swept my hands across my face knocking this thing into the cold damp night. As I did this I sat up disrupting the snaps on our little hootch and causing a major disruption with lots of noise during our supposedly quiet attempt at catching the enemy in a night maneuver. The 2nd Lt grabbed me to calm me down and asked what the heck was going on. I tried to explain via a short version that something was sitting on my face and I just couldn't take it any longer. The next day when we got back to the rest of the company I told the whole story. Needless to say everyone was amazed that I was able to maintain my composure for as long as I did.

- Joseph George, Black Hawk, SD


Attended South Dakota State University and graduated with a major in Pharmacy in 1962.  Was a member of ROTC at SDSU, and was commissioned in June 1962.  Served in the Army, Medical Service Corps as a pharmacy officer at numerous assignments in the US, Germany, and Korea.  Finally retired in Texas in 1993. 

- Alfred Gill, San Antonio, TX


Was in the Army National Guard September 1,1950 through 1958. Rank was Warrant Officer.

- Richard Graham, SD


Have served and continue to serve today.  I don't mind if my experience is shared. I have been in SD since July 1982.

- Mark Graham, Box Elder, SD


Because of the location of the 184 TFG (at the time in 1968 it was the 174 TFG), many members were residents of SD. The 174 TFG was one of three ANG fighter units called to active duty during the Tet Offensive. The official reason for the unit activation was the USS Pueblo capture, however.

- Gary Grasma, Dakota Dunes, SD


I shipped out from Fort Sam Houston, Texas with the 45th Surgical Hospital. We were assigned close to Tay Ninh at a base with the 196th Light Infantry. We were hit with mortar attacks about every night. The first night we were hit, our commanding officer Major Wratton was killed. After the third night, we were finally able to get the hospital up and running. This hospital was unique. It was the first field hospital that had air-conditioning, expandable operating rooms and inflatable wards. Needless to say, the wards were easily damaged. After five months there I was assigned to the 32nd Medical Depot and was sent to Dong Tam in the Mekong Delta to help set up the 3rd Surgical Hospital. After three months there I went to Long Binh and flew out to other field hospitals as a trouble shooter. I worked on the Utility packs. These were run by gas turbine engines and provided hot and cold water, air conditioning, electricity and air to inflate the wards. Air was also supplied to the operating rooms so the surgical tables could float on a cushion of air. I want to thank the state of South Dakota for recognizing the Vietnam veterans. I was proud to be of service to my country. I could not figure out why we were spit at, called names and had things thrown at us in the airports in larger cities. I hope the public in the United States does not humiliate our troops in any way when they come home now. I am proud of them.

- Lonnie Grau, Oregon, WI


I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, on June 2, 1961 at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City.  I attended flight school at Ft. Rucker, Alabama from 1963 to 1963 (OFWAC Class 62-9).  I spent three years in Germany, flying for an Artillery unit, first out of Munich, then out of Stuttgart.  On return to the States early in 1966, I transitioned into helicopters at Ft. Rucker and Ft. Benning.  My next assignment, beginning in July, was with the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion, flying UH-1 helicopters out of Bien Hoa, RVN.  In September, I was wounded during a Combat Assault and was transferred to the US Hospital at Camp Zama, Japan where I recovered from a leg wound.  Returned to duty with the 145th in December, I completed my combat tour and returned to the States where I was released from Active Duty on my 28th birthday, April 23.  I subsequently served in the South Dakota Army National Guard, first in the Aviation Section at the Rapid City Municipal Airport, then with the S-3 section of the 109th Engineer Group at Camp Rapid, and I commanded the 1085th Helicopter Ambulance Detachment for about a year.  After four years I transferred to the Wisconsin Army National Guard for six years, and then to the Iowa Army National Guard from which I retired in 1982.  I retired a Master Aviator with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  I last served as Commander of a Supply & Service Battalion in Iowa.

- William Green, Hot Springs, SD


I enlisted myself (RA) when I was 19 years old and was sent to Tay Ninh.  I served during the Tet Offensive.  I was also stationed by the Black Virgin mountain.  I spent 14 months in that dark place. It was a life-altering experience. 

I wrote this poem expressing some of my feelings after the war:

The Dark Side

by Dan Hahn

 

The bitterness and pain in me seems to gain.

The “Hell” re-occurs to drive me insane.

I sometimes wonder why I just don’t die.

I talk to God, I ask why, why, why?

I read the card my daughter gave me – to trust God and live for He.

Let me tell ya – it ain’t easy when my mind spins, I feel queasy.

I’ve cried until there are no more tears and the days turn into years.

I gave for my country, but my country failed me.

We were young and sent to war.

When we got out, Ole government closed the door.

I’m thankful for family, dogs, and guns; ‘cause I didn’t get great sons!

Much time I am alone, but I feel safe at home.

Sometimes when I write then I feel alright.

I can’t explain the wound that won’t heal, but it’s always there and very real!

I know when I’m gone and “Home”, never again will I feel so alone.

 

A Soldier

 

- Daniel Hahn, Anchorage, AK


No story but I am currently serving in the South Dakota Army National Guard as the First Sergeant of Joint Forces Headquarters in Rapid City.

- George Hall, Rapid City, SD


 I was commissioned Ensign USNR on June 6, 1962 and immediately entered Navy flight school in Penscola, FL.  Advance training was at Corpus Christi, TX where I received my wings as Naval Flight Officer in May 1963.  Following flight training, I was assigned to VR-7 at Moffett Field, Calif. VR-7 was  transport squadron and was one of two Navy transport squadrons assigned to the Air Force Military Airlift Command. During my three years in VR-7, I accumulated just over 3,000 flight hours and 30 combat support missions throughout Vietnam.

- Ron Halverson, Madison, WI


This is something I normally do not discuss.

- Mike Hancock, San Antonio, TX


When I came back from overseas, I was re-assigned to Ft. Benning, Georgia. On more than one occasion, people were protesting at the gates and you had to roll your windows up so as to avoid being spit upon as you drove through. I know a lot of the soldiers agreed with the protestors’ sentiments though.  One of my first jobs when I got back was as a guard at the trial of Lieutenant William Calley. He was the officer who gave the order to kill civilians at the hamlet of Mi Lai in Vietnam (the Nam!). I was not very impressed with Lt. Calley and thought him somewhat slow-witted and not deserving of being even a 'spec 4'. In spite of his years of service he was still a lieutenant. The business owners in Columbus, GA, treated him as a friend and hero. He was given free meals and other amenities. After he was found guilty and given 'house arrest' at his quarters he could be seen peering out around his curtains. The attitude of the soldiers was mostly against the war and nearly everyone was just waiting to 'ETS' (expiration term of service) as most had been drafted. Amongst the soldiers there was always great camaraderie and mutual support. I joined the SD Army National Guard (34 years Guard, 37 years total) after I got out of the regular Army and I never again experienced the 'brotherliness' in the Guard that we felt in the Army during the Vietnam War. During the war we were intent on surviving and helping each other survive and not inclined to network and 'politick' to 'make rank and move up the ladder'. I was a platoon sergeant when I was only an E4. That was a lot of responsibility and a real eye opener!!

- Kenneth Hargens, Rapid City, SD


I joined the US Navy in 1972 in Sioux Falls, SD.  Spent one Westpac deployment homeport in White Beach, Okinowa aboard the USS Blueridge LCC-19. I am extremely proud have to served in the Vietnam War. The Blueridge was instrumental in evacuating military and civilian personnel when Saigon fell. I am a member of the American Legion in my home town of Colome, SD and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Winner, SD.

- Joseph H. Harmacek, Aurora, CO


I was a dumb kid in the wrong place!

- Kenneth Hauge, Alexandria, SD


A Story of Vietnam - May - June 1970

Story by Bob Heier - Sgt US Army - B5/12 - 199th Light Infantry Brigade

Bravo and Charlie companies of the 5th Battalion 12th Infantry - 199th Light Infantry Brigade entered Cambodia on May 12, 1970 as part of the offensive into Cambodia in May- June 1970.  We arrived at a place called LZ Brown, about 2 miles inside Cambodia.

It was almost dark when Bravo Co. arrived by helicopters.  The LZ consisted of mud and dirt pushed up about 4 feet high in a circle the size of a football field.  The jungle was close around the perimeter.  The Ho Chi Minh Trail was about 100 meters from the LZ.

The companies, along with one 81 mm mortar unit, started setting up for the night with trip flares and claymore mines.  Defensive positions were set up all around the perimeter to be manned by soldiers pulling guard throughout the night.

By midnight the rains had stopped and about 3:00 am North Vietnamese Army soldiers of the 174th NVA Regiment attacked.  The fighting went on until after 6am (dawn), supported by a cobra gunship, a "Spooky" gunship and airforce jets.  It was a hard-fought battle which the U.S. soldiers finally won. This was just the beginning of the 199th LIB's time in Cambodia.  We were there until June 25, 1970. The first night was just the beginning of a long and difficult two months of war.

The offensive into Cambodia however helped the effort in Vietnam because many of the NVA supplies and weapons were captured or destroyed.  They used these supplies and weapons to supply their troops and the Viet Cong in South Vietnam.

After Sgt Heier served in B5/12 as an infantryman (grunt), he went on to serve in the 1st Air Cavalry Division at Phuoc Vinh after the 199th went back to the States.  He served 14 months in the Republic of Vietnam including two months in Cambodia.

- Robert Heier, Destrehan, LA


Richard's service at Ft. Meade, Maryland included:  1) Marching at John F. Kennedy's funeral 11/25/63, 2) Security during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by Martin Luther King, Jr. 8/28/63, and 3) Security for the Beatles' first landing in America 2/9/64.

- Richard Herman, SD


Entered the Marines Private First Class November 29th, 1945.  Discharged January 17, 1947.  Then enlisted back in military in 1951 in the Army.

- Richard Hoff, Rapid City, SD


I originally had orders to go to Vietnam but when I arrived at the Oakland receiving station I was diverted to Okinawa. My MOS was 64 Charlie, a truck driver. Okinawa was being reverted back to the Japanese in May of 1972 and they needed a lot of drivers. It was on Easter of 1972, I've always felt I was kissed by the angels! May God bless all those who were not as fortunate as myself and sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

- Richard Jacobsen, Lead, SD


 After boot camp and battalion lockon, I started out in Okinawa, training as a Raider Marine with Weapons Platoon, Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines.    We went to Fuji, Japan, for cold weather training from January 23 through February 8, 1965.  We returned to Okinawa for training for Jungle Drum III, an amphibious landing exercise conducted jointly by naval forces of the U.S. and Thailand.  As part of the battalion's raid specialists, I sailed from the Philippines early for the objective area in the troop carrying submarine USS Perch. After Operation Jungle Drum, while at sea on the troop ship USS Lenawee, we were notified we would be landing in South Vietnam.

We made an amphibious landing at Beach Red Two on April 10, 1965.  While in Vietnam, we had visits from General Walt, General Westmoreland, and Defense Secretary McNamara.  At the conclusion of this key operation, approximately one month later, effective Viet Cong resistance had been eliminated, and, for the first time in six years, the battalion's zone of action, an area of 100 square miles, and it's population of approximately 20,000 Vietnamese, was restored to the control of the government of the Republic of Vietnam.  Although it was not realized at the time, the highly successful pacification and reconstruction actions executed were to receive world-wide notice and were to set the pattern for similar operations which would be conducted by other organizations of the 3rd Marine Division.  I served in Operations Starlight and Harvest Moon. The battalion pulled out and I was transferred to 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, which became know as the "Walking Dead" ....and that's another story.

- Dale Jensen, Harrisburg, SD


In the spring of 1966 while attending General Beadle State College, I received a new draft reclassification to 1A. My father who had been a POW in Germany during WWII advised joining the Navy rather being drafted into the Army or Marine Corps because being a draftee I would surely be on the ground in Vietnam, versus being on a ship off the coast. I joined the Navy and after boot camp was sent to Hospital A School in San Diego where I became a Hospital Corpsman. Since the Navy furnishes all the Medical personnel for the Marine Corps, I was never on a ship off the coast of Vietnam, but on the ground with a "Grunt" battalion. I participated in Operation Bold Mariner, Defiant Measure, Oklahoma Hills and Taylor Common. Operation Bold Mariner was the largest amphibious assault since the Korean War.  

The year I spent in Vietnam caring for the sick and injured was the most gratifying year of my military service. The Marines I served with were top notch and professional and I feel honored to have served with them and thank them all. Semper Fi.

Thank you South Dakota,

Tony "Doc" Johannesen

- Dean Johannesen, Edgeley, ND


I attended school in Evergreen Country and Lake Preston and spent one year at Arlington (5th grade). I completed the 10th grade and then enlisted in the Navy in August of 1962 where I completed GED courses.  On June 7th,1963, I was a member of the Honor Guard for President Kennedy while stationed at Point Mugu, California. I also was a member of the Drill Team. We performed in several parades in California.

From Point Mugu, I was transferred to the USS Whitfield County LST 1169 homeported in Yokosuka, Japan. I was stationed aboard the Whitfield for almost two and a half years. I was in and out of Vietnam many times.  The first time was shortly after the Gulf of Tonkin and we landed troops in DaNang and in May of 1965 the Whitfield County landed elements of the 4th Marine regiment & 3rd Reconnaissance battalion were land at Chu Lai, Vietnam. It was the largest combat amphibious operation since Korea in 1950.  I was discharged in April of 1966 and started working for John Morrell in Sioux Falls.  I met my wife Julie at the Barrell Drive Inn in Sioux Falls where she was working as a car hop. We lived in Huron and DeSmet, SD and Jasper and Pipestone, MN.  I became a Deputy Sheriff for Pipestone County, MN in November 1974 and retired June 30th, 1995. I now work at McDonalds in charge of the maintenance department in Pipestone and enjoying time with my wife, children and grandchildren

- Roger Johnson, Pipestone, MN


No story, just there.  It was a strange time in my life and it made a great impression on me.  I’m glad to be home.

- Michael Johnson, Sioux Falls, SD


As an occupational therapist, I worked at the Beach Pavilion with the Vietnam veterans who returned home with amputations. I tried to provide the treatments and exercises that would strengthen a limb so that a splint or prosthesis would be able to be used. I would make splints that would help them to attempt doing things in a new way....different than from when they were full-bodied, before Vietnam.  I also worked in the Institute of Surgical Research (BAMC) Burn Unit.  At that time it was only one of two burn units in the world that could treat the horrendously burned soldiers from Vietnam.  The diet was watermelon and beer to keep the kidneys functioning.  The burn ward temperature was 78 degrees and all that you would see were black burned skinned bodies exposed to the room air (sheets could not be used to cover the bodies) or those covered with actual pig skin grafts.  The pigs whose skin was used for these grafts were raised and cared for there at BAMC at a different site.  Survival rates were very low but the care was so superior and impeccable. It was $3,000 to start the specially equipped plane that was used for transporting these critically burned soldiers and the cost went up with each minute and each staff member aboard the plane.  Everybody knew that this was the very least that could be done to help these burned victims.  “War”, “Dear John letters”, “young men”, “disabilities”, “rejection”, and “casualties”.  These words are all synonymous with “Vietnam”.

- Darrel Johnston, Sioux Falls, SD


I was drafted into the US Army in Sept, 1965 when I was 20 years old. After basic training and Medical school, I was transferred to the 4th Infantry Division in Ft Lewis WA.. I was assigned to a medical company and remained in this company until my release at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam in Aug of 1967.  The 4th infantry was transferred to Vietnam via troop ships in the fall of 1966. I was on a two-stacked ship along with 4,000 other GI's; the trip took 23 days under very crowded conditions. Upon reaching Nah Trang, we debarked the USS Gordon onto LST landing craft in much the same fashion as World War II beach landings. We were dropped off in two to three feet of water, became totally drenched and from that moment on did not seem to get thoroughly dried out until getting back to SD one year later. From the beach we were placed on C130 aircraft for a 45 minute trip to Tuy Hoa. We were packed in so tight standing up that due to the heat some of the GI's passed out in a standing position. We landed on steel matting runway and were greeted by Vietnamese people trying to sell us fruit, pop, and 4th infantry badges in camouflaged color.  Our base camp was set up along the beach and the country was very flat, sandy, and desert-like until reaching the mountain range 15 miles inland.  Temperatures ranged up to 120 F. Besides being a medic, I was also a qualified truck driver and traveled from Kontum in the north to Saigon in the south. This afforded me the opportunity to see rice paddies, jungles, mountains, rubber plantations, scenic coastlines dotted with ruins of French buildings and the civilians at work in their daily lives. After six months, our unit       moved to Pleiku in the central highlands.  This was very different with heavy jungle and monsoon season weather. During this part of my tour, I was much more involved with the medical field, working in forward aid stations and as a line medic with the infantry. Our main means of transportation was the Huey Helicopter and at times of mass casualties we used the twin-engined Chinook.  Malaria was a constant threat so we took quinine tablets once a week and slept under mosquito netting when possible. On one night patrol, I received numerous mosquito bites on my face and could not shave for a week, but luckily did not get malaria. Toward the end of my tour, I received a three day R&R in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A GI's tour in Vietnam lasted one year and when you were down to 30 days time left in country, you became known as a “short-timer”. This was a very hectic time as a lot of lives were being lost and no one place was so secure that you could consider yourself being safe. My time for rotation finally came, though, and I left the medical company on separate orders and flew down to Cam Ranh bay for processing back to the States. I had become very interested in flying during my time in Vietnam and it was during out-processing at Cam Rahn that I learned of the GI bill and flying aircraft was a new part of the bill. This GI bill later enabled me to get my commercial pilot license along with the Instrument, Instructor, and airframe-powerplant ratings. I left Vietnam on a Douglas DC-8 four engine commercial aircraft. The day I left Vietnam it was very clear and hot; giving us our last good taste of heat and sweat while standing on the ramp awaiting loading. Everyone in line was very quiet during loading and takeoff.

At altitude, the pilot banked the aircraft giving us our last look at Vietnam. He then announced that we were safe from ground fire and at that moment there was no more silence for we all knew we had survived the tour and were truly going home. I weighed 182 pounds leaving the states and weighed 151 pounds upon returning back; so I guess the year was not all that easy on me but none the less quite an experience. Seven days after leaving my company In Vietnam I was back in South Dakota.

- Roger Jorgenson, Woonsocket, SD


 I was also in the Army 698th ORD Company in Korea.

- Gordon Jungwirth, Carson City, NV


Pacific Stars & Stripes

Saturday, Dec.18, 1967

"Good Luck In a Truck"

       DONG HA, Vietnam (ISO) - Cpl. Joseph G. Kavanagh, of Colma, California has twice been driving a truck that the enemy blew up—each time he escaped without serious injury.

     On Nov. 23 a 15-pound plastic mine wrecked the tractor Kavanagh was driving on highway 9, east of Cam Lo.

       Kavanagh and two other marines in the cab were momentarily trapped when the gasoline tank caught fire. However, the fire quickly burned itself out.

       Kavanagh's first experience with a mine took place in June on Highway 1, just south of the Marine base at Camp Evans.

       The enemy triggered a 250-pound command detonated bomb which wrecked the 2 1/2 ton truck he was driving.

       Kavanagh is a truck driver with the 11th Eng. Bn. He joined the Marine Corps in September 1965 and has been in Vietnam seven months.

 

While serving with 2nd Battalion, Golf Company on operation Beacon Guide, Thua Thien Province, (July 21 & July 26, 1967). It was my first week in a line company, I was volunteered to walk point. I proceeded to far ahead of column while walking up a knoll and got caught in a cross-fire. I zig-zagged back and forth across the hill screaming at the top of my lungs "Oh s..." "Oh s..." long and behold Pfc Ben Balonas and the first fire team came up and laid down a base of fire so I could get the hell out of the situation. Ben was one of four brothers serving in Vietnam at the same time, also Ben's uncle was the president of Mexico at that time. To honor his nephews, all four brothers were invited and myself to a presidential banquet in Mexico City. I did not attended that event. I recently made contact with Ben after 37 years, he hasn't changed a bit, gun ho as ever.

SEMPER FI

- Joseph Kavanagh, Rapid City, SD


 I was a TV engineer working late nights. 18 hour days were the norm. Coming back home was not good. I saw some things I did not want to see. But in most part it was good. Just was trying to keep TV/Radio on the air.

- Michael Knutson, Vermillion, SD


 46C20 Hercules Missile Mechanic

- James Kooiman, Elk Point, SD


 I had already completed my service obligation by serving in the South Dakota Army National Guard from 1962 to 1966 and was exempt from the draft.  I enlisted in the Navy for service in Vietnam because so many draft dodgers didn't want to serve.  I figured one willing to serve was worth two or three drafted against their will.       

I re-entered the National Guard in South Dakota several years after my discharge from the Navy.  I later transferred to the Air Force Reserve from which I retired in 1995.  I served again on active duty during Desert Storm, March 4 through May 31, 1991.

- William Kotila, Rapid City, SD


It was an honor to serve.  I also have 4 brothers, who like myself, were in the military at the same time during the Vietnam Conflict.

- Robert Kuemper, Sioux Falls, SD


 I am very happy that I had the chance to serve my country. Since my time in the Navy from 1968 to 1972, I served in the IAARNG . I entered March 5, 1983 and retired July 31, 1999 as Staff Sgt. E6. I served in the Persian Gulf War from December 1990 to May 1991.  I’m also happy to say that my two daughters have also served in the military. Mandy for seven years in the Navy and Lisa for four years in the Navy.

- Daniel Kulbel, Carroll, IA


Born in Belle Fourche, SD August 26, 1950.  Lived and went to school in SD until 1966.  Enlisted in military in 1970. After serving, served in the reserves until February 26, 1976. Entire family including grandparents who homesteaded in Horse Creek near Newell are all South Dakotans.

- Duane Kumpula, Lincoln, NE


 Raised in South Dakota but enlisted in Nebraska.  Born in SD June 10, 1949, lived in SD until 1966 went into the military in 1968.  I grew up just 21 miles east of Pierre in Blunt.  Entire family including my grandparents who homesteaded in Horse Creek near Newell are all South Dakotans.  Brother who lives near Bell Fourche also served in the Military from SD.

- Harry Kumpula, Lincoln, NE


 I worked on the Nukes, the Nukes, the Nukes the Nukes; day and night on those #@$ @#$@ @#$%$#@ Nukes.

- Milo Ladwig, Milbank, SD


 I was very proud to have served my country.  I spent 18 months in Vietnam and came home with no regrets.

- William Lampman, Pickstown, SD


 While in Vietnam, I served primarily with the 22nd Surgical Hospital Unit in Chu Lai.  I did spend one month in Phu Bai assisting with preparation and moving the unit to be attached to the 22nd Surgical Hospital.  One day was spent on the South China Sea during the move between Phu Bai and Chu Lai on a LST ship about five or six miles out from the shoreline so that we were beyond the range of artillery fire.  I did stay with a reserve unit out of Sioux Falls after my return from Vietnam to assist with training local units with their training. 

- Myron Lang, Washington, IL


 The Day we Shot Ourselves:

My ship, The USS Waddell DDG-24, was on station in the Tonkin Gulf. Our primary mission there was gunfire support for I corp Marines and ARVIN troops along the DMZ. We received a call for fire mission and had expended over 200 rounds of 5" ammo when our forward gun mount had a hang fire and would not go off. The damage control team was summoned to spray cooling water on the barrel, so it would not "cook off" while the breach was cleared. After a few minutes of cooling, the GLO "gun liaison officer" placed his hand on the barrel and signaled that the barrel was cool and that it was ok to lower the barrel and drain the cooling water that had collected inside it. As soon as the barrel was depressed, the gun cooked off and the 5" round struck our anchor windlass, splitting it in half. Luckily the round had not traveled far enough to arm itself and the only personnel casualties were broken ear drums among the damage control team members. Needless to say, we got a lot of grief from other ships in the area.

- Donald Langum, Brookings, SD


 I served in Korea, Turkey, Germany and Vietnam.  In Vietnam I served in the 101st Airborne Division.  War is Hell, but as for the guys who fought in it, no matter what branch, we all came home as brothers forever.

- Earnest LaPointe, Lead, SD


Company E had two platoons of the M29, 81mm Mortar and one platoon of Recon. I was a Sergeant E-5, from Ft. Benning, Georgia, but I was assigned as a FO (forward observer) with Co. C, 1-501 PIR most of the time. I did go out with Company A once, and as luck would have it, they sent me out with a bunch of new guys and one tube. At that time, I was in the FDC (Fire Direction Center). I was the only guy trained as both FO and FDC.

As the Mortar FO, I would patrol with the rifle companies and provide covering fire for them when we were hit.  This would include Defensive Targeting (DT) for night defensive positions. When hit at night, we would adjust fire from the DTs, and that would also include the firing of Illumination Rounds to light up the area. The mortar rounds that were fired usually came from Fire Support Bases (FSB), or in some cases from a tube that we had with us in the field. From these positions, we would patrol around those areas during the day to look for any evidence of the enemy. We normally would not stay in the same area for more than two nights, as the longer that we stayed in one position, the longer the enemy had to plan and coordinate an attack on that position. Being inconsistent in the jungle was the name of the game.

During the monsoon season, South East Asia’s winter, we would leave the mountains due to the fact that our helicopter support could not supply or cover us because of the overcast and rainy skies. At this time we would patrol and ambush in the low lands between the jungle and the villages. The nights were so cold and I can remember how my lips would turn blue and how my teeth chattered from that cold. We were always wet, if not from the sweat from the heat of the day, than from the rains that fell.

In the low lands, we would pull ambushes every night. We would be looking for the NVA going into the villages or for their supplies coming out of the villages. Everyone knew the rules… no movement at night.  Either in the mountains or on ambushes in the low lands, we would always set up our Claymore Mines every night as well as set up trip flares to warn us if anything was out there. As soon as a trip flare went off, we would fire off our Claymores and that would be followed by as much rifle and machine gun fire as was possible. He who fires the most bullets usually wins. As the FO, I would call in the illumination first and adjust the HE (High Explosive) if needed. Of course, through all of this, I had to cover myself with my own rifle.

Easter night 1970, after we had been staying in the same NDP (Night Defensive Position) for three nights in a row... not good, the NVA hit us about two or three in the morning and over-ran us right after that.  After we pushed them off the hill with hand-to-hand fighting, we shot our mortar in the hand-held position, this way we could fire more rounds closer to our position. We used all of the rounds we had, they didn't come back after that, thank God.

Other than the firefights and ambushes I was involved in when I was an FO, my tour was a normal one I guess. I would shoot in DT's at night and Illumination when we got hit. Of course I would shoot and adjust HE rounds also.

At FSB Bullet, we were surrounded by the NVA for three days. We damn-near fired around the clock and went through a lot of ammo. Killed a bunch of NVA we were told, as there was a lot of blood outside the perimeter.

When I was in the FDC at FSB Bastogne, one night we were firing in DT’s for other units out in the field. The first round out was always a WP (White Phosphorous) round in case there was an error with the previous data. WP rounds have a smaller bursting radius that HE rounds. I remember that I just told my friend Joe, the squad leader, to go ahead and fire. The next thing I heard was a different sounding “pop”. It was not the normal sound of a round going out. Right after that, I heard Joe screaming. I stepped out of the FDC bunker and saw him completely engulfed in flames and walking towards me. A Staff Sergeant (E-6) in the bunker closest to Joe pushed him into a muddy slop. He was trying to put out the fire that had engulfed our friend. The E-6 burned his hands so bad that he was evacuated to the Burn Center at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. We had heard that he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for this action. Out of a squad of five, only one guy, the gunner, didn’t get burned too badly or get killed. He was crouched down looking into his sight and the round had burst over the top of him.

Myself and three other guys carried Joe to the aid station on a stretcher, slipping and sliding in the mud all the way. After we got him there, the medic told us to leave. I went back later on to see what they were doing to my friend and to comfort him. I put my head into the tent and heard Joe saying that now he could go home and see his new-born son and his wife. That was the last thing that Joe had said, and I heard him say it.

Joe Escandon was from a small town in Texas. He was a good and decent guy and my good friend.

I will never forget Joe and I’ve told this story to my family and friends. It turned out that one of my friends was quite taken in by this story and asked if I ever told it to Joe’s family. I told her that all I knew about Joe was that he was from Texas, so she got on the Internet and found that his son is still living in Texas. I eventually talked to Joe’s son on the telephone and told him how his father died and that his last thoughts were of him and his mother. That was a very hard thing to do.

- Carl Larson, Surprise, AZ


 The 85th Maintenance Company in DaNang allowed local Vietnamese to come into the compound daily and operate in small buildings the size of a typical lawn shed.  You could get your laundry washed or get a haircut.  A haircut was what I was in need of the first week that I arrived in DaNang.  I took some time and went to the Vietnamese barber.  He was a very outgoing person who spoke English almost as well as I did.  He used a straight razor, comb and a pair of scissors to cut my hair and shave my neck.  It was the usual conversation; Who are you? Where are you from? How long have you been in Vietnam? What type of job do you do? What is it like where you live in the United States?  I carried on conversation as he cut my hair and shaved my neck.  I paid him and went about my day.  That night we were involved in a firefight and rocket attack.  When the dust settled and the bodies were brought in, there lay the barber that had the straight razor to my neck that day.  From that time on I kept my conversations to people I knew.

- Roy Lindsay, Madison, SD


 Under Honorable Conditions discharged DD257MC.  Did not serve long.

- Andrew Little Moon, Timber Lake, SD


 On December 4, 1967, with an all-volunteer crew of five and a 'Snoopy' machine, we agreed upon flight techniques that would best locate and disperse a reported three to four battalion-sized NVA hard-core units advancing from the Cambodian border, S/SW of Hill 875, toward our DakTo Fire Support Base Camp (FSB) for an attack during our Christmas season. As pilot-in-command, I told my crew that our lives would be in much greater danger but when we located and dispersed this enemy, it would save many lives on the DakTo FSB Camp. We flew our mission successfully when on our last pattern leg we received very heavy weapons fire severely disabling our flight controls and setting the aircraft on fire.

With pandemonium throughout the cockpit and cargo area, the aircraft unavoidably impacted a tree at 70 feet above ground. I was catapulted forward in my pilot’s seat through the instrument panel and windshield and through the triple canopy jungle landing 100 feet from the crash site. My four crew members were each killed-in-action (KIA). Their selfless and valiant sacrifice brings great honor to each of them. I will encounter no greater privilege than to have served in combat with such great warriors.

Our mission was accomplished...we located and dispersed this massive advance of enemy soldiers...DakTo FSB Camp lost no lives during an enemy attack at Christmas time. 

- Charles Livermont, Cheyenne, WY


 No story, other than South Dakota was my home from grade school through high school and I returned there for college after leaving the Army. My daughter and her family still live there. There will be many stories, mine is of no importance.

- Stephen Mahanna, Huntington Beach, CA


 My father joined the Army as a young man and served from 1951 to 1953. He served his country over in Korea and also attended school in Japan. After serving in the Army he then joined the Air National Guard unit out of Sioux Falls, SD in 1962 he served in this branch until 1988 where he retired as a MSSGT from the communications center. My father served his country with a great respect and much dignity. He has had his hard times in life but then again much joy. He met my mother and married her after divorcing his first wife. Between the two of them, my father had four great children and my mother also had four great girls and then they had me. I would like to honor my father as he is the greatest man that I know and my HERO in real life. Thank you, Dad, for all that you did and still do.

- Richard Mathiesen, Chester, SD


 We served, right or wrong, we did what our country asked.

- Dennis McKnelly, Tea, SD


 SD Army National Guard August 26, 1976 to October 11, 1996 retired with rank of E-7.

- Dean McQuay, Rapid City, SD


I was a nuclear power technician serving as chief mechanical operator for the #3 reactor plant propulsion system. We were in the Tonkin Gulf. It was Christmas Eve of 1972 and we were flying missions into North Vietnam in an attempt to change the course of war by saturation bombing. We went to mess got our food but there was no tables because the mess deck was full of bombs. So we grabbed a chair and set our tray on a 1000 pound bomb and had our Christmas meal. Some wrote nasty messages on the bombs, but the Captain soon stopped this practice in short order. Thankfully this was my darkest memory of the war.

- David Mensch, Sioux Falls, SD


A proof round, packaged with regular surplus WWII German ammunition, destroyed a rifle I was shooting, and the extreme backblast detached the retina of my right eye. The accident gave me an opportunity to avoid serving in Vietnam. I told the doctors that I would rather do my duty than have someone else assume my responsibility. I served 10 months in country.

- William Miller, Rapid City, SD


 FATE is the name of the story.  On a large joint air assault against NVA target, prep fires began the day before and were lifted 30 minutes prior to assault.  The area was prepped with Naval fires, B-52s, artillery, and finally F-4s.  The combined lift force was over 50 RVN & US hueys.  The predetermined

Landing Zone was so blown up and visibility was so poor that we had to land at an alternate area to insert the troops.  When the ground force reached the original LZ, they encountered and captured a large cache of AAA weapons that had been protected in caves during the prep and then rolled out for ambush of the air assault.  The NVA knew our attack plan and would have inflicted heavy casualties had the prep fires not made the LZ unusable for us.  Fate saved our bacon.  Since then I have had a personal interest in US spy stories.

- Dennis Miller, Rapid City, SD


 Volunteered for the draft in 1969 and went to Vietnam in February 1970. Served with the 9th Infantry Division in the Delta as an RTO.  In May 1970, I went into Cambodia at the direction of President Nixon.  It was this excursion that prompted the riots and shooting deaths at Kent State University.  It was in Cambodia May 26, 1970 that one-third of my company was either killed or wounded.  In September the 9th Infantry was deactivated and I was assigned to the Americal Infantry Division until DEROS arriving home on Super Bowl Sunday 1971.  Since 1979 I have worked as a Readjustment Counseling Therapist for the SD Department of Veterans Affairs (site coming soon) Readjustment Counseling Services (Vet Center) program helping War Zone Veterans and their families through the difficult readjustment process.  I am proud of all my fellow combatants who continue to persevere and prosper.

- Jerry Muhs, Brandon, SD


 Please note name change from Campbell to Murphy.  It was a legal name change by the court.

- David Murphy, Sioux Falls, SD


 Life is Good     

On January 16, 1968, I was drafted into the U.S. Army and met a stranger from DeSmet who became my brother.

On a bus bound to Sioux Falls for induction, Lyle Bowes took the only seat left, which was next to me, and we stayed together for the next two years, through basic and advanced training (11C - Mortars) at Fort Lewis, Washington, our tours of Vietnam, and my hospitalization at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver.

Lyle and I arrived in Vietnam in June 1968 and were assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment (Red Warriors), 4th Infantry Divisions in the Central Highland (II Corps). Our base camp was located at Pleiku (Camp Enari) but we spent the whole tour in the jungle from Dak To and Kontum, in the north, to Ban Me Thout and Duc Lap, in the south. Charlie Company conducted many operations including search and destroy, combat assaults, ambushes, sweeps, blocking force, long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP), and security for the fire support base. I led many four-man LRRP teams that consisted of four days of hiding out while observing the “little people” (NVA – North Vietnamese Army).

On April 20, 1969, our company was on a search and destroy operation near Kontum when we wounded two NVA soldiers. My squad continued to track one of the wounded NVA soldiers by his trail of blood with myself on point, when I took a couple of bullets through the right side of my body. I played dead but worried because I couldn’t feel my legs so I lifted my head gently to make sure my legs were attached, and an NVA soldier cut loose with 30 rounds and one of his bullets caught my right ankle. I could see the other bullets exploding in the dirt – two, three inches away – all the way up my right side. I grabbed at vines and pulled myself behind a tree to hide. Platoon medic Mike “Doc” McCarthy killed the NVA soldier who was shooting at us and then bandaged SGT. First Class Lightfoot and me.

Lyle and two men came to help Doc. Lyle ripped two small trees from the ground, then wrapped the ends around a poncho to make a stretcher to carry me about 400 meters. Six soldiers from my company were also wounded that day. A medevac helicopter arrived two hours later to lift us out of the jungle but there was no landing zone so the dust-off hovered above the tree tops and planned to extract us one at a time in a basket, but gunfire erupted again and the dust off couldn’t hold. The pilot told the captain they would try again in the morning.

So Lyle dug me a shallow hole to protect me since we thought the NVA would over run our position during the night. Lyle tried to assist me all night but we ran out of morphine about 2 a.m. so I squeezed Lyle’s arm when the pain became too much. I was desperately thirsty but could only receive a little water because of my internal wounds. One of the other wounded, a kid from Pennsylvania named Sy, was hit in the stomach and died in the morning before the chopper arrived. Fourteen hours later—at 7:30 a.m.—the choppers came back! I remember lying in the basket, spinning in circles as the helicopter blades whirled above me. I learned five days later that I would never walk again. BUT I was still alive and that’s all that mattered.

I give credit to my faith in Jesus Christ and my friend Lyle Bowes for keeping me alive. I spent the next 14 months in four hospitals (71st Evacuation Hospital in Vietnam, 106th Army Hospital in Japan, Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, and the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee) and finally returned home in June of 1970.

When I returned home to White, my family and friends welcomed me with open arms. Three of my brothers and many cousins served during the Vietnam Era Conflict. Plus, when I returned to White there were six other Vietnam veterans, including Lyle, who ran around together…like a band of brothers.

I have good and bad memories of my tour of duty. Everyone worked together and depended on each other for survival. My experience in Vietnam has stayed with me and I have used this experience in a positive manner. For the past thirty years, I have worked with the Disabled American Veterans to guarantee that my brothers and sisters receive their earned benefits and services.

Life is really easy if you look at the big picture. I always say to my wife and daughter that if I have clean water, a shower, clean clothes, and food everyday that life is good.

- Gene Murphy, Sioux Falls, SD


 Enlisted in Marines December 1974 until January 10, 1975.

- John Muscat, Sioux Falls, SD


An Airborne Ranger infantry rifle platoon leader who served one tour in Vietnam, 1Lt. Najacht joined the S.D. Army National Guard in Hot Springs after being separated from active duty in 1972. He served 15 years in the S.D. Army National Guard before transferring to the Nebraska Army National Guard in early 1987. He retired with the rank of Colonel at Lincoln, Nebraska. in October 1999.

- Charles Najacht, Custer, SD


I don't have a story, but would like to thank the people of South Dakota for the bonus we received upon return from service and the opportunity to get a degree at a State university.  It is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

- Scott Nash, Rapid City, SD


 Originally from Burke, SD

- Harvey Neilan, San Antonio, TX


No story. Born in Aberdeen, SD September 5 1941. Lived in Putney, SD until June 1959, Rapid City June 1959 to June1964.  Graduated SD School of Mines and Technology June 1964. Army ROTC at Mines. Worked ten months in St. Louis prior to active duty.

- Charles Nelson, Grand Junction, CO


At the Quang Tre base camp it was like the Fourth of July every night.  Firefights near the inland perimeter most every night.  During the day we guarded causeways for off-loading supply ships.  In DaNang it was relatively quieter, but at night we had to go to the bunker frequently because of mortar and rocket attacks.  Outside the war it was a very beautiful country and I enjoyed swimming in the South China Sea many times.

- Ritchie Nordstrom, Rapid City, SD


One time out in the middle of nowhere as I checking on my combat engineers, a young man walked by with his infantry unit.  He had “South Dakota” painted on his helmet.  I talked to him for a few minutes. 

Several weeks later, my father who lived in Rapid City at that time, wrote that a young Marine came by his house and him that he had met me in the middle of nowhere.  My family was very pleased to hear from this young man.  Typical South Dakota friendship.

- Larry O'Laughlin, Las Vegas, NH


 My unit was in charge of training officers and candidates to serve in Vietnam.

- James Olson, Glenham, SD


Joined the USMC out of high school and spent the first night away from home at the old YMCA in Sioux Falls.  I was processed and "sworn in" the following morning and took my first ride on a passenger jet to San Diego, California where I went to boot camp at the MCRD. After boot camp, I went to school in Oceanside at Camp Pendleton and from there was assigned to the VMA 223 of the 3rd Marine Air Wing. VMA 223 is known as the Bulldog squadron and at that time was flying the A4E Skyhawk. Like most Marine Fighter Squadrons, VMA 223's primary mission was to provide close air support to ground troops.  Took part in a lot of training at various Naval Air Stations around the west coast including two weeks at the Naval Air Weapons Combat School where our pilots flew "chase planes" for the "Top Gun" program there.  Got out of the corps and went to Arizona State University on the GI bill and moved to Houston, Texas where I still live.  I currently have a consulting firm that provides financial management services to community banks, primarily in Texas.  Semper Fidelis!

- Scott Opdahl, The Woodlands, TX


 My brother, Kenny H. Pearman, arrived in Vietnam about two months before me. When I arrived in Vietnam, the officer in command wanted to send me home when I told him I had a brother in-country. I said I wanted to stay so he drafted a statement to that effect and I signed it, he said he was going to send it to my brother and if he wanted to sign it he could or he could go home if he wanted. I was then sent to my unit in the mountains. After about four months in-country, I was allowed to get on a helicopter to Anke then a C130 transport plane to Cameron Bay. From there, I hitch-hiked to where my brother’s company was. He was very surprised to see me as he didn't know I was coming. I couldn’t believe how good the living conditions were for him and his company as I was in the mountains and jungle the whole time I was there. I got to stay for three days then headed back to my unit, my brother and his buddies gave me a ride back to Cameron Bay so I wouldn’t have to hitch-hike.

While I was there, I got to go on a mission with his company. He was in a transport company and they were right on the beach about 30 miles south of Cameron Bay. He drove a truck, we delivered some ammunition to the Cambodian border which was on the other side of Vietnam, so we got to do a mission together while we were there. I don't think many guys can say that.  By the way, my brother said he had never seen the letter that he was supposed to sign and for sure never got an offer to go home but said he would have signed it anyway and stayed in country. We were both honorably discharged in 1969.  Unfortunately, my brother died in a fire at the early age of 25 in 1972. Please remember him. Thank you, Cpl James L. Pearman

- James Pearman, Eagle Butte, SD


I was part of a Naval Advisory Group, Coastal group #16. The morning of August 7, 1967, Lt. Fitzgerald, my Commander, was killed in our bunker.  The USS Fitzgerald DDG 62 was named in his honor. In October of 1995, the Navy invited my wife and I to Newport, Rhode Island to be part of the Commissioning Ceremony of that ship. I had the honor of presenting the Long Glass to the Officer of the deck.

- Leo Pearman, Rapid City, SD


 I have the typical Vietnam Era veteran guilt for not being in-country.  I served in Germany and was released, but have lost many "brothers" in combat, who were injured, or who were MIA.  I am a Southern Baptist Minister today, but was an outlaw motorcycle drug dealer many years before my life changed.  The Vietnam Era affected me in many ways, but was always proud of my fellow soldiers and "brothers" that sacrificed so much for so many.

If I can ever be of any help I ride as the Chapter President of Set Free, Servants for Christ chapter here in South Dakota.  I would be proud to ride in the parade with my fellow soldiers if allowed to on my motorcycle.  God Bless America!

- Allen Peratt, Sioux Falls, SD


My reason for joining the military was to receive training in the electronic field and the Navy appeared to have the best offer.  After over a year of training, I was sent to sea.  I was aboard the USS Albany for two years before they sent it to the Boston Naval Shipyard for renovations.  While the Albany was in the yards, I was transferred to the USS Little Rock, home-ported in Gaeta, Italy.  This service lasted for about a year and a half before I was sent back to the Albany for another two years.  My duty was to be a member of the team that would service and operate the Mk 111 computer system and peripheral equipment which was a component of the Talos missile system.  While aboard the Albany, we were involved in recovering the Hydrogen bomb that was dropped off the coast of Spain when a bomber and a tanker collided while refueling.  While on the Little Rock we were the flagship for the US Sixth fleet at the time of the 1967 war between the Arab countries and Israel.  In both these situations, we were the flagship which meant no direct involvement in any hostile actions.  In addition to the electronic training, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit many historic sites throughout Europe. 

After completing my time with the Navy, I joined the Minnesota Army national guard while attending the University of Minnesota and then joined the South Dakota Army National Guard after moving to South Dakota.  After serving 15 years with the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, I finally retired from military service.

- David Peterson, Brookings, SD


 AFSC: 46250, Weapons Specialist

- Gary Pierce, Jefferson, SD


 Was also in the Navy.

- Wayne Plumman, Parmelee, SD


I was a medic with the first medical battalion. I served one and a half years at the naval hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  W received a lot of the young men that came back to the Sates in serious condition. A lot of these young men were amputees missing arm and legs, we helped in any way we could. After receiving orders for field medical school, I was assigned to the first medical battalion and fortunately for me they had just came back from Vietnam. I never had to go to Vietnam but I did hear a lot of the stories, and see the horror of what can happen in a war. I feel proud that I did my part for my country, and for my countrymen and women that did serve in Vietnam. I only hope that my small contribution helped some of those young men and women get through the tough time they had while in the hospital.

- Robert Puthoff, Sioux Falls, SD


I served in the US Army from March 20 1969 to January 4, 1971. I was drafted as a military policeman. I was stationed with the Armed Forces Police in Brooklyn, NY for six months and then in South Vietnam for a year.  I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Bde as a military policeman near the city of Bong Song, South Vietnam. I worked 12-hour shifts either 6am to 6pm or 6pm to 6am seven days a week. I worked patrols, worked with VIP conveys and worked on the Military Police Desk as a MP Desk; a desk clerk.

I also worked in the Provost Marshall's Office performing clerical work which included registering weapons. I also had to perform jail security duties.  I got to see the Bob Hope Christmas show in DaNang, South Vietnam in December of 1970. I went to Australia for R&R the last week of December of 1970.

Overall, I thought the experience of serving in Vietnam was very rewarding and would not hesitate to do it again if asked. I am proud to be an American!!

- Kenneth Rausch, Pierre, SD


I joined the Marine Corps in September 1966. I did not wait to get drafted, so I enlisted. I went into training in September 1966 and to Vietnam in March 1967. After being in combat for seven months, I ended up in the hospital and was sent home. Through the years, I have suffered with a lot of pain, but I am thankful to have served my country. I have no regrets nor hold unforgiveness for those who have spit on our flag and our service men and women. Thanks for this opportunity for the Vietnam vets to be allowed to speak our hearts. I am just proud to have served my country. Thanks

- Larry Ross, Brooklyn Park, MN


Aside from the great number of combat assault missions that I flew on, there was the occasional Rat F mission which entailed resupplying ARVNS and other ground troops. As a rule, a non-combat mission. As the Peter Pilot (new pilot) flew us into a very small LZ, the crew chief and myself, the door gunner, noticed that we were between two telephone pole-sized trees.  It seemed that I had six inches to spare on my side before the main rotor blade would hit the tree and the crew chief said he had maybe a foot to spare. The newbie pilot froze up on us and the AC (aircraft commander) immediately took over the controls and cut all power.  We were about thirty feet off the ground and we fell like a sack of rocks only to land on a tree stump which promptly popped up through the floor of the ship between the crew chief and myself. After making sure everyone was okay, we unloaded the supplies and flipped the ARVNS off for clearing such a less than adequate LZ.  Believe it or not, our AC flew us off of that stump and we hobbled back to Bearcat, our fire support base, with a huge hole in the bottom of that ship. As for the pilot who pulled us off of that stump, well, I don't remember his name. All I can say is, he was good, and I would fly into Hell with him.  There were times when I think I did.

- Randall Rowe, Hermosa, SD


I enlisted in the Air Force shortly after turning eighteen and graduating from Webster High School.  I was fortunate because I did not have to serve in Vietnam.  I spent two and a half years at Bitburg Air Force Base in Germany as a Security Policeman. I returned to Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota and was released from active duty in August 1973.  Following my honorable discharge, I attended college and completed my Masters degree at South Dakota State University.  If it hadn't been for the GI Bill, I never would have attended college.  While I am a Vietnam era veteran, I have mixed emotions about participating in the Vietnam war memorial dedication since I did not actually serve in Vietnam.  This day should be special for those who put their lives on the line in Vietnam and I salute them!

- Anselem H. Rumpca, Pierre, SD


 I was sent to Vietnam the fall of 1968.  Landed at DaNang and then sent to Phu Bai to join HMM-364. Then moved to Marble Mountain. I Flew the CH-46 twin rotor helicopter my whole tour. I was co-pilot when Bob Hope came to DaNang for Christmas in 1968 and our helicopter flew him and some of his entertainers around.  I had six good friends who were my squadron mates who never came home to their families.  When I go to Washington, DC, I always try to visit their memories at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

I came home a couple of months early because my wife died of a heart attack.  The Marine Corps rushed me home on emergency leave.  On August 7, 1969 I buried my wife Fran.  She gave me two beautiful daughters.  I later remarried and have a son Robert Jr.  I retired from the Marine Corps in 1977, moved to Foley, AL.    

While serving as a pilot with Marine Squadron I received 1st DFC in January 1969, 2nd DFC in March 1969, and 3rd DFC in April 1969 for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight while serving as a Pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, Marine Aircraft Group Sixteen, First Marine Aircraft Wing in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam.  I launched as Aircraft Commander of a CH-46 transport helicopter assigned the mission of inserting a casualty recovery team into an enemy-controlled jungle area west of An Hoa where previous rescue attempts had failed because of intense hostile fire.  Informed that the landing zone was studded with obstacles, we elected to insert the team by means of a ladder and proceeded to the designated location with the Marines suspended beneath the     aircraft.  After executing a precise approach, we came to a steady hover over the zone, remaining in our dangerously exposed position long enough to ascertain that the team was in no danger of enemy fire.

During the interval between insertion and extraction, we performed other routine missions and when advised that the team had recovered the casualties and was prepared to depart, we again attached the ladder to the helicopter and proceeded to the zone.  His second approach was complicated by the fact that the area was under hostile fire and the lightweight ladder swayed into the trees, forcing him to waste precious time raising and lowering his aircraft to free the device from entanglements.  After twenty minutes of painstakingly delicate maneuvering, the team and the casualties were firmly attached to the ladder and Major Schreiber, displaying exceptional airmanship, skillfully lifted his helicopter and departed the fire-swept zone.  Major Schreiber's courage, superior aeronautical ability and unfaltering devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger contributed significantly to the accomplishment of the vital mission and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Our living quarters consisted of a small quonset hut where half was occupied by two officers and the other half by two more.  For a bathroom we had an 8 holer!  And showers were about a half-block walk away.  We had a mess hall and three hot meals a day.  We had an outdoor movie screen for movies at night which were interrupted by the enemy mortar shells at times.

I was not a monster, war monger, or rapist.  Nor did I cut off limbs of the Vietnamese civilians or military.  I am proud of my contributions in saving lives of my fellow countrymen and women.

- Robert Schreiber, Foley, AL


 I knew I was going to get drafted as my number was coming up and it did not look like there was an end in sight, so I volunteered for the draft. I headed for Fort Lewis, Washington for training and advanced training and then went home for 30 days and headed out in June for Vietnam. I made a lot of good friends there...and saw a lot more than I wished to see.  To this day I still get together with guys I was in Vietnam with, namely my staff sergeant John Perkins of Georgia.  We have gotten together for many years.  I raised four children with my wife Jane and now I have twelve grandchildren as of July.  I plan to attend the reunion and hope everyone has a memorable time.

Was a very happy day the day I stepped off the plane and was in the great state of South Dakota.  I just wish things could have been different for us guys serving in Vietnam...but I guess that is life....

- Joseph Sedlacek, Scotland, SD


 Enlisted again in October of 1981 until April 1992.

- Earl Shunkwiler, Stratford, SD


 Once a Marine, always a Marine!!  "UUURRRAHH!"

- Raymond Skyberg, Valley Springs, SD


For me, Vietnam was a youthful adventure that took me through the spectrum of feelings that could be experienced—from boredom to excitement, fear, anger, loneliness, awe, confusion, etc. What stands out are not stories of valor in battle or the "horrors of war", or anything that movies or books are made of.  What happened was a series of events, sounds, smells, feelings, etc. that are still with me, but are difficult to describe in a way that can be understood by those who were never there.  Like a bad joke that ends with, "You had to be there, I guess," Vietnam was an experience that you "had to be there" to "get it." 

I can tell specific stories about what it was like to be 19 years old, alone in a hole at 3 a.m. with only a gun against the darkness—unable to see the men on my left or right and wondering who might be peering back at me from the darkness—wondering what would happen in the next moment, or hour, or night, but to understand it, you would have to have been there. 

Things that happened were frequently neither good nor bad, but they just happened—on helicopters, in bars, in the close living quarters that soldiers had to share.  Frequently, the events had nothing to do with war, but rather with just human beings and what happened to them, between them, and because of them in daily life in tense situations.

For me, these sights, sounds, smells, memories, etc. have never gone away.  They are as real today as the day they happened.  I am gradually becoming content to be "at peace" with what happened in Vietnam.  At peace within myself.  So, I have no big stories to tell…and that is my story today.

- David Slaughter, Belle Fourche, SD


Some things are best left in the past. Endured, Survived. Grateful for those who weren't as lucky as us being able to write about it today.

- James Snow, Rapid City, SD


My year as a Forward Air Controller in Vietnam seems as near as yesterday and as far from the world of South Dakota as you could get.  Much of what remains in my memory blazes as bombs and napalm I directed to their jungle covered targets.  It was more than twenty years before a native veteran at a Ft. Meade Memorial Day service bid me "Welcome home, brother".  Now I look forward to joining the South Dakota Veterans in Pierre.

- James Speirs, Rapid City, SD


 Communications Specialist

- Michael Steckelberg, Elk Point, SD


I was a payroll clerk for the 4th Infantry Division at Camp Enari near Pleiku.  I served there from June 1968 to June 1969.  Outside of clerical duties, I also had guard duty three times a week, patrols and sweeps.  I do not consider myself a "combat veteran".

- Arthur Stoner, Chandler, MN


The Vietnam War was in the early stages when I was stationed in Hawaii.  Hickam AFB was a stop off point for all troops and squadrons of fighter planes enroute to Vietnam.  I worked in the communications center located at Base Operations on the flight line.  We were required to have a top secret clearance due to the nature of the messages being sent and received.  I remember thousands of soldiers enroute to war stopping by for some rest and a meal in our mess hall.  All hours of the day and night one could hear the sounds of the fighter planes coming and going.  At one point the helicopters that were shot up were brought back to Hawaii and parked on the flight line.  It was hard to look at them and realize that men had lost their lives flying in the choppers.  We received many messages containing flight manifests of planes returning to the U.S. carrying the remains of soldiers killed in action.  The names of the soldiers were listed in the manifests; it was hard on us guys in the communication center seeing the death tolls.  I have friends today that spent time fighting in Vietnam and that war has scarred many of them for life.  I was lucky, I never saw my comrades fall by the wayside.  I salute all the men and women who served in Vietnam.

- LeRoy Story, Sioux Falls, SD


 With satellites, cell phones and the internet keeping today's soldiers connected to those back home, it will be hard for some today to imagine that in a year of in-country time, one telephone call home was a big deal. It wasn't easy to accomplish. At Cam Rahn, I made an appointment to make a three minute telephone call. The telephone didn't work like the one you use at home. Your connection has two-way circuits so you can talk and listen as you please. From Vietnam there was one circuit. You would talk and when done you would say "OVER". The operators of the system would then switch the system so your parents could talk and you could listen. Your parents would say "Hello son, OVER" and so forth. This wasn't a satellite connection, it was a cable that spanned the Pacific Ocean. Using a connection meant that you were using that wire all the way back to the states for your three minutes. The cost for the luxury of hearing the voices of those back home for three minutes was 27 dollars in 1970 which would be the same in purchasing power as 139 dollars in 2006. That price is a good indication of how important it was to hear from home beyond the frequent letters. This dedication holds a similar value to many Vietnam veterans. It has been a long time and it is nice to hear from home.

- Randall Stuefen, Vermillion, SD


 Flying as "Night Hawk Six" in an unarmed OV-1C Army Mohawk, I pulled the heavily loaded aircraft off the short PSP runway and climbed out over the black China sea in the early morning hours of what was expected to be a routine day.  The annual celebration of 'Tet' was starting and rumor of a 'truce' with the Viet Cong and NVA seemed a possibility as had been the case in years past in this strange 'counter-insurgency' war.  The last few nights 'Red Haze' missions (infrared camera runs) over the delta had been quiet.  Little did I realize the ominous plans already in their final moments’ countdown for anything but a celebration that the Viet Cong believed would award them the entire South and result in a victory for the communist forces. 

As I rolled in on my target near the Laotian border (checking for infiltration routes) absolutely nothing could foretell the night ahead, for myself or my fellow comrades in arms.  I started the 'run' at precisely 0300 (3 a.m.) by poking the start button on the cameras.  Almost instantly the emergency radios erupted with calls of "May Day" and announcements of airport closures throughout my area of operation.  Rocket trails and small arms fire was visible throughout an otherwise black night, followed by flares and concerned reports of "Viet Cong inside the perimeter."

I thought, somewhat humorously, that I had somehow started the war all over again!  The major offensive by the VC/NVA had begun and I was out on the border checking for infiltrators.  In fact, they were already in the cities, attacking airfields, U.S. and South Vietnam government facilities.  Throughout my three hours of flying assigned targets, I heard the cries for help and anguish in voices of air traffic controllers, medevac crews and civilian airline pilots diverting from landings while on final approach to Saigon and other major Vietnamese airports.  The radio chatter with my 'home base' was indicative of the events planned by our foe: rocket and mortar attacks followed by ground assaults.  Losses were heavy and the suspense to know if I had a safe place to land at completion of the night's run was mounting. 

On the way to 'home base' the Saigon skyline was ablaze with fire, smoke and tracers from Huey gunships attempting to retake our U.S. embassy.  Approach to Vung Tau was much more friendly and I landed without incident, only to be appraised of our unit's losses and activation of emergency plans. 

The Tet Offensive continued for days and the implications were telling: the enemy could rise up and penetrate our defenses at will, providing those in opposition to the war a clear signal that we must leave. The 'rest of the story' took another seven years to act out but the result was what could be expected from a society not in support of its military. 

I returned to the USA several months later, leaving many of my friends in Vietnam who would not return.  Only years later, when I retuned in search of a close friend who was lost in the ensuing days of what historians now call the 'Tet Offensive of '68', did I find a peace and closure to those days spent in Vietnam.  Despite the losses, I am convinced we gave what was expected to a people in great need. 

Today, Vietnam is at peace and I am at peace about the costs of the war.  I have made six post-war trips back to Vietnam and will likely go back again for 'one final mission'…to find the remains of my friend. 

"It is more blessed to give than to receive" (the words of Jesus).  

- Dennis Stuessi, Centreville, VA


A career in the United States Navy was one of the best choices I have ever made. The leadership skills that I learned have served me many times both during my military career and my civilian endeavors.

- David Stunes, Burlington, WA


I joined in 1968, out of patriotism and because I wanted to make a difference.  I have never forgotten. I have cried for the fallen I have known, I was with Richard Whyte from Rapid City, he was lost, but he is not forgotten. I served at Duc Pho, LZ Bronco, 11th LIB, and later in Chu Lai, with the Americal Division. I was young and didn't understand, but I was proud to tell my friends that I was from South Dakota, and that I was from Pierre.  We would sit around telling stories about our hometowns, and become lost in our thoughts and about how long we had left in-country.  What we were going to do when we got back to the states...interestingly enough my first night back in the states I spent in a convent visiting my favorite cousin who was a nun.  I have never been ashamed for what I did for my country, my state, my hometown, my family.  I have forgiven, but not forgotten. Never!!!!!!

- Delbert Templeton, New Baunfels, TX


My ship, USS Galveston (CLG-3) provided gunfire support for three consecutive days during the first major Marine Amphibious Assault in Vietnam.  It was called Operation Starlight (18-24 August 1965).

- David Trandal, SD


In leaving for DaNang I flew out of San Bernardino California. I decided to wear my dress blues.  I knew this was a mistake when we landed at Guam. I got off the plane and almost passed out from the heat.  Really knew it was a mistake when we landed at DaNang!!  Then, I had to stand around the airport for several hours in my dress blues waiting to be picked up. Being "new", looking around wondering when the rockets were going to come in, in dress blues with all the short timers snickering off at a distance, I must have been quite a sight!!!

- Steve Van Houten, Rapid City, SD


I was drafted in 1969 with my brother Dave. He was ahead of me about 6 months as he graduated from college before I did. I spent basic and infantry training in Fort Lewis. The last week of basic anyone who had a college degree was taken over to the day room for a chat. A warrant officer offered us a deal—we could go across the street as infantry (grunts) or we could sign up for three years as chopper pilots. Everyone went across the street for infantry.

Upon completion of AIT, I think everyone in the battalion went to Vietnam except two of us. I was sent to Korea because my brother Dave was in Vietnam ahead of me. I spent 14 months in Korea assigned to the United Nations Command as a security and ceremonial guard. We were responsible for the security of the CINC of Pacific forces and did ceremony for dignitaries, and pulled security at the DMZ. Everyone in the marching platoon was infantry, college degree, at least 6’ tall and could get a security clearance. Everyone was motivated. I remember the company commander giving a wrong command during a retreat ceremony. The next morning he left for Vietnam.

I still get a bad taste in my mouth when I reflect on the attitude of those that spit on us as we returned and called us everything you don't want to repeat. My classmates, my buddies, and my brother gave everything and should not to be treated with anything less than the highest honor of THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO THIS STATE AND NATION.

- Curt Voight, Rapid City, SD


I am not a SD veteran but wish to attend representing VVA Chapter 145 in Jamestown, ND.

- LeRoy Wegenast, Jamestown, ND


While I did not see action in Vietnam; I did serve in the Navy during the very tense time during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I was in a patrol squadron searching the waters for Russian ship and submarine traffic.  Our job was to locate, photograph, and track the ships trying to run the blockade to take nuclear weapons into Cuba.  I am proud of my service to my country and the US Navy.

- Vincent Wienk, Spearfish, SD


Scott AFB was headquarters for the Military Airlift Command and as such had all the C-9 hospital airships that returned wounded soldiers from Vietnam.  There was a base hospital, where I worked, and an air evacuation hospital that received the wounded from Vietnam. From my location at the base hospital I saw one blue Air Force bus after another unload the wounded to the evacuation hospital. As a Corpsman I supported a young Army Second Lieutenant as he learned to walk again in physical therapy after he had stepped on a mine in Vietnam. A collateral duty of mine was the Air Force Honor Guard. Taps and the sound of the twenty-one gun salute are tough but not as tough as handing the folded American flag to grieving families with the words "…On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation I present this flag...." My role was very small but I am proud to have served with these American heroes.

- Steve Williams, Sturgis, SD


On behalf of Larry Winterton, we would like to thank the state of South Dakota for its recognition of the extreme sacrifice these veterans made on behalf of the United States.  Larry died in Vietnam and there is not a day that goes by that he is not missed.  He was and is loved deeply by our family and we are extremely proud of him.  Our family looks forward to attending the memorial dedication as a way to support all Vietnam veterans and our very special veteran, Larry Winterton.

Sincerely, Carla Baer, niece of Larry Winterton

- Larry Winterton, Sioux Falls, SD


Paul Dean Weeldreyer was born in Chancellor, SD on September 3, 1943.  His parents were Lawrence and Christina Weeldreyer and his siblings were Phil and Steven.  He grew up in Chancellor and graduated from Chancellor High School in 1961.  His activities included band and basketball.

Paul went to South Dakota State University and graduated in 1965 with a degree in Animal Science.  He was in ROTC and earned his commission as officer in the United States Air Force.  He did his under-graduate pilot training at Webb AFB, Texas and graduated on February 5, 1967.  Paul was awarded the US Air Force Silver Pilot Wings.  He had fulfilled his dream to be a pilot.

He was a C-123 aircraft pilot for the 311th Air Command Squadron in DaNang and Phan Rang, Vietnam from May 1967 to May 1968.  After Vietnam, Paul was stationed at Columbus, Mississippi, at the 901 Air Refueling Squadron (SAC).  In May 1969, he was transferred to Travis Air Force Base at Fairfield, California, where he was Aircraft Commander of his plane KC-135 for the 916th Air Refueling Squadron (SAC).  Here, he was responsible for insuring his combat-ready crew was in a constant state of readiness, capable of air-refueling nuclear bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, and tactical fighter aircraft.  During this time, he was deployed to Southeast Asia with his crew in support of operations in Vietnam.

Paul was transferred to Castle Air Force base in the 93rd Bombardment Wing (SAC) at Atwater, California.  He flew the KC-135 Refueling Aircraft.  He was an instructor pilot and executive agent for the Strategic Air Command in control of their Emergency War Reaction forces.

Paul received the following medals: Pilot Wings Air Force, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Air Medals, two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, Vietnam Service Medal, and three Bronze Stars.

He got out of the Air Force in fall 1974 and returned to South Dakota State University to earn a Masters degree in Soils and Water in 1978.  He worked for the South Dakota Extension Service as an agronomy educator for twenty-six years.  He retired as a civil service employee in October 2001.

He died on December 23, 2003 as a result of kidney caner.  He leaves his wife Patricia, daughter Paula Marie Weeldreyer and son John Pierce Weeldreyer.

- Paul D. Weeldreyer, Pierre, SD


I enlisted in the US Army on 30 September 1968 for a two-year enlistment program. I completed basic training and Infantry Training at Fort Lewis, Washington. After graduation, I was granted a 10-day leave before shipping off to Vietnam. I arrived in Vietnam on 3 March 1969, and was assigned to Company D 3/21 196th LIB Americal Division, where I served as a M-60 machine gunner until December 1969.  At this time, I was selected by BG John W. Donaldson, Assistant Division Commander, to be his Enlisted Aide. After being selected to serve as BG Donaldson's Enlisted Aide, I extended my tour by two months; however, I departed Vietnam nineteen days before my scheduled date because of emergency leave reasons. After a 30-day emergency leave, I was assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado where I served until being discharged on 29 September 1970.

In summary, I would say my tour in Vietnam was an incredible experience for a young 20-year old. For those of us who exercised our privilege to serve our country, I can honestly say we did it proudly and shared a common bond of patriotism that those who were unwilling to answer our country's call will never understand or appreciate. All who served had one thing in commonwe loved America enough to put on a uniform and defend her and all the freedoms that we treasure and cherish so dearly.

My worst experience in Vietnam was being on the same mission with a hometown friend, Ted Hatle of Sisseton, when he was killed in action; I watched the Dust Off fly off carrying his body. My best experience was hearing the sound of the wheels of our Freedom Bird touch the runway (on US soil) when we landed in Seattle upon my return home to the USA. The picture I have included is of Donel Erickson of Timber Lake, South Dakota and myself of Sisseton who completed Infantry Training together, arrived in Vietnam the same day and were assigned to the same Company, same Platoon, just different squads. We served together until June 9, 1969 when Donel was seriously wounded and sent home. We have stayed in touch over the years and Donel will be staying at my home during the Memorial Dedication.

- Dennis Foell, Pierre, South Dakota


Vietnam 1967-1968:

I joined the Army in January 1967, enlisting in artillery.  My MOS (military occupation specialty) was 93F20 – sending up weather balloons.

For basic training, I went to Fort Lewis, WA, where my late father, Stanley Surma (WWII), and late grandfather, Olen Olson, (WWI), had also done their basic training.  My AIT (advanced individual training) was done at Fort Sill, OK.

After AIT, I got orders for Vietnam.  A plane-load of soldiers left San Francisco and our first stop was Hawaii.  The plane was re-fueled and we took off over the ocean.  After a couple of hours, we looked out the window and one of the engines was smoking!  We told the stewardess and she took one look and raced to the cockpit.  The co-pilot came back and took a picture, then the Captain announced we were going back to Hawaii—everyone cheered!  When we got close to Hawaii, they dumped all the fuel and things got pretty quiet after that.  We landed with fire trucks racing down the runway beside us.  After six or seven hours to repair the problem, we were off again.

We landed at Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon, and were processed through Long Bihn.  It was very hot and muggy and the camp smelled like urine.

When I got my orders, they were for Tay Ninh, Vietnam, in support of the 25th Infantry.  I was shocked to say the least!  Tay Ninh is where my younger brother Steve had been killed in action only four months earlier.  He was a machine gunner riding on the top of an armored personnel carrier when they were hit by a claymore mine. Two died and five were wounded out of the nine soldiers.

The only good thing about going to Tay Ninh was that I was able to go to Steve’s old unit and pull the records to see how, when, and why he was killed.  Also, if I hadn’t gone to Vietnam, I wouldn’t have known exactly how it was over there.

We got tired of waiting for the ride to Tay Ninh, so an old E-6 Sergeant said, “Let’s catch a ride up-country on a helicopter.”  So, we went to the chopper pad and caught a ride with two Australian “go-go girls” who were dropped off at Cu-Chi without an escort.

The base camp at Tay Ninh was big with artillery, infantry, and signal units plus a group of Filipino soldiers and a group of ROK Korean soldiers.  Our job was sending up weather balloons so the artillery could adjust their fire.

After several months at the secure camp of Tay Ninh, we moved to a fire support base camp called Prek Loc.  When we got there, it was a Special Forces camp with Cambodian mercenaries and a handful of Special Forces personnel trained to fight the Viet Cong.  When it got dark, the place was crawling with rats.  We asked the Special Forces Sgt why they didn’t poison the rats.  He said they did at one time, but the men started getting sick! –Chop, chop, number one!

I had my cot in a sandbagged 6 x 6 conex container which had a gun slit looking out at the perimeter.  After a couple hours of sleep, a rat came in the gun slit and jumped on my face!  I screamed and the guard came running in, thinking the Cambodians had jumped me!  After that, we put up mosquito netting to keep the rats out.

For a few days, everything was fine, then Sergeant Pulliam and I were in the van running a balloon flight when all of the sudden, there came a “pop-pop-pop” out in the jungle.  A soldier on KP yelled, “Incoming! Incoming!” and we all dove for cover. The Sergeant and I dove under the sandbagged van.  I had never been in a mortar attack before and I was scared.  I looked over and Sgt. Pulliam and he was reading a Louis L’Amour western novel!

The mortar attacks would come at strange and unusual times.  We used to all go to the perimeter late in the day once in a while and have a “mad minute” where everyone would fire their weapons to make sure they worked.  Small arms, machine guns, grenade launchers, quad-50s, twin forties, etc, all would fire at the jungle.  After cease-fire, someone yelled, “Free beer at Company C!” and everyone cheered.  Then “pop, pop, pop” in the jungle again.  Everyone dove for cover and the mortars came raining down again!  I guess Charlie didn’t like our mad minute!

At Prek Loc we felt like bait; our perimeter was a couple of strands of concertina wire.  Our camp never was hit by a ground attack, but Katum of the north was hit during the Tet Offensive of 1968.

After the dry season ended, we went back to Tay Ninh and continued to send up weather balloons. We had a statue carved out of a palm tree stump that was considered our “good luck charm” out in our yard.  The Warrant Officer, McLaughlin, didn’t like it there, so he had us burn it.  Only a few days later, we had our first ground attack at Tay Ninh base camp with sappers coming in and blowing up the ammo dump right behind us!  Pieces of artillery shells and shrapnel were raining everywhere—it was a tremendous explosion!  Our warrant officer admitted burning the stump was probably a bad idea!

When Sgt. Pulliam and W.O. McLaughlin left, the only two E-5s left were myself and Floyd Rasmussen.  We kept the balloon flights going until replacements arrived a month later.  Floyd and I have kept in touch all these years; he and his family came to see me and my family at Waubay and Isabel.  One week after 9/11, Floyd called and said he and his wife Rhonda were both working in the Pentagon when the plane hit—she died and Floyd had survived.

So by spending three years in the Army, including my tour in Vietnam, I got to go to strange and exotic places and meet people I wouldn’t have normally met.  It was quite an education for a farm boy from South Dakota!!

-Stuart M. Surma, Java, SD


On a hot and humid day in April 1966, I was on a mine sweep on a road from Hill #22, Vietnam.  It was 0730 and at 0735, my life changed forever.  I was hit by a booby-trapped 105 Howitzer round and injured severely.  I was treated on the spot by a Navy corpsman, and rushed off to a US Naval Hospital in DaNang by helicopter.  On arriving, I was informed by the doctors that my left leg had to be amputated and that I had other internal injuries.  I was taken immediately to surgery.

I don’t remember how many days I was in the hospital when an attractive Red Cross worker stopped by to visit me.  She asked if I had written home yet.  I said, “No.”  She then asked me, “Could I write someone for you?”  She asked if I had a family.  My response was, “Yes, a wife and daughter.”  So, she wrote to my wife and told her how I was doing, and we talked for a while.

The next day, she came back just to visit and I recall saying to her that she reminded me of my wife.  She was a great comfort to me during that dark time in my life.  The doctors were not sure if I would live or not.

The third day that the Red Cross worker stopped by, she told me she couldn’t come back again.  My doctor had told her that I needed all the rest I could get.  She did, however, leave me a note and signed her name to it.  I had not known her name until that time.  Her name was Jan.  I was in the hospital in DaNang for nine days.  When I left to go to the Philippines, I kept that note and remembered the sunshine that Jan had brought to me during my dark days.  I spent ten months in different hospitals, finally ending up in the US Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.  I was retired out of the military in February 1967. 

I returned home to my family and put all my Vietnam experiences behind me, packed all my memorabilia away, and continued on with my life.

In 1999, I started making plans to return to Vietnam—thirty four years later.  I thought that my making a return trip would heal some old wounds.  My dear wife Shirley had passed away in 1997.  So, plans were made that my daughter and I would go to Vietnam in April 2000.

While making plans, my thoughts retuned to memories of meeting Jan in the hospital in DaNang.  I started searching through boxes and found the note that she had written me.  I wondered if I could find her. I contacted the local Red Cross, and the employees went all out to find Jan for me.  In March of 2000, I received a phone call from Jan!  What a surprise!  After 34 years, we were in touch again.

We talked for an hour.  I told her of my plans to go back to Vietnam, and she shared that she had gone back in 1995.  She said, “Be prepared to shed some tears.”  I was expecting to do just that.  Jan and I planned to meet in September 2000.

Our trip to Vietnam was a healing experience.  My daughter and I retuned to the same areas that I was at during the war.  We visited the villages and walked the roads that I walked during the war.  My daughter understood more of what I had gone through.  It was a great experience for her also.

Along with Jan, I had memories of another young lady from Vietnam.  While my daughter and I were there, I wondered if I could find that little girl named Binh that I had befriended during the war.  Through the help of our guide, we were able to locate her.  What a Blessing!  I had assumed that maybe she was killed during the war or had moved away from the area.  But she was in the same vicinity, married, had eight children and seemed very happy.  She was extremely surprised that I would even try to find her.  We were invited to her home for tea and we spent about an hour and half in her home reminiscing.

When we left her home, she said to me “Don’t stay away for another 34 years before you come back..”  My daughter and made plans to go back in 2003 with a few more Vietnam vets to go with us.

Thirty-four years before, Jan had given me the note.  I think I forgot to thank her at that time.  So Jan, thanks for the note. 

- Perry Shinneman, Sioux Falls, SD


I was drafted into the Army in May 1968.  For the first nine weeks, I was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington for basic training.  Then, I went on to Fort Leonardwood, Missouri for AIT.  There, I received schooling on a large wheeled tractor and scraper.  I then spent four months as an instructor on this type of equipment.  Then I received orders to report to Vietnam.  So, I received three weeks leave to go home before flying to Vietnam.

Once in Vietnam, I was assigned to the 103rd Combat Engineers under the 20th Brigade.  There I was assigned to run cats and large trucks to haul granite rock to the crusher, then the rock was mixed with asphalt and hauled out to pave roads.  The majority of my time was spent at the end of the runway at Bien Hoa Air Base just north of Saigon.  We worked in two 12-hour shifts six days a week.  At the time I was there, that airport was the busiest airport in the world.  I was able to go to Sidney, Australia for a week after eight months in Vietnam.  After a year in Vietnam, I was discharged and went home.  I had reached the rank of E-5 by the time I was discharged.

This was an experience I am glad and proud I have.  I am now a life member of the Gregory, SD Legion and the Winner SD VFW.

- Richard Rubel, Dallas, SD


In the fall of 1967, I went home to St. Francis, SD and I saw a young Lakota soldier who had just returned from Vietnam get his war bonnet from the old Lakota veterans in his family.  I grew up knowing that the way to earn a war bonnet was to go into military service and go to war.  My great grandfather High Bald Eagle fought at the battles of Rosebud and Little Big Horn in 1876.  My uncle who raised me was in WWI and WWII.  My father was a WWII vet and my oldest brother was a Korea era vet.  My younger brother was in the 4th ID in Vietnam. 

I enlisted and entered the Army in January 1968.  I was trained as a medic and sent to Vietnam in 1969.  I was assigned to B/2/1, 196th. LIB Guy Dull Knife from Wounded Knee, SD was in the same company.  We were in the same platoon.  Guy was a grunt and I was his platoon medic.  Later I became a company medic with Charlie Company.  In August of that year, I went to DaNang to see my cousin, Jim Blue Thunder, who had finished his tour with the 3rd Recon 3rd Marine Division.  Jimmy had already left for “the world”, so I went to Freedom Hill beer garden trying to figure out what to do. 

I met my nephew, Tyrone Head, who was a grunt with Golf 2/7 Marines, 1st Marine Division.  His parents’ house is about a mile from our house on the Rosebud reservation.  He told me he knew where everyone from the Rosebud reservation was who were stationed around DaNang.  There was Roy Spotted War Bonnet at Marble Mountain.  I forgot his outfit.  Robert (Moon) Quigley, 1st Recon 1st Marine Division, and Robert (Boney) Moran, 1st Recon 1st Marine Division.  Both their teams went back into the bush.  We used to greet each other with, “I heard you got killed!”  You had to be there.  We still say that to each other. 

Tyrone and I bummed around DaNang for a couple of days and saw a lot of other “skins” from back in “the world”.  I saw a guy named Shield Him from Wood, SD at China Beach.  We went to China Beach daily, swam, ate terrible hamburgers and french fries and called it good.  We did get some good food off of some Seabees one afternoon.  They gave us steaks for some war stories.  Moon, Boney, Tyrone and I visited for three days and I went back to my outfit and they retuned to their outfits.  Roy was out in the bush.  It was a brief respite from war and it was good to know that there were other Lakota men from the Rosebud fighting in Vietnam.  Moon died last winter and Roy, Boney, Tyrone and I went to the wake and funeral at St. Francis.  I have two sons in the Army now and when they come back from the service, I will give them their war bonnets.  I want Guy Dull Knife to put the war bonnet on one of my sons and Army Captain Trudell Guerue (retired) 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vietnam to put the war bonnet on my other son.  Capt. Guerue is also a tribal member from the Rosebud reservation. 

Patriotism is serving in the military and defending your country.  Patriotism is defending your county in time of war.  Patriotism is sending off your son or daughter to war.  Patriotism is sending off your grandchild to war.  Anything else is not patriotism.

- Francis Whitebird, Pierre, SD


As a young US Navy Officer, I was assigned as a Naval Gunfire Liaison Officer (NGLO) with Sub Unit One, First Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO). In September/ October 1972, I was working from the Citadel in the old imperial capitol in Hue. I was subsequently posted to Vietnamese Marine Division HQ near the small fishing village of Huong Dien which was located south of Quang Tri and the Cua Viet River in MR1.  Following the Spring Offensive in 1972, the North Vietnamese Army was located in and around Quang Tri, and the South Vietnamese Army and Marines were generally south of the Cua Viet River. 

As the date for the negotiated cease-fire approached, there was a push to regain territory lost during the Spring Offensive. If I remember correctly, the cease-fire was to go into effect at 0800 on January 27, 1973. We were working around the clock selecting targets and getting clearance for naval gunfire. The Commodore from the gun line radioed while I had the morning watch.  I had met him and he was a no-nonsense Naval Officer. When he requested something, he got it. The USS Turner Joy (DD 951) was on line that morning. The Turner Joy was also in Vietnam in August of 1964 and was attacked and damaged by North Vietnamese patrol boats. The so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident was the impetus for President Johnson's large troop build up. 

In his radio call, the Commodore asked me for targets for the Turner Joy. As I remember it, he said something like: "She started this **damned war, and now she is going to end it."  I selected targets and obtained clearance.  The Commodore pulled the other ships off the gun line leaving the Turner Joy to fire alone.  My recollection was that the last round was fired at approximately 0801.  According to accounts I have read since, the last round was fired at 0759 minus time of flight. 

I didn’t realize until years later when reading a newspaper article that the Turner Joy was credited with the last “official” round of the Vietnam War.  I was no doubt naïve at the time and had no concept that there was anything historic about that round.  Like everyone else, I was immersed in my job but beginning to contemplate thoughts of seeing home and family.   

- Dave Pfahler, Pierre, SD


As I was nearing the end of a standard twelve-month tour flying F-4s out of Phu Cat, Vietnam, for various reasons I made the decision to apply for a seven-month extension to my tour.  Of course, I knew that one month’s free leave and free travel to and from anywhere in the world were among the “hot deals” that the Air Force gave as a reward to combat aircrew members who extended for seven months or more.  Since my original tour was finished in mid-December, I planned to go someplace really great for the holidays.  When the extension was granted, I began sorting through all the wonderful choices: London, Paris, Stockholm, Rio de Janeiro, etc.

There was only one problem: I would have to tell my mother.  It would be difficult for any son to tell any mother he was staying in a war, but this was even worse because she was a widow, and I was her elder child and only son.  There had never been any easy times for Mom, so she had a real solid grasp of life and the world in general, but she never understood the Air Force, jet fighters, the war, or my role with any of them.  Reluctantly, I wrote home about the extension.

I received Mom’s reply letter relatively quickly by Southeast Asia standards.  As I read it, I was amazed.  That quiet little Scandinavian registered nurse who didn’t understand much of anything about my military life nonetheless had figured out, all on her own, the part about the free leave and free travel.  She wasn’t happy about the extension, but mostly she wanted to know if I would come home for the holidays.  I realized that there wasn’t much choice; visions of London, Rome, etc. vanished as I wrote back that I would.

I came back to the States in the middle of December.  My flight landed at Travis AFB, California, late in the afternoon.  It was too late in the day to get to San Francisco and catch a commercial flight to Rapid City, so I checked into the visiting officers’ quarters.  Once I was settled, I called home. 

My mother answered the phone.  The operator asked her if she would accept a collect call from Captain Wade Hubbard.  Businesslike, Mom replied that, yes, she would.  I said, “Hello, Mom!”  But then I didn’t hear any reply.  Thinking we might have a bad connection, I pressed the receiver closer to my ear.  Then I heard a faint sound and knew what was going on.  Mom was crying so hard she couldn’t talk.

There was only one place in the world to be: home for Christmas.

- Wade Hubbard, Pierre, South Dakota


Our military address was printed in our local Winner Advocate.  I really appreciated the cards and letters sent by friends, former teachers, etc.  I was in the B Company 2nd 47th (Mech) 9th Infantry Division.  I got a letter from a friend's mother that he was in C Company 2nd 47th.  His base area was only about 200 yards from mine.  I walked over and located my good friend Rick Curtis.

Daily, we had to take malaria pills that seemed to be about the size of a quarter.  One day, I was in the field and had a high fever (105˚) and could not keep even water down.  A helicopter "dust-off" was called for me.  When we landed at the hospital it was like a scene from M*A*S*H*—nurses running to the helicopter yelling,Where are you hit?"  I remember how sheepish I felt telling them I was only sick.  What I had was called an FUO (Fever of Unattainable Origin).  I was ultimately diagnosed with a form of malaria.  I must not have been very diligent in taking those "horse pills" (malaria tablets).

About half-way through my tour, I was given the job of Awards and Decorations.  When someone wanted to nominate a fellow soldier for a medal, he came to me and told me the story.  Then, I would write it up to present with a medal (Bronze Star, Silver Star, Purple Heart, etc).  It was also my duty to write a letter to the parents/family of those killed in action.

The water situation is a vivid memory.  Drinkable water was hard to come by, so we usually just drank beer.  We had showers at base camp, but the water was nearly as dirty as we were.  I really missed a good hot shower with clean water.

- Robert Albert, Mead, CO


Joined the Army August 31, 1962 and was discharged August 30, 1965.  Medals include the Sharpshooter Badge (carbine), Expert Badge (rifle), Armed Forces expeditionary Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.  In the Army Unit HHD 39th Signal Battalion served in the Army Saigon area.

- Ronald Allen, Huron, SD


I have eight of the Vietnam Service awards.  My ship, the USS Rupertus was known as the "fastest gun in the West" for its ability to provide naval gunfire support to the soldiers in need on the ground.  My ship was 1,000 yards behind the USS Forrestal the day she caught fire.  We pulled alongside and fought the fire for several hours, all the while moving at about 20 knots.  After the fire was under control, we searched for bodies in the water for a few days.  A video was made called "Situation Critical, USS Forrestal".  Everything on that video is exactly as I remember it to be.

- David Andersen, Corpus Christi, TX


In April or May 1975 while serving on the USS Fredrick LST1184 anchored in Cameron Bay we watched the systematic destruction of the US Compound by the NVA.

            - LeRoy Anderson, Watertown, SD


My stories and memories have been shared with my family. What I want other people to know are the sacrifices some families have made—in particular, my family, in service to this great country by serving in all four major branches of the military in WWII, Vietnam and Desert Storm.  In memory of my late mother (Rose Marie - Navy/WWII), my late brother (Captain Robert L.-USMC/Desert Storm), my father (Vernon L. - Army Air Corps/US Air Force/WWII), and myself (US Army/Vietnam). 

Most people who enjoy the freedoms of everyday life will never know those sacrifices. I will never take those freedoms for granted, and will pass on that respect to my children and grandchildren. God Bless the spirit and courage of all those who served, are currently serving, and who will serve. Special thanks to one of my younger brothers (Jim) who serves everyday in law enforcement to protect and serve our public. Thank You.

- John Ashley, Chandler, AZ


I first joined the service on October 8, 1942.

- Jack Audiss, Martin, SD


I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Armor, from ROTC USD in 1961. I deployed to Vietnam from Fort Carson, CO, in January 1965. I was a deputy advisor to Vietnamese sub-sector. We were responsible for advising the security forces serving in our area. I was transferred after five months to become a VN Cavalry Troop Advisor. We worked the northwestern III Corps area. I returned home in January 1966. In one day, I went from 100˚ or so in Vietnam to -15˚ at the Rapid City Airport. Who cared? I was home. I went back to Vietnam in January 1969 where I served with the 25th Infantry Division. I commanded an installation on top of a mountain (Nui BA Den) for three months. Then, I joined the 1st Battalion 5th infantry Bobcats. I served as the executive officer and operations officer. I was wounded in early January and returned home to Rapid City. I had my stitches removed at the Ellsworth AFB Hospital which caused quite a stir. Who cared? I was home. May God bless all who served in the war—on both sides.

- Ronald Baker, Rapid City, SD


Deceased - July 30, 1971.  Buried- St. Bernard's Cemetery, Redfield SD

- William Baloun, SD


 Friends: My father served in the Army horse cavalry at Ft. Meade at Sturgis in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  Service is in my genes.  I received a Direct Commission in the Army Medical Service Corps (hospital administration) after graduating from South Dakota State University in l964 and teaching college at Nebraska Wesleyan University (l965-66).  Served in Vietnam in l968 and l969 "in the rear, with the gear" at the 24th Evacuation Hospital, north of Saigon, and commanded 240 enlisted men in the Medical Detachment at the 400-bed hospital that specialized in care for the men who suffered neurosurgical and spinal wounds. I served with great nurses and several ROTC graduates (and pilots) who had also attended SDSU. I extended my service after my 12-month tour of duty in Vietnam by four months and was discharged December 11, l969.  The only expression of emotion I experienced from friends and strangers when I returned to SD was absolute indifference.  This South Dakota Memorial is 35 years overdue. 

Congratulations to Governor Dennis Daugaard for his fine leadership in using the prestige of his office to make this memorial a reality. Thanks again.

- Donald Barnett, Littleton, CO


I enlisted in the US Army on 10 December 1940.   The year 1940 is not accessible on the registration form.

- Alfred Baye, Albuquerque, NM


*The medals listed above are only for Vietnam. I have many others through out my 26-year USAF career!

 - Wayne Beckler, Rapid City, SD


I served in Vietnam from February 1968 to February 1969 and August 1969 to July 1970 Since I was a crewchief/gunner (67N20) on a Huey helicopter, I got around a lot and kind of had a front row seat during the war. The first year, we flew missions in the Central Highlands in and around places such as Tuy Hoa, Na Trang, An Khe, Pleiku, Cheo Rio, Phu Cat and Bong Son and all the LZ's and Fire Bases in between.

The second year (1969-1970) I was up in the northern end of the country stationed at Camp Eagle just outside Hue. From Camp Eagle we flew missions all the way up north to the DMZ and south as far as DaNang and Chu Lai and out west to the Ashau Valley. The first year I was assigned to helicopter gunship. It was armed with 38 rockets, a 40mm cannon (the thumper) and two M-60 machine guns. The Grunts liked us and would buy beer for us. The second year, I was assigned to a regular Huey called a "slick" because it was unarmed except for the two M-60s. We hauled troops and cargo and did all types of missions including crash recovery and one medevac.  During April or May of 1970 I got a PASS from my 1st Sergeant and went to see my brother Mike who was stationed way down south in the MeKong Delta. I could only spend a couple of days but it was good to get away from Camp Eagle.

I wasn't drafted. I enlisted because my dad and all my uncles served during WWII and I thought that I should serve as well. Besides, I wanted to see something other than South Dakota and have an adventure or two (and I did).  I started going to reunions of the 134th Assault Helicopter Co. The last one was in Chicago and the next one is in St Louis. It's fun to getting together and share memories, good and not so good.

I'm glad to be alive. I'm looking forward to the reunion in September and hope to see you there.

- Jerry Berg, Brooking, SD


Served active duty

- Brian Bernhard, Sioux Falls, SD


Between 1972 and 1976, I assisted training efforts for thousands of servicemen/women who served in Vietnam, especially Security Clearances.

- Richard Bode, Rapid City, SD


My heart goes out to the guys I served with in Vietnam.

- Kenneth Bodewitz, Valley Springs, SD


I played lots of underwater "games" against the "other side". It was quite an experience to say the least. I recall that when traveling on leave (vacation) we had to travel in uniform. Lot of civilians spit on me, swore at me, or threw beer and pop bottles (not always empties) at me, and did/shouted other detestable things to show/voice their "approval" of my being in the service of my country. It was not only the young people who did not serve in the military that did this, but older adults as well. As the years pass by, a person forgets some of the things that happened and people one knew while in the service. But I will never forget what many of my own country's citizens did at that time to "honor" their servicemen and women.

- Ralph Bond, Java, SD


While stationed at Tan San Nuet AB, I was lucky enough to get to take an R&R to Bangkok where I met my brother Chris, who was stationed in Thailand.

- Ronald Boyda, Tyler, TX


I was assigned to a troop transport while waiting my military schooling. I remember being very nervous although I was far removed from serious threat. I can remember hearing gunfire in the foothills behind

DaNang, yet feeling secure on ship. I didn’t feel so secure though when there was talk of capturing a young Viet Cong with explosives in a small boat headed for our anchorage in the harbor. It also was a time for first's: the first time being away from home for Thanksgiving, and also spending a rainy stormy

Christmas Eve on watch in DaNang Harbor away from my secure family and home in South Dakota. 

- Vern Brooks, Black Hawk, SD


I was young, just out of Washington High School in Sioux Falls, and really had not kept up with the War. One thing I did know was our freedom does come with a big, big price. The history of our nation tells us so. When they called me to serve, I did so for our freedom, knowing that freedom of the people should not be just for the people within our borders. This was my mind set. There were people there that wanted help and needed our help. It didn’t work out, but that was not because of us. I was proud to have served then and I am still proud to have served.

I was trained in Fort Lewis, WA in light weapons Infantry. I was a gut/bush beater; in the Ben Woa area, E-4 squad leader with Company C, 1st Battalion 8th Cavalry 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). We carried our own mortar rounds.  When we first got there, one of the other companies was in a fight and had found a big Bunker complex; so I was on the LZ for about a month before going out in the field.  Then on the first day out, I found out how real this was and how invincible I was not. My sergeant sitting right next to me got a round in the neck.  The medic had me holding up the IV bag for him.  I WAS IN A WAR.

What I tell people at home is: it's ok to hate war, but love your warriors. I thank you for this opportunity to express myself and the Vietnam War Memorial Dedication.  To all of my comrades, I thank you for being there with me and Welcome Home also.  Dusty Brown, Montrose, SD

- Russell Brown, Montrose, SD


My home town is Wolsey, S.D.  I arrived in Vietnam in October of 1968 and left in July of 1971.  I served in the same unit for the entire 33 months.  When I returned to South Dakota, the state paid me $25 per month of service in Vietnam for a maximum of 30 months.

- Richard Buchheim, Traverse City, MI


I got lucky.....!!

- Alhan Burnham, Sioux Falls, SD


Roll on thou dark and deep blue ocean roll,

Ten thousand fleet sweep over thee in vain,

Man marks his control,

It stops at the shores

-Author unknown

Four brothers from Huron did what the short story above says. One by serving in the Koran action aboard ship by Japan and Triwain, the others by serving in the Vietnam era; two with the Navy air support group (VX-6) in the Antarctic, and the youngest serving in Vietnam for almost two years as a medic.  I know at our family reunions, the youngest has said he wished he didn't how to spell band-aids while in boot camp, but overall he was able to come back safe.

The Busch Brothers of Huron.     

- Milford Busch, Spirit Lake, IA


I graduated from Huron High School and was not sure what I wanted to do. So, I joined the Navy like two of my brothers did in order to see the world and get more education. My tour of duty did not take me to Vietnam, but I knew I could be called at any time, even after my discharge.  I have four brothers and all four of us served in the Navy. Three of us were on active duty at the same time.  I respect and honor my brother Roger, another South Dakotan, and all Military personnel who served in Vietnam and others who did and are serving our country, the USA.  A few years after my discharge, I returned to DOD as an employee.  I retired January 1997 from Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Newport, R.I. I returned to NUWC after a few months as a part-time contractor employee with BAE Systems who support DOD all over the world.

I am proud to say that I was born and raised in Huron, SD

- Robert Busch, West Warwick, RI


Roger Sletten Cameron was born on October 10, 1944, in Webster, SD, to Robert and Phyllis (Sletten) Cameron. He had two brothers, Bruce and Joe, and two sisters, Nancy and Rhoda (who died in infancy). Roger grew up on a farm outside Pierpont, South Dakota, where he enjoyed sports, music, and high school rodeo, and graduated in 1962.  After graduation, Roger worked at Tri-County Cheese and Cameron Construction in Pierpont.

Roger Cameron completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  On April 11, 1967, Roger graduated from advanced helicopter training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he was awarded his wings and appointed as a Warrant Officer. On May 7, 1967, WO Roger Cameron began his tour of Vietnam, stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon.  Roger was one of eight pilots chosen from a select group for training in Vietnam to fly the Army’s new Cobra, a heavily armed and maneuverable helicopter.

On January 31, 1968, while flying a dust-off mission in an attempt to save fellow soldiers, Warrant Officer Roger Sletten Cameron died from gunshot wounds he received when his Cobra was hit by hostile arms fire. Although he was originally listed as missing-in-action, it was confirmed a few weeks later that he had been killed.  His body was recovered and retuned home for burial with military honors at Homer Cemetery in Pierpont, SD.

WO1 Roger Cameron was issued several awards while he was in the service including: the Distinguished Flying Cross, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Purple Heart, Silver Star, Air Medal with 27 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Aviator Qualification Badge, Sharpshooter and Expert Badges, good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Pendant and Medal, and the Vietnam Service Ribbon.

Roger is currently survived by his bother Joe Cameron of Pierpont and his sister Nancy (Gerald) Cutshaw of Pierre.

- Roger Cameron, SD


We were erecting microwave radio towers as fast as we could.  We were putting a 204-ft tower up at Long Binh when we got ahead of ourselves.  The tower was going up faster than it could be secured. The ground crew was not getting the support wires fastened as fast as the tower was rising.  All of a sudden I yelled, "It's tipping!" We came down with the tower.  As far as I know, there were no casualties, but four of us ended up in the hospital.  Then we got separated. Two of us spent two weeks at the beach after we were discharged from the hospital.  This was part of our therapy.  My R&R in Australia got cancelled due to the Tet Offense.  I was stationed in Saigon at that time at Tan San Niut and could not get a flight out of Cameron Bay.

- Karlton Chapin, Havana, ND


I'm one of those who was called to serve in Europe during the Cold War

     -Lyle Chase, Sturgis, SD


      It started like any other night on LZ Gator.  It was hot and dry and we were getting ready for the fire missions that we knew were coming at any moment…when the grunts got in a jam out there in the bush and needed a helping hand.  All of a sudden, something happened that would change our unit for a long time.  Explosions happened all over our own compound.  Sappers had penetrated our perimeters and were all over us. Hand grenades and satchel charges were everywhere.  My gun crew and I left our bunkers to meet the attackers, and it was dark and loud and hard to tell who was who—enemy or friend.

I had some of my men to go reinforce the bunkers and the perimeters after our own Howitzer (155 mm Towed) was destroyed in the fight.  My assistant gunman was a young soldier from South Dakota named Dale Christopherson, an avid music lover who loved to play the guitar—he played real good, too. Dale was with me as we fought our way to the guard bunker.  Behind the gun pit, we came face-to-face with three NVA soldiers that had just penetrated the wire.  I shot the first one and Dale got another. The third one was right on me and I hit him in the belly with my rifle and pulled the trigger.  My rifle was empty and we went down together, each trying to get the upper hand, when I heard someone yell, “Look out, Bo!”  I heard or felt some shots, and a Vietnamese soldier fell across my legs.  The NVA was about to bayonet me in the back and if it wasn’t for Dale and Cpl. Card, I wouldn’t be writing this little story.  After everything cleared, we had one dead American and seven wounded.  We lost one artillery piece and six new trucks.  At daylight, we found one enemy dead that hadn’t been dragged off by the enemy.  (They were known for that.)  I recommended both Dale and Gary for the Bronze Star for their actions that night, but I rotated back to the States before I knew if they were ever awarded or not.  I just know they sure saved my life that night and I am forever thankful to them.  I read a while back that the 82nd Artillery had the most impressive combat record their first year in Vietnam than any unit in the history of the U.S. Army.

Dale is gone on to be with his buddies that have already gone one, but he will always have a dear spot in my heart.  GOD BLESS AMERICA! GOD BLESS THE VETS! Welcome Home.  I’ll always be a friend.

Submitted on behalf of Dale Christopherson by Sgt. Omer E. Bowman, Queen City, TX

- Dale Christopherson, Pierre, SD


The moment that I can remember to this day is when the first POW's landed on American soil at Hickam AFB, Hawaii.  The CINCPAC Public Affairs Office, which I was assigned to, received the POW bracelets from all over the country and world to be passed on to the POW's.  There were bags and bags full of these bracelets.  We proudly pass these on to the POWs.  I was a mere 19-year-old and I wish at the time I would have understood what and why these men went through those many years of hell.  Now that I have aged, I can understand and be proud of them.  With today’s military members fighting the "War on Terror", it makes me proud to know that each and everyone involved is defending the United States of America for me and my family.  Today, these men and woman can proudly express and show their love for this country.  For those of us from the Vietnam era, we were spit on when we returned.  Let us never allow this to happen again.  Every man or woman that has served this country should know that this Veteran and I am sure most, if not all, are proud of what they stand for and will never forget them.

- Patrick Coady, Rapid City, SD


After discharge from the USAF, I joined the SD Air National Guard, where I served for 26-years and retired with the rank of Major.

- John Cole, Pierre, SD


I did not actually serve in Vietnam during the period.  However, I was called to active duty in 1961 with the 716th Transportation Company during the Berlin Crisis and served in Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas.  I served until June 1962, training recruits, replacing regular Army troops to serve elsewhere, including Vietnam. 

- Gerald Cornelius, Watertown, SD


FO recon sergeant (artillery spotter), directed artillery upon battalion of NVA at/near Ho Chi Minh trail. Incoming fire flash spotter (Dau Tieng and FB Washington) in 90-foot tower with 51 cal. and mortars/rockets fired at/under. Three weeks in Cambodia as arty surveyor.  Traveled with two Special Forces and platoon of Cambodian mercenaries.  Svay Wreng devastation.  VC Bodies ten deep at center of villages. 45 cal. grease gun I bought because AR-15 unreliable.  M-79 with HE, WP, and flares.  VC Chu Hoy leaflets spread in front of bunker.  Claymores turned around.  Heating food with C-4, LRP rations mixed with beer.  Rain, rain, and more rain (monsoons).

- Daniel Daily, Sioux Falls, SD


While serving with the 129th ASLT Helicopter Company, we supported the 3rd Tiger Division of the Koreans in the Tet Offensive of 1968.

- Chuck Davis, Buffalo, SD


Upon arrival in January of 1966, one of my first acquaintances was Howie Hysell of Burke, S.D.  He took me under his wing and helped me in the field.  Since he was running point for the company, after being with me in the field for a time, he approached the CO about having me replace him as point man for the company since he was due to rotate out in a month or so.  During an operation on the Cambodian border, Howie and I both volunteered to take point that morning.  We flipped a coin and Howie won (or lost) as he took point that morning.  About 11:00, we hit a two-sided ambush.  Howie went down and I was unable to get to him.  The squad was pinned down until the company came up.  At which point I was able to get up to Howie and it was too late.  We evacuated him out along with the wounded on a chopper.  Upon returning home, I went to visit Howie's parents to tell them how he died and give them some closure so they knew what happened.  I spent the remainder of my tour on line until I returned home to South Dakota State University.

- Gordon DeLaRonde, Mancos, CO


I served on every carrier on the west coast and spent ten months deployed on the USS Hancock, CVA-19 with HC-1 Det Lima based at NAAS Ream Field, Imperial Beach, CA.  After my discharge, I graduated from San Diego State University with a BS in Electrical Engineering with an Electronic Emphasis.

- William Denke, San Diego, CA


As a Seabee, I was and am very proud of our efforts in RVN. Most Seabees normally served two eight-month tours, often to totally different regions of the country. The knowledge of what happens there always made the second trip more difficult. Thankfully our duty was not as hazardous as that of combat troops’. Yet it was dangerous enough to have lost three fellow construction men, which is a lot for a non-combat unit. Three months into our first tour at DaNang, Marines started a fire in the ammo dump that destroyed our base, and most of the Freedom Hill Exchange complex. We are very proud that we rebuilt the complex and still managed by extra-long hours to complete every project we had been sent there to do. Most importantly, the First Marine Med-vac hospital near the exchange, which helped to better treat wounded troops.

- Duane Doran, Sioux City, IA


I've lived in SD on this ranch in Ziebach county since February 1968.  SD has been my home for over 38 years. Born and raised until drafted at Gordon, NE.

- Keith Dorsey, Isabel, SD


After basic training, I went to Kessler AFB, Mississippi for basic electronics and inertial and radar navigation systems repairman courses.  Then I spent some time at Dyess AFB, Texas working on the C-130E aircraft.  The last part of my enlistment (March 22, 1968 to May 21, 1969) was spent at DaNang AB, Vietnam where I worked to repair the Doppler radar on the HH3E, “Jolly Green Giant,” helicopter. Our unit had the responsibility of rescuing flight crewmembers and others endangered by the enemy.  

I remember quit well how our plane of military personnel got so quiet as we approached Vietnam.  Many thoughts were racing through our minds about the days, weeks, and, hopefully, months that would be spent in this pretty, but war-infested country.  None of us knew what “tomorrow” would hold.  The 1968 Tet Offensive had started earlier in the year and things were quite tense.

As the next 14 months (I extended for two months) unfolded, the war action seemed to subside somewhat.  Our “Jolly Greens” would continue to fly near the North Vietnamese coast so they could make quick rescues.  Sometimes our helicopters were downed and our crews were lost as well.

The time in “Nam” was very long and, I think, it was because of the many, many changes that took place.  People were coming and going; planes were going out and usually coming back. There were the tense moments, the hours of boredom, and the days of routine work and other activities.   And there were some fearful times.  I am so thankful for God’s protection and help, and the prayers of many.

The outcome of this war may be questionable.  However, I am convinced that God loves each one.  His Son died for our sins and our salvation that there would be true peace.

- Milton Douglas, Buffalo, SD


I completed four years of Army ROTC at SD State University in Brookings from September 1967 through May 1971. In March 1972, I received a B.S. degree in Clinical Sciences Technology (Medical Technology) and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the US Army in March 1772.   April-May 1972, I attended the Medical Service Corps Officer's Basic Orientation Course at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX.  June 1972-March 1974, I was stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO where I worked as a clinical lab officer at the general hospital on base.  I was honorably discharged from my two years active duty on March 22, 1974 and received a promotion to 1st Lt.  I was then on inactive reserve status for two years and then decommissioned and finished with my six-year military commitment.  After more than 30 years of working as a medical technologist at the University of Wisconsin medical center in Madison, WI, I am now retired.  I am very proud to be an American and to have served in the military.   Although I have spent most of my adult life in Wisconsin, I still consider South Dakota to be my home...and I always will.     

- Dennis Dowd, Verona, WI


I was onboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway CV41 on April 29th and 30th, 1975.  This was the evacuation of South Vietnam.  We had taken on Vietnamese refugees by means of Jolly Green Giant helicopters.  Some might recall seeing the news clips of some smaller helicopters being pushed off the fan tail of the aircraft carrier in order to accommodate the refugees.  The Midway is the aircraft carrier that the 0-1 Birddog two place artillery spotting plane, filled with two adult and five children refugees, landed on.  It was a feat that had never been accomplished before.  The O-1 Birddog is now on display in a Naval Aviation Museum in Florida. I was also able to participate in the recovery of the Mayaquez ship that was captured in Cambodia.  Both of these incidents showed the military’s ability to demonstrate its strength.   

- Paige Driskill, Salt Lake City, UT


Frank Dumm was born in Stickney, SD. He worked on aircraft through out his military career.  B-52, KC-135, C-135, KC-97, C-47, T-33, C-29 ,C-54, C-118, C-119 ,C-123, C-130, AC-130, C-124, E3AKC-3A, B-1B, C-141 ,C-5A, KC-10 and a variety of helicopters  He retired with 23 years of service.

- Francis Dunn, Other, SD


While serving in Vietnam, I was informed that my best friend, Richard Miller from Plankinton, South Dakota, was killed in action. His parents did not realize that they could have requested me to escort his remains back. Therefore, I was unable to attend his funeral.

- David Edinger, Rapid City, SD


Carrier on Board Delivery of priority cargo, from Vietnam and the Philippines to Yankee Station in the Gulf.  1971-1973.

- Don Eibert, Hot Springs, SD


I entered the service following my graduation from SDSU and my commissioning from the R.O.T.C. program in December 1972.  In January 1973, President Nixon signed the withdrawal orders from Vietnam.  The war was still going on, however, no more troops were going to be assigned there.  I entered active duty in February 1973 and completed by Branch Training.  I was assigned to the Director of Personnel and Community Activities at the Post Headquarters for the remainder of the two years.  In February of 1975, I was discharged from active duty to return back to South Dakota.  I furthered my military career back home by joining the South Dakota Army National Guard.  I was assigned as platoon leader in the 741st Transportation Company located at Clear Lake.  After one and a half years, I was assigned as the Company Commander and later promoted to Captain.  I served in that capacity until 1981, at which time I separated from the SDANG to expand my farming operation near Astoria.

- Charles Engelstad, Astoria, SD


Have any of you ever seen an F-4B Phantom take off, on fire, with the landing gear UP?  Many who were in Chu Lai in, I believe July, of 1968 have.  Our vantage point for this event was at the trim pad, where two other Marines and I were preparing an A-4E for an engine trim run.  We noticed the F-4 doing low passes over the runway while the Fire/Crash crew was foaming the runway.  The aircraft had battle damage and was unable to lower his landing gear.  The plan was to foam a portion of the runway at the center arresting cable.  The F-4 would then touch down on his drop tanks with the tail hook down of course, catch the cable and come to a full stop in the foam.  That did not happen.  For whatever reason, the tail hook failed to engage the arresting cable.  We witnessed a shower of foam spray until the aircraft exited the foamed part of the runway.  A large shower of sparks was soon followed by fire from the trailing edge of the wings rearward as he left the foam.  So now we have this plane, sliding on its drop tanks, on fire, wondering what was going to happen next.  We heard the afterburners light and notice the aircraft gaining speed.  I later learned from a Lt. who was in the control tower during this time, that the F-4 actually left the runway and was in the sand clipping off runway lights but managed to get it back on the runway.  We watched it approach the end of the runway.  Our vantage point was only a couple of hundred yards from the runway’s end.  Much to our surprise, the Phantom became airborne about 500 feet from the end of the runway.  The fire went out when he was about 200 feet in the air.  The pilot turned the jet east towards the ocean and when over it ejected himself and the RIO from the jet.  Both were rescued swiftly from the water and what happened after that, I don't have a clue.  Telling such a war story in later life drew glances of doubt from those it was told to.  Many years later, while on deployment with the SD Air National Guard to Hill AFB, Utah, I met the Lt who was in the control tower.  He was a Captain and pilot in our unit.  Everyone was surprised when he told the same story that I did.

- Thomas Erickson, Beresford, SD


Activated and was fortunate to be released because of troop reduction in Vietnam.

- James Evenson, Sisseton, SD


Oneyear in Saigon.  Worked on Computer printout for a new project in Nam.

- Glen Evenson, Summit, SD


I was a medic in a surgical hospital for more than nineteen months in-country.  We would get the wounded by helicopter directly from the battlefield.  The medics in the field would stabilize the patient as much as they could and evacuate them as soon as they could, away from the battle. We were credited with saving a lot of lives by treating them soon after they received their wounds.  We did all major surgeries except brain damage.  We stabilized the patient and shipped them to a general hospital or out of country in three to five days.  We had very few soldiers die while in our care.  Unfortunately, some did pass away at other locations due to complications or the seriousness of their wounds. Most of us were satisfied that we did the best we could for our fellow soldiers, the Vietnamese and our country. I joined the National Guard and in September 2005 retired from the Army with a total of 27 years of service.

 - Raymond Feist, Bismarck, ND


I enlisted in the Army in April 1968 and served until January 1971.  Places that I served at were Ft Lewis, WA; Redstone Arsenal, AL; Uijongbu, South Korea; and Ft Bliss, TX.  I worked as a Hawk anti-aircraft missile radar repairman while in the service. I would just like to mention the two Harrold High School graduates that paid the ultimate price while in Vietnam.  David Gatton was in the class of 1965, and Larry Barbee was in the class of 1963.  I think of them often and carry a picture of them in my mind all the time.  That picture is still clear after more than 40 years.  Larry, you were the senior I looked up to when I was a freshman and I still admire the type of person you were.  Merrill Feller

- Merrill Feller, Valentine, NE


In 1947, the Freedom Train came to Rapid City displaying America’s great documents.  It was guarded by a group of United States Marines.  Dennis, a high school sophomore when he toured the train, was impressed with the Marines and their uniforms.  As soon as he graduated from Rapid City High School, he enlisted in the Marines.  During three and a half years of service, Dennis rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

When he returned home, his aviation experiences began with the purchase of a J-3 Piper Cub.  After flying lessons, he flew that plane for three years while he played two years of professional baseball and when he attended Notre Dame University as a freshman. After attending Black Hills Teachers College for two years, he decided it was time to return to the Marines.  In June of 1957, he applied and was accepted into the Naval Air Cadet Program.  After completion of training, he was assigned to VMA-121 Squadron at El Toro, CA.

Col. Fitzgerald served the Marine Corps a total of 28 years, 22 as a Marine Aviator.  On February 2, 1968, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a very dangerous sortie that was decisive in rescuing a Marine reconnaissance platoon in Vietnam.  This voluntary mission, flown with a ceiling of 1200 to 400 feet, involved making repeated passes over enemy gun positions.  Later he served as Commanding Officer of the VMA-214 Squadron, made famous by the "Black Sheep Squadron" television show.  Dennis flew 261 combat missions which won him four Air Medals and the Bronze Star Medal.

While stationed at the Southern Headquarters of NATO in Naples, Italy, he developed a brain tumor. He died August, 1981 at Ft Meade Veterans Administration Hospital near Sturgis, SD. He was inducted posthumously into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, Spearfish, SD, August 2001.

- Dennis Fitzgerald, SD


Served at Ben Hoa AB February 27, 1966 through February 27, 1967 in the 3RD TAC FW.  I enlisted In the US Navy January 6, 1954 and enlisted in the US Air Force on January 8, 1958 and retired from the Air Force April 30,1976.

- Thomas Fitzgerald, Marion, SD


Upon discharge from the US Navy, I enlisted in the South Dakota Army National Guard where I served for another 26 years.  I retired with 36 total years of service, 24 of them active duty. 

- Dean Flage, Sturgis, SD


After college, I chose the Peace Corps, joined up and received a ticket to go to California. At the same time, I received my draft notice. A classmate from college, Tom McKrell, had just returned from two years with the Peace Corps. I was told he had been drafted. President Kennedy was gone, and the executive order that two years with the Peace Corp as service to our Country was no longer honored. Since I could be killed in Vietnam, I reported for the draft, as ordered, to put aside all uncertainty about my life and future. My life would never again be the same. The unit I reported to on that hot barren hill in Vietnam was being replenished after the losses on Hamburger Hill. This exact unit was the first to storm Hamburger hill (seven times in one day). I only saw three men, cleaning their rifles that first day, as they tried to shade themselves under ponchos roped to nearby bushes. I resigned myself to a fate that is hard to bear—this would be my final task on earth. When we went on the air assault into the “Street Without Joy” my bad dreams became nightmare. Literally everyone in those three months was gone; we had encountered more booby traps than any unit in the history of the US military (over 250). I had become as hardcore as any. My promise to myself and God was to treat everyone, as I would like to be. This I attribute to my survival….Those I served with did their best, every Vietnamese I encountered just wanted peace, every mission served a just cause. I was proud to have served with SD men, like Jack Bickel, Firesteel and Allen Ziegler, Eagle Butte. All were called, many served, few remember.

- Michael Foley, Wausau, WI


As an American Indian, born in Sioux Country and raised as an Indian, I have known nothing else, but to be American Indian first and an American second.  I believe that my mother’s people, the Ihanktonwan Sioux, fought for this right to remain a distinct sovereign race of people.  After serving a tour in Vietnam and honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, I returned home to my mother’s people.  Although my father was Mexican, my mother was Yankton Sioux and her people raised me.  My uncle, who was also a veteran, upon my return from Vietnam called me to his side and said he wanted to give me something.

He began by explaining the cultural traditions of our people.  He explained that the Sioux are a warrior society and that at one time young men were taught to be warriors.  He explained that as young men, we are braves and first must learn the basics of being a warrior.  Once we have learned this, we become warriors.  He said that I had proved myself as a warrior because of my service in the Army and Vietnam.  At that point, he gave me a prayer fan made of Bald Eagle feathers, which is a tradition unique to the Indian people.  He went on to explain that the next status to achieve was that of an elder.  He said because we proved ourselves as warriors, people will call on us for council and to pray and he said that was what he wanted for me.  I have few times in my life been humbled as much and honored so.  My uncle Joe Abdo Sr. is no longer with us but I remember his words and will cherish what he did for me until I die.

- Pablo Garcia, Lake Andes, SD


We left Camp Evans by truck convoy and went through Hue City and to Phu Bi, then, the Tet Offensive of 1968 began. All military bases were hit simultaneously by mortars, 122 rockets and artillery. There were numerous casualties.  After we left Quaviet, four miles from the DMZ, we went by LTD to DaNang, then to Hill 34.  While there, the Ammo dump was blown up and a lot of incoming enemy fire was constant.  A number of my fellow Marines lost their lives in ambushes and sniper fire.  After I left Hill 55, in September of 1969, the 11th Marines were over-run by the Viet Cong.

- Joey Garnette, Pine Ridge, SD


Although Rick did not die on active duty, he was truly a hero.  He died while trying to save the life of a friend after their canoe capsized while going over some rapids.  Rick made it to shore but his friend was struggling in the current so he went back in to help him. His friend did eventually make it to shore but Rick drowned while trying to save him.

- Richard Gieseman, SD


After basic training and initial Service Schools, I was sent to the USS Hancock CVA-19, then operating off the coast of Vietnam.  Still very much a 19-year-old farm boy, I will never forget arriving in DaNang in October 1969 in woolen dress blues, the heat and humidity was unbelievable.  I 'cumshawed' a set of green fatigues, embroidered with my name and all.  When I finally got to the ship three days later, no one believed that I was a 'newbie'.  I think my upbringing by wonderful parents and the friendly helpful attitudes I acquired by being a South Dakotan stood by me during my entire 22 years (active duty and reserves) of Naval Service.  My most challenging and rewarding duty was being assigned to the Staff of (and often directly with) Admiral Isaac Kidd, CINCLANFLT, whose father was killed at Pearl Harbor.

- David Godsk, South San Francisco, CA


I was a Radio Repairman and spent a lot of time in the field installing/repairing radios and antennas in support of FAC and FAC pilots.  I usually traveled with a generator maintenance person.  Stationed at Bien Hoa in the 22th TASS and spent a lot of time in the Delta.  Moved to Cam Rahn Bay and TDY to Khe Sanh during Lam Son 719 in February 1971.  After discharge in October 1971, I returned to Vietnam in November 1971 as a Senior Advisor to the ARVN and VNAF. Returned to South Dakota in August 1974 with Vietnamese wife and daughter.  Graduated from SDSM&T with EE degree in 1977 and currently work at Ellsworth AFB.

- David Goodsell, Rapid City, SD


NoteI was sent to Nam with 101st ABN. Division, not as a replacement. The unusual circumstance was that I was non-airborne (a leg) and I think the only South Dakotan in my Company. Also I bumped into another Montrose High School schoolmate, Gary Dean Hershley, in DaNang.

- Michael Gordon, Windom, MN


My last of three deployments to Vietnam began in August 1969 and I was told that it was a "pay back" for seeking congressional help in getting married to my wife of 38 years who is from Okinawa, Japan. I served as a Hospital Corpsman for a Combined Action Platoon as part of Operation Phoenix. We were to "Win the Hearts and Minds" of Vietnamese civilians by working very closely with ARVN troops and village chiefs by providing security and medical care to local villagers. I, with countless others, enlisted in the military, believing we were doing an honorable thing. I feel I was misled, but I also feel I served honorably and neither my wife or myself deserved, or were prepared for, the treatment we received upon arriving in San Francisco after the war. We were greeted by college student demonstrators throwing catsup-covered dolls and urine-filled balloons. It is so refreshing to see that in the current war with Iraq, the warriors are "separated" from the war and treated with the respect they deserve. I don't believe the Vietnam War was justified, but I do believe that the vast majority of American military men and women served honorably.

- Michael Gould, Sioux Falls, SD


I am proud to be a South Dakotan and American that served in the Republic of Vietnam in addition to Cambodia.

- Gordon Greco, North Sioux City, SD


I served with the Marines, Delta Co. 1-3, in 1969 as a radio operator in an infantry company.  Most of the time we were located along the DMZ and the Laotian border.

- James Groth, Valley Springs, SD


As a young teenager fresh out of Brookings High School, the Army and Vietnam became a maturing ground where I and dozens of others with me came to face the realities of war and the sufferings associated with it. Out of it we grew, believed in each other, and came to love even more this idea called freedom.

- David Hajek, Sioux Falls, SD


I was on active duty.

- James Hakl, Hartford, SD


Died- Phoenix, Arizona

Buried- Greenlawn Cemetery, Redfield SD

- Kenneth  Hardie, SD


I worked on a base where helicopters and PBR's and other river craft came for supplies and repair. The aircraft and boats also would bring prisoners of war to the base for interrogation. The base also supported the SEAL teams and the UDT teams that were attached to the base. I've always felt a little guilt that I was able to come home and others were not so fortunate. Thank you for this recognition, not for me, but for them.

- Edwin Harmdierks, Huron, SD


I spent the last nine months of my active service with the Leadership Committee, US Army Infantry Center, Fort Benning, Georgia.  We trained young Officers, Warrant Officers and NCO's knowing that some of them would be seeing duty in Vietnam.  Most of the staff were veterans of the Vietnam conflict and took their job very serious.  I worked with some very outstanding soldiers and leaders.  I spent two years in the Standby Reserves, then joined the South Dakota Army National Guard in February 1972.  I was on duty during the Rapid City Flood in June 1972 and was extremely impressed with the professional conduct of the National Guard members that assisted with that disaster. So much so, that I have been a member of the Guard ever since and obtained full-time employment with the Guard in 1983.  I currently service with the Joint Forces Headquarters - South Dakota at Camp Rapid.  I am the State Military Personnel NCO, attained the rank of Master Sergeant and will retire on 23 July 2006 with 40 years, 4 months and 8 days of military service.  It has been a great 40 years and I am proud of my Active service during the Vietnam conflict and my Reserve and Full-Time service during Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle and Iraq Freedom.  God Bless all members of our armed services and their families!

- Neil Harris, Rapid City, SD


I am honored to have been a part a police action that taught the world that: 1. War is not without divisive politicians 2. Economic incentive for the nation is not a reason 3. Historical hypocrisy repeats itself 4. Disallusionment of the idealistic creates bitterness 5. War is the last option of the sane who love their people more than their power or their money 6. Support of the troops is more important than winning 7. Will is more important than technology 8. Making peace is more difficult than making war.

We learned it. Have "we" changed it?

- Merrill Hartman, Hot Springs, SD


I was born and raised on a small farm seven miles north of Utica.  Upon graduation from Scotland High School in l968, I attended a three-year nursing program at St. Vincent's Hospital School of Nursing, Sioux City, Iowa, graduating in l971. My grandparents, Peter and Pedra Stark, were immigrants to America from Denmark through Ellis Island.  My grandparents occasionally returned to Denmark to visit, which created in me the desire to travel and see the world.  At an early age, I informed my parents of my plan.  During my nursing education, an Air Force recruiter peaked my interest with the opportunity to practice my profession while traveling and seeing the world.  I entered the Air Force on the 'buddy system' with another South Dakota resident and nursing school classmate, Patricia Shoemaker, from Winner, South Dakota.  After only six months at our first assignment in Texas, we each received orders for transfer to overseas assignments.  Thus, the adventure began.  The Air Force provided me tremendous opportunity and life-changing experiences; however, South Dakota always remained home. 

- Elaine Hauck, Las Vegas, NV


First Joined the Navy in 1944, later enlisted in the Air Force.

- Eugene Haviland, Rapid City, SD


While in Vietnam, I was responsible for the health care of approximately 120 Sentry Dogs, food inspection, sanitary inspections of vendors of locally procured fruits, vegetables, and other miscellaneous foods.  I also assisted the Special Forces in some of their civic affairs endeavors with the local people.

- Jay Heezen, Rapid City, SD


When I was new in-country, the old guys would always tell us; "With 15 cents and a Purple Heart, you can always get a cup of coffee 'back in The World.'" So, most of us never filed for a Purple Heart when we were wounded because the first thing that happened was that the Red Cross would notify your next of kin. Since I was married only 10 days before I left for Vietnam, I didn't want them to tell my wife and get her all worried. God knows, she was worried enough. When my wife and I parted at the airport, she thought to herself that that would be the last time she would ever see me alive. So like a lot of other guys, I never applied for a Purple Heart, because with 35 cents and a Purple Heart, I can still buy that cup of coffee and they would probably tell me to keep the Purple Heart. I was wounded in Tay Nihn after less than a month in-country during a mortar attack. I was the guy that always called out, "Incoming!" before the first shells ever hit the ground. My buddies just called me "Radar."

- Ross A. Hickenbotham, Aberdeen, SD


Don't thank me.  If you want to, you can make a large apology to the Vietnamese people for making such a frickin' mess of things.  And don't ever do it again, even though you havebut try to remember!

- Terry Hill, Vermillion, SD


Graduated from Waubay High School, Waubay, SD.  Enlisted in 1963 and discharged in 1967.  Graduated from Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD with a Bachelor of Science Degree.  School teacher at Clark, SD.  Accepted an appointment as a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service and served for 26 years.  Special thanks goes to those organizations that brought me the GI Bill and Vietnam Bonus.

- Thomas Holman, Rohnert Park, CA


When I was introduced to Vietnam, it was on a hot afternoon after landing at Tan Son Nut AB in South Vietnam.  Within hours, I was in a rubber tree plantation interrogating a Viet Cong suspect.  My God, what a rude awakening to war.  This would be a prelude to many interrogations, both strategic and tactical.  I spent my one and a half years in Vietnam in the field, on riverboats and at division headquarters.  In retrospect, I now see and understand the determination of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese to defeat intruders.  It came from the will of the people, not the politicians.  Our defeat in Vietnam is as simple as that.  I returned home to San Francisco in August of 1969 to yells of "baby killer" and worse.  My own family didn't respect me enough for my service to meet me at the local airport upon my return.  Was I that bad for serving my country?

- Joseph Hovorka, North Sioux City, SD


Too many stories to tell. My local draft board is South Dakota, but I enlisted in Nebraska

- Mike Hronek, Oakdale, NE


Served with the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku, Vietnam from April 1968 thru March 1969. Had a break in service from May 1954 to September 1962. During that time, attended the USD and taught high school in Lincoln, NE, Brandon and Esteline, SD.

- Darlow Inberg, San Antonio, TX


First let me say that I remained a resident of SD until I retired in 1983. I proudly had SD plates on my cars the whole time. Almost all of my nearly 2.5 years in the Republic of Vietnam was spent flying helicopters in combat, so I have too many stories for this space. I will relate one that my friends in Mitchell seem to like. On my first tour, my helicopter company was supporting the RVN Airborne Brigade on a major operation near Bong Song. I led the initial air assault that morning. I was in their CP that evening coordinating the next day's missions. The Deputy Senior Advisor turned out to be my Tactical Officer when I was a cadet at West Point, so I was sitting with him late just catching up. A call came into the TOC that a Major was seriously wounded and that the med-evac helicopters refused to go in for him because the weather was bad and they were under fire. I told them I would get him, so I went back to my unit, cranked up a Huey, and flew to the site. They loaded this guy in and I brought him back where he was taken care of. I didn't even know his name. I was assigned to West Point after that tour. I was sitting at the Oclub comparing notes with a fellow Major and found out it was him. Needless to say, we became fast friends. His name was H. Norman Schwarzkoph.

- Bradley Johnson, McLean, VA


My father, Carl E. Johnson, served with the Sea Bees stationed in DaNang. We met in Bien Hoa and had Thanksgiving dinner together in November 1969.

- Gary Johnson, Piedmont, SD


My father served honorably in World War II. He had three sons who all severed honorably during the Vietnam Era.  BarryUnited States Air Force, Warren and WesUnited States Army. I am very proud of the fact that 100% of my family from a small town in North Dakota all chose to serve their country in time of need.

- Wesley Johnson, Rapid City, SD


I was privileged to meet and spend some time with PFC Jimmy Barton during a two-week leave in 1965. He was killed in Vietnam. He was a great guy.

- Wesley Johnson, Rapid City , SD


I have over 500 combat flying hours in 1968.

- Leonard Jonas, Lemmon, SD


I was TDY from McCoy AFB Florida to Andersen AFB Guam  from October 1966 to March 1967 and again from June 1967 to August 1967.  Then I was PCS to Andersen AFB Guam from April 1968 to April 1970.  During my three different tours in Guam, I flew ten Combat missions on B52 aircraft over Vietnam. From March 1972 to March 1973, I was PCS to Utapao Royal Thai Base in Thailand, during which time I was awarded the Bronze Star.

- David Jungemann, Box Elder, SD


I joined the Navy right out of high school.  Went to boot camp in San Diego, QMA school in Hawaii, back to San Diego for CI training and then 13 months in-country in Vietnam.  After my tour in Vietnam, I completed my service aboard the USS Fiske DD842 home ported out of New Port, RI.

- Daniel Juttelstad, North Dartmouth , MA


I served in the USAF for four years, and was TDY to many South East Asia locations, but not Vietnam. We supported and installed ground electronic equipment in support of the war. I spent six weeks in the Clark AFB hospital with hepatitis, and got to know many severely injured combat vets there. I wish to attend in support of those who were involved directly in the war and who suffered and died in the conflict. I want to be clear, and state that I was not one of them, but for them to live in the hearts of those left behind is not to have died at all.

- Brian Kassel, Spearfish, SD


During my stay in Vietnam, I served in the 27th Land Clearing Task Force, a division of the 568th Engineering Battalion.  We used Rome plows to clear jungle to give the enemy fewer places to hide and to allow our infantry greater ease of movement. Helicopters flew overhead to direct our movement as we could not see where we were heading.  We worked, ate, and slept in the jungle the entire year. 

- Dean Kelly, Rapid City, SD


It was a honor and a privilege to be able to serve my country. I gave it my all and then some in order to be able to set them free. If I was to give my life for them to be able to experience just one day of freedom in which we were able to experience daily, then it was worth it. All I can say is that I am sorry that we failed. But, why oh why did Americans mistreat us vets so much?

- Mario Kemp, Sioux Falls, SD


Where is Jane Fonda now?

- Bradford Kennell, Custer, SD


A very interesting thing is that my two older sisters entered the Marine Corps before I did.  My sister Karen and I were stationed at El Toro together.  Now the three of us, myself-Judy Klima, Janice Gochanour and Karen Rand, are all PUFL Legion Members in Humboldt, South Dakota and although none of us presently reside in Humboldt.  We are proud.

- Judy Klima, Saint Charles, IL


I was a crew chief on C-130 B Model aircraft: we were stationed at Clark AFB, Philippines, with the 463 OMS Squadron.  We went TDY from Clark AFB to Cam Rahn Bay and DaNang, South Vietnam for two to three weeks per month.  The tour at Clark AFB was 15 months.  The good things I remember were the good people I met and the beautiful white sandy beaches at Cam Rahn Bay.  The bad things were the enemy trying, and sometimes succeeding, to blow up our C-130's with 122mm rockets and GI's going home in body bags.  Most of the time the good times out weighted the bad.  

- Jeffrey Knoll, Yankton, SD


We were taught how to kill.  The training was good, but we weren't taught how to respond to the emotions of killing another manor having one of your friends killed.  My transition back into society was better than most.  The five months in a hospital allowed me to be around others that had similar experiences, but we didn't talk about those experiences.  After my medical discharge, I married my high school girlfriend and went back to college.  Neither of us knew how much I had changed.  The next ten years were very, very difficult on our marriage. 

Some vets ran from their pain to drink, do drugs, or have multiple divorces.  I ran to the world's definition of success.  But I was still running.  Finally, at the age of 30, I had everything that was supposed to make me happy, but I wasn't.  It was then that a business man shared Jesus Christ with me.  I had tried 'religion' before and it hadn't worked.  What was different this time was I found a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  As I grew in my faith and understanding of the Bible / my Lord, my life started to change. 

However, you don't know what you don't know, and while I was able to be 'pretty good' 97% of the time, the remaining 3+% could really be hell.  I'd had an anger that could scare me, and get other people killed.  I was doing the very things I did NOT want to do.  Five years ago, in 2001, I came very close to being fired from the Christian organization I'd worked for the preceding 17 years.  The organization had every right to fire me.  I'd told the head man if I'd had come across a son of a bitch like him back in Vietnam, I'd have killed him. 

What I do is important to me.  Even more important is who I am.  I called the VA and asked to see a 'shrink' because I might have PTSD.  The shrink was of no help, but I was forced to find what was down deep in my soul that was polluting me and the people I touched.  Because I'm not a 'charismatic' nor 'pentacostal', I thought being 'born again' was enough.  The Lord led me to people and training that showed I had not dug deep enough into God's Word to find the deeper truths I needed to live by.  I'm still a million miles from perfect, but the peace and power and purity I've found have changed my life and given me a purpose and presence that have benefited many others.  What Satan meant for evil and destruction, I now understand God has allowed for my good and His glory.

- Kenneth Korkow, Omaha, NE


I grew up on a farm in Gregory SD.  I volunteered in the Marine Corps in 1946 while my brother Leo was still on active duty in the Army.  I received a Meritorious NCO promotion to Second Lieutenant, served in Korea where I was wounded in 1950 entering Seoul.  After retiring from 23 years of active duty during WW II, Korea, and Vietnam, I spent another 26 years of civilian service with the Marine Corps. During my career, I worked closely with the Navy by planning and supervising the execution of troop assault landings from amphibious ships. 

- Roy Krieger, Springfield, VA


USNR January 1965 to January 1966, Commissioned Ensign USNR June 1971, Retired Captain USNR (1635) May 1997.

- Norman Krimbill, San Antonio, TX


Served seven months in-country and was wounded in combat and awarded the Purple Heart. Spent one year at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Hospital in Denver, CO recovering from wound.

- H. Krosschell, Rapid City, SD


Lost dog tags returned to Mark 30 years later, found by Stacey Hansen from California, who appeared on the Today Show and had articles in the Argus Leader. Her website, for other lost dog tags is www.vietnamedogtags.com.

- Mark Kvernum, Rapid City, SD


I was assigned to the US Army Hospital on Okinawa.  Before the Vietnam War began to wind down, we worked 12-hour shifts on a daily basis.  I worked the night shift from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. in the admissions and dispositions office across from the emergency room.  A friend of mine worked at the front entrance desk of the hospital to answer the telephones and watch for anyone entering the hospital in order to direct them to the proper area.  When things were slow, he and I would play cards to pass the time.  On one particular morning about 4:00 a.m., it was especially hot, humid and things were quiet.  We were fighting trying to stay awake when we finally dozed off in the front lobby. A civilian government employee came in, apologized for waking us up, and asking to be directed to the emergency room.  About one hour later, he returned from the emergency room and thanked us for helping him.  My friend responded, "No problem sir. You can go home now and get some sleep knowing that we are here protecting you."  

- Rodney Lanz, Saint Francis, SD


'Why I Went to Vietnam'

I didn't volunteer, I got orders to go there.  At first, I couldn't understand why we were there—it was a 15th-century, third world country; they had nothing.  I couldn't understand why the North Viet Cong wanted it.  But, I always look for the good in everything and I dug in to help make the difference.  The biggest problem was that those you came in contact with during the daylight hours were the ones that shot at you during the night time or set up booby traps to do you in, so you had to be on guard all of the time.

It took me 14 years before I gave the Lord Jesus Christ my life, you see after coming home to America and finding such a great homecoming...HA HA!  Some of us committed suicide because we were treated worse after we came home.  Instead of "Thanks man, for going over there and fighting for your country", it was "Why did you go?  You should have gone to Canada or somewhere else."

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior to be saved from my misery.  Jesus is the answer to all problems.  Problems still come our way, but with the help of Jesus, we can make it.

- Fred Lenards, Hamilton, MO


I had never seen such a mass exodus of people from one place in such a short period as I witnessed in the final days of Saigon. We picked up at least seven to ten thousand refugees, whom we sent to Guam to begin life as Americans. Wish we could have taken 100 times that many!

- Douglas LeVee, Whitewood , SD


Worked on Cam Rahn Bay ship causeway and Army base.

- Andrew Loban, Hill City, SD


I was in the Navy as an Engineer from December 1962 until January 1969.  I then enlisted in the Army from October 1969 until 1972.  I was wounded in 1970.

- Elmer Lone Elk, Ogalala, SD


His highest rank was an E-4. He was a commissaryman and his occupation was chef/cook.

- James Lovelace, Doland, SD


Dad doesn't tell me much about his time served. I would like to register him and give him the chance to go if he would like.  I have very little information to give you about his time served other than I know he did. I think he served one tour in Korea during the Vietnam War and that he was discharged from Fort Carson, Colorado in 1964 or 1965.

- Robert Lucht, Crookston, NE


I made two tours to the Vietnam area during my active duty period in the Navy from 1968 to 1971.  The first tour was on an amphibious ship, the USS Comstock LSD-19, a flat bottomed ship with a well deck for carrying small boats, etc. across the ocean and off-loading them where needed.  We arrived in Vietnam at Nam Can, on the Cau Lon River, as part of "Operation Seafloat" with material brought from the States for this operation.  We spent most of our time off the coast of Vietnam supporting the troops in-country.  We were in and out of DaNang harbor and once traveled up the Bo De River.  I read message traffic about our troops and the tunnels they had to deal with.  The return journey brought Marines and trucks back to the States from Okinawa.  At 18-knots, the 30-day trip was mighty long for the Marines.

My second tour was on a destroyer, the USS Hamner DD-718.  Most of our time was on plane guard duty with carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin. Thankfully, there were no planes that needed our assistance by ending up in the water instead of on the carrier's deck.  There was one memorable evening when we went to General Quarters, not a drill.  There were several MiG's coming down from the North, but they eventually turned around and headed back home.  We did spend some time on the gun line supporting troops with our 5-inch guns.

I continued to serve in the Navy Reserve, retiring from a drilling status in 1991.

- Jerry Lush, Brookings, SD


Brother died in Korea in 1971, three weeks before his ETS date.

- Lonnie Martinez, SD


Served two tours in Vietnam.

- Josh Martinez, SD


Just a proud Native American that served his country.

- Ronald Martinez, SD


As a YN2, I was stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Oceana NAS, Attached to Squadron VC2 and VA43. I served 19 months in-country.  My K-9 in Vietnam was named "Teddy" and his brand was # 97X7.  During Sentry Dog School, my dog was named "Rebel". I attended Security School, Weapons Training School, and Sentry Dog School.

- Meline Martinez, Rapid City, SD


I was a late arrival in Vietnam.  I assisted in the evacuation of refugees in April 1975.

- Kenneth McFarland, Sioux Falls, SD


I went to Navy boot camp at San Diego in February1966.  From there, I was assigned to the USS Ticonderoga CVA-14.  It was an older aircraft carrier which had served gallantly since World War II.  Some ships seem to have a proud spirit and a "can do" attitude, which is passed down from one crew to the next and on and on for the entire commissioned life of that vessel.  Some, but not all.  The Tico was one that had it and I am proud to have served aboard her and with her crews for the rest of my four-year enlistment.

We were on our way to take our place in the Western Pacific Fleet.  I had never been on even a raft before, so I was pleasantly surprised that I was not affected by the motion of the ship as some sailors were.  We stopped a couple days in Honolulu for supplies, crew and air-wing.  While there, our V-2 Division received a young sailor from Ohio, Richard Wiegman.  We set sail for Yolosuka, Japan and arrived ten days later.  We all felt so bad for Wiegman because he was sea sick for nine of those days.  There was scuttle that if he had not gotten his "sea legs", he would have been assigned to shore duty and would not get to serve aboard a ship for the rest of his time in the Navy.

Richard came aboard in October 1966 and was part of the Catapult launch crew.  On November 30, 1967, he was killed on the flight deck during a launch when equipment failure allowed the twin-engine prop plane, poised for catapult launch, to roll forward.  The pilot, thinking the plane was being launched, throttled up and Richard was unable to run to safety.  The launch was stopped until the plane, its occupants, and the remains of Richard's body were removed from the flight deck.  I thought the launch would be cancelled and was upset when it resumed.  But after I had time to calm down and think, I learned about commitment to a cause and a mission, even if you don't feel like it.

- Ralph (Rem) McGeorge, Miller, SD


John W. Means served in the Vietnam War. He returned home, moved to California after many years, but eventually moved back to Pine Ridge. He has four kids, two girls and two boys (two from a previous marriage). He suffered from PTSD and turned to drinking like so many around our area. He passed away on April 12th, 1997. He is buried at the Sturgis Memorial Cemetery.

            - John Means, Pine Ridge, SD


After attending boot camp at MCRD San Diego and infantry training at Camp Pendleton, I attended radio school at MCRD.  After school and RVN training, I was transferred to the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines (The Cannon Cockers) in Vietnam.  I spent the first six months with Headquarters Battery where we were in charge of Southern Sector Defense, a series of lookout towers that watched for rockets being fired by "Charlie" at the air base in DaNang or the naval base at China Beach.  After six months, I transferred to Kilo Battery out in the boondocks where we had six self-propelled 155s.  We did a three-day stint at Liberty Bridge, but mostly watched for infiltrators from Laos from our little knob near the rice patties.  After three months there, we moved to Red Beach.  It was much quieter there except for the 75mms and 8-inch guns that had occasional firing missions.  I was put in charge of the enlisted club that entailed going to Freedom Hill PX (1st Marine Division Headquarters) or to China Beach PX once a week for a pallet of beer and a pallet of sodas for the club.  I would stop in the ville and trade a case of beer to a mamasan for four blocks of ice for our coolers.  Our Battalion Sgt. Major was a Lakota Sioux from Wyoming and we had a good time talking about home in South Dakota.  He made some killer hot sauce for tacos we served at the club.  On returning to "the world", I was transferred to Guard Company, 8th & I, Washington, DC, the Marine Honor Guard where I served my remaining 26 months.  We did numerous funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, State visits at the White House, State dinners at the White House, security guard at Blair House (the Presidential Guest House), parades at 8th & I and the Iwo Jima Memorial during the summer, and flag pageants at local grade schools in the winter.  What an experience crammed into four years.  After returning to college to finish my degree, I enlisted in the Naval Reserves for a two-year stint and served on the USS Robison guided missile destroyer on my two-week active duty in 1975.

- Paul Miller, Rapid City, SD


My job in the Air Force was in the area of ground support in special handling of items that would be on my mind for the rest of my life. I handled everything from food to the most important cargo that anyone could be responsible for...the Fallen Heroes of the Vietnam War. I never knew any of the names of these fine people, but I said a prayer for each and every one of them. I thanked them for being brave in battle and also said a prayer for their families and friends that had lost a great person who had given their life for our freedom.

- Lonnie Miller, Rochester, MN


I served my country and thought it was an honor, but most people didn't agree to that! I think of what happens now when somebody comes home in a body bag.  Everyone wants to hear their story and it seems like everyone in the state attends the funeral! When one of us went down, only the family seemed to care. Vietnam is a war of forgotten soldiers. I know because I took care of many of them. I like your idea, but to me, it's a little late! Spec.Raymond W Miller, medic

- Raymond Miller, Sioux Falls, SD


I served in Vietnam from June 1970 to June 1971, commanding the 62d Engineer Battalion, Landclearing.  Our mission was to clear jungle in order to eliminate enemy sanctuary so the infantry could advance more safely.  During these operations, the landclearers suffered 27 KIA and over 700 WIA. 

The Corps Commander stated that our landclearing operation was the most significant tool at his disposal for defeating the enemy.  It was very difficult for me, after serving with these brave men, to return to the United States and find such a negative attitude toward the Vietnam veterans. Their camaraderie during combat helped to develop lasting friendships which are renewed during our biennial reunions.  The healing generated by these events is more effective than what could be accomplished by doctors or psychiatrists.  Bringing these courageous veterans together has been the most rewarding part of my retirement. 

- Robert Monfore, Wagner, SD


Vietnam is a part of my life which I will never forget.  I never had it hard like a lot of guys, but just the same, I did my job and was proud to do it.  SP4 Jerome Mueller

- Jerome Mueller, Yankton, SD


I was inducted into the Army in Sioux Falls, SD on June 25, 1969.  On my way to Ft. Lewis, WA for basic training, I was able to stop at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver to visit my brother, Gene Murphy, who had been wounded in Vietnam in April 1969.  I went to Ft. Leonardwood, MO, for AIT in carpenter school and was stationed there after AIT.  In March 1970, I volunteered for Vietnam and was assigned to Vietnam in April 1970 to the 69th Combat Engineer Battalion, Charlie Company near CanTho, Vietnam.  Our company help build the CanTho Air Strip.  I was assigned to take on job training operating a crane and building bridges on Highway One.  Plus, our company assisted in building Highway One in the southern part of Vietnam and a fire support base camp for our company south of CanTho.

I departed Vietnam in April of 1971 for a thirty-day leave with my family in White, SD.  I had orders for Germany and was stationed at Nellignan Barracks for ten months with the 169th Heavy Equipment Engineer Battalion, Charlie company, I ended my military service on January 25, 1972

- Kenneth V. Murphy, SD


I entered the Army on August 10, 1968 from Brookings County, SD and took basic training at Ft. Lewis, WA with Company C 1st Battalion 2nd BCT Brigade, USATC Infantry.  After basic training, I was sent to Ft. Ord, CA for AIT in transportation.  From there, in January 1969, I was given orders to report to Ft. Richardson, AK and was assigned to the 521st transportation unit.  On July 14, 1970, I was honorably discharged at rank of Sp 5.

- James B. Murphy Jr., Sioux Falls, SD


Was a Captain with the XO of HQ and Company A, 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.  My unit received and treated soldiers wounded and KIA operating in the Central Highlands/II Corps Zone (western Central Highlands along the border between Cambodia and Vietnam).  The division experienced intense combat against NVA regular forces in the mountains surrounding Kontum.  In May 1970, the division conducted cross-border operations during the Cambodian Incursion.

- Wayne Nelsen, Arlington, VA


I take this moment to remember and honor the service of our wives.  They had, as we used to say, "the toughest job in the Army."  I salute my wife, Marjorie, and all of the wonderful human beings on "the distaff side."  Heartfelt thanks for your love and support through separations, moves and tough trials! 

Civilians will never be able to quite fathom the Army wife!

- Craig Nickisch, Spearfish, SD


I did basic training in the Army National Guards in 1965 after high school graduation.  I came home, tried college, hated the Guards, drank, and felt guilty for getting out of Vietnam. So, one year later, I went down to see if I could volunteer for the draft out of the National Guards.  They said yes, so I did this so I would only have to go two years instead of three.  When I went active they wanted me to go to basic.  I had a hard time convincing them that I had all ready been through basic, but I eventually got out of it.  I volunteered for Vietnam and they sent me to Germany.  Each month over there, I 1049'd to go to Vietnam.  It took seven months and then they sent me home on a 30-day furlough and said my orders would be sent to SD to my home. However, they forgot about me and it took 90 days before my orders came through for Vietnam.

I had volunteered to be a helicopter doorgunner, but my MOS was tank gunner. When I got to Vietnam, they sent me to a tank battalion which had three companies of tanks and one of helicopters. I went in to see the Battalion commander and asked if I could go into the helicopters.  He said a Major sitting in his office was the helicopter company commander.  He said, "If he says okay, then I am okay with it."  The Major says, "You're welcome to, but you will have to go into the dough boys" (which is a six-man squad dropped into jungle for recon).  I did this for 60 days before a doorgunner slot came open on the Huey gunships. After writing a story about Vietnam on my website www.billynorman.com, another Vietnam Vet called me on the phone and said that it was his dad that was the Colonel of the 3rd of 5th Cav and later told him about the young private wanting to be on gunships. His son was in Vietnam after that and is now a Continental Airline pilot.

- Billy Norman, Gillette, WY


I was not drafted.  I attended the University of North Dakota, graduated in 1956 ROTC Program, and entered pilot training in August.  Retired USAF in 1977 and have been a resident of Sioux Falls ever since.

- William Novetzke, Sioux Falls, SD


One time, we went out to help a platoon that got ambushed.  There were three helicopters shot down, and by the time we got there, only three or four men were all that was left out of that platoon.  The rest were all killed.

Another time we were just sweeping the area.  We came to this little hut there.  We just got over the dike there and we were getting incoming fire from small arms.  We moved on up to this dike and started firing.  There wasn’t a whole lot of protection around, just these little dikes.  You couldn’t tell where they were coming form.  I could see them hitting in the sand.  My assistant machine gunner got shot right through the mouth; it went through one cheek and came right out the other.  There was a big bomb crater, and I dragged him down in there.  Just before I dragged him down there is when I got shot in the back.  I had my pack on and full of c-rations and the bullet went through all that first.  It was just lucky I had that in there; that kind of ricocheted it off.  It just opened the skin up, just broke the skin.  I dragged him down in that crater and we got the helicopter in there and got him medevaced out.  When that chopper was coming in, they were just constantly firing at the chopper.

The guy who was shot in the mouth was just screaming like crazy when he got hit.  Then he quieted down.  It didn’t really bleed a whole lot, just kind of went through one cheek.  It didn’t break a tooth off or anything.  I got him down in that crater and got him quieted down.  As soon as the chopper hit the ground, he just got up and ran straight to that chopper.  We didn’t even have to help him.

The longest firefight I had was from sundown to sunup.  This was NVA. They would sneak in there and get guys down and be fighting hand to hand, and you wouldn’t even know it.  You’d be back up there fifty yards away.  Fire was going around there, and you couldn’t move around.  If you did move around, you might get shot by your own people.  You had to more or less just sit.  We saw the NVA coming across out there, 150 yards or something. We could see that they had all their equipment on them, and we opened up on them.  Within a matter of two or three minutes, they were throwing mortars in on us and everything else.  That’s the second time I got hit.  I got shrapnel from mortars.  We were kind of in a rice paddy area, it was six to eight inches of water.  We were on our bellies trying to dig down a little bit, and then the mortars came in 25 to 50 feet away—we were just lucky we were on our bellies.  I got shrapnel in my arm that time.  Blood started spurting out from my hand, I suppose six to eight inches.  I just took my bandage out and wrapped it up.  The main thing they taught you was not to go into screaming or something like that so you’d go into shock.  Getting hit didn’t bother me, but there were some guys who got hit, and boy, they just started screaming like crazy.

- Vincent Olson, Pierre, SD


The war on communism ran hot and cold.  I served the cold side, in the air-cav training and patrolling the Czech border of the Iron Curtain for the day the "balloon" would go up.  My high school and first year of college classmate, Greg Karger, served the hot side.  A Marine who, who like me in the Army, went to and from his duties by way of a Slick.  Greg's was shot down somewhere around the A Shau Valley and his name is on the Wall.  The thump of rotor blades forever causes me to be thankful for and to honor the sacrifice of all who served during that time.  Welcome home Brothers and Sisters!

- Charles Ostrowski, Sioux Falls, SD


One night I was on guard duty on top of our hooch, and we were hit with about 40 rockets.  I was asleep on a cot at the time, and when the first rocket exploded, I think that I literally ran in the air to get inside of the bunker as soon as possible.

When I first arrived in my engineer unit, which helped build QL1, our convoy was attacked and two drivers were killed.  A couple of days later, one of the mechanics from the motorpool was working on the rock crusher and he fell into the crusher.  About that time, I thought that I might never make it for a year.

- Steven Owen, Henry, SD


I was a Vietnam Era veteran.  I was not a combat veteran.

- William Paradeis, Sioux Falls, SD


I am Chuck's uncle on his mother’s side. I am representing my entire family by writing this tribute to him.

At the time of his death, he had his parents, Verna and Delma, a brother Larry, a sister LaCarolina, a half-brother Terry Pfeiffer, grandparents Henry & Bertha, three aunts, seven uncles and 37 cousins. We honor his memory and the memory of all the fallen heroes. Chuck died just short of his 21st birthday. He stepped on a lane mine and at that moment, we lost him forever. God bless him and keep him. Respectfully, Melvin Schmitt and Family 

Marine Corp ID #2224917     CACCF Ref #4305

Granite Wall of Names   Panel 25E -- Line 13  

- Charles Patterson, Everett, WA


I met a lot of good soldiers during my tour of duty. I learned what unity, love and respect means.

- John Pearson, Rapid City, SD


I was called up as a WWII retread for the Korean War as a Sergeant.  After graduating from OCS, I became an Infantry Platoon Leader in Korea, after which I stayed in the service.  In August 1965, I joined the advanced party of the 1st Infantry Brigade of the "Big Red One".  We cleared the area in the vicinity of Phuc Vinh in War Zone D and started combat operations.  As the Intelligence Officer and Operations Officer, I wrote orders, directives, and intelligence summaries for many combat operations in War Zone D, C, the Iron Triangle, and several large rubber plantations in the 3rd Corps area of operations.  We would leave our base camp and stay on an operation for up to 40 days.  I operated out of forward C.P.'s or helicopters.  The Brigade conducted five major operations with up to seven Infantry Battalions in the battles.  Many other battles were also fought by the Brigade.  The rules of engagement were many and demanding.  When the VC found themselves next to or driven to the Cambodian border, they found a safe haven.

The commanders in the field were not allowed to carry out their duties in a successful manner as our hands were tied by the directives from Washington.  The soldiers in which I had daily contact were loyal, courageous, and did the duties they were asked to perform.  Moral was high and commanded the respect you would give a combat veteran. 

- Gordon Pederson, Wall, SD


I join the Navy Reserve in Sioux Falls in the spring of 1963.While at a track meet at Howard Wood field, I took the paperwork home for my folks to sign as I was only 17. I went to boot camp in the summer of 1963. After graduating from Chester High School, I went to active duty in September of 1964 at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. I left there in February 1965 and reported to the USS Bennington CVS 20 in Long Beach, CA. In late March, we left for West Pac where we went to Pearl Harbor, then joined the Pacific Fleet. I arrived back in Long Beach in October of 1965. I was released from active duty in Sept of 1966. I finished my time with the Sioux Falls Navy Reserve Unit.

- Howard Persing, Clay Center, KS


Was a radar technician connected with close support bombing in Thailand. Guided aircraft to their targets.

- Francis Peterson, Rapid City, SD


In 1967 through an army-wide competition, I was selected to participate as a soldier artist in the US Army Vietnam Combat Art Program. At the time of my selection to Combat Artist Team IV (CAT IV), I was serving as a postal clerk with First Base Post Office, 8th US Army, stationed at Camp Ames near Taejon, South Korea. I was given Temporary Duty (TDY) orders for Vietnam and was attached to Office, Chief of Military History, Headquarters, US Army Vietnam (USARV), Special Troops.

As a soldier artist in Vietnam, I had open travel orders which allowed me to travel at will and become embedded with a variety of army field units in many different locations. My unit visits usually lasted from one to three days, and types of units visited ranged widely from pacification programs to night jungle patrols.  When traveling with field units, I made sketches and gathered information needed to make finished art of U.S. Army related activities.

We had complete artistic freedom and were encouraged to interpret and express ourselves with a personal style. Artwork I completed as a soldier artist in Vietnam is currently in the permanent U.S. Army Center of Military History War Art Collection in Washington D.C.

- James Pollock, Pierre, SD


One of my most memorable days in Vietnam was the day that I was able to forget that I was at war for a little while. Every month, our unit collected money and it was donated to a Catholic orphanage that housed children of mixed blood. These children were basically outcasts in the Vietnam society and had nobody to love or care for them. We were able to spend a day with them and have a picnic. It was refreshing to see the innocence and share a little love with these children. It felt like I was doing something good for someone in the middle of total chaos. It was a day that is etched in my memories that is special to me.

- Thomas Pratt, Custer, SD


The Battalion Landing Team (BLT) known as "Floats" was a Marine battalion that was deployed on four to five Amphibious Assault Ships for deployment to a hot spot in preparation for war. BLT 1/9 boarded Amphibious Assault Ships for deployment to the waters off the coasts of North and South Vietnam in March of 1972. During this deployment, North Vietnam attacked South Vietnam across the DMZ with armor and troops. This was known as the Easter Offensive of 1972. During this time, we assisted the South Vietnamese Forces with naval gunfire, air bombardment, and helped land South Vietnamese Marines on the beach north of DaNang. We were ordered to stand by for possible redeployment to guard DaNang and other Navy facilities. During our deployment, our ship came under fire by a shore battery off the coast of North Vietnam and we were alerted for possible PT boat attack. BLT 1/9 was deployed for 90 days (March to June) and returned back to Okinawa for a stand down and release from deployment.

In July, BLT 2/9 was ordered for deployment to the coasts of North and South Vietnam to assist the armed forces of South Vietnam and the United States. We assisted the South Vietnamese Marines and Naval forces with beach landings and air assaults in this campaign to regain the territory it lost. BLT 2/9 was deployed for 60 days (July to September) and returned to Okinawa for stand down and release from deployment.

In September, BLT 3/9 was ordered for deployment to the coasts of North and South Vietnam. During this deployment, we assisted South Vietnam to reestablish itself and assisted the South Vietnam Navy and Marine forces with beach landings and air assaults to help the Vietnamese gain control again. BLT 3/9 was deployed for 60 days (September to November). We returned to Okinawa and were ordered to stand down and be released from the deployment. 

- Charles Quinn, Lower Brule, SD


I was a Radio Intercept analyst and I was working the night that President Nixon sent special forces into North Vietnam (November of 1970) to rescue POW's from the Son Tay POW Camp, which was near Hanoi.  I was monitoring radio traffic and we were tracking choppers into North Vietnam.  When the troops arrived, they found that the North Vietnamese troops were waiting for them.  Although it was a disaster, we still had a lot of our guys return to their home base.  I really felt bad about this mission and I always looked at it as a failure. 

When I returned home, I moved to Maryland, went to college and graduated. I got a job with NASA in 1977 where I am still employed today.  I had the opportunity to go to a two-week supervisor class in York, PA.  The day before the end of the training class, we had a motivational guest speaker who was an ex-Vietnam POW.  At a break, I went up to him and told him how moved I was listening to his experiences.  I also told him that I worked the Son Tay mission and I just wanted to get his perspectivedid it do any good?  What he told me brought tears to my eyes.  He said that although the mission was a failure, it was a tremendous boost to the POWs' morale.  The guards were on edge because of the attempted rescue and the POWs would further torment the guards by throwing pebbles at the cells.  After we talked about it, I was very proud to have been able to work on that mission and no longer thought of it as a failure.

- Charles Radspinner, Owings, MD


I flew into Saigon on Pan Am fleet #841 on August 10, 1968. I'm from Iowa, but when I stepped out the door, it seemed like getting hit in the face with a heavy wet blanket. I was a combat artist. At Long Binh, they gave me an M-14 and ammo. They said they didn't give pistols or M-16s to Specialists on TDY. I packed up my art supplies, camera, film, journal, and TDY travel orders, and headed out. On ambush patrol with 3rd Platoon, C Co, 2nd Battalion, 199th Light Infantry Brigade, we were ambushed. The photographer I was with was shot in the face. I used up my two clips of ammo and then fed an ammo belt out of a bag to the machine gunner while the ammo bearer went forward to bring back the dead and wounded. We crawled into our helmets when air strikes came over the top of us. Reinforcements came in and I moved out with D Company.

I did two paintings, "Firefight" and "Get 'em Out", 48" by 60" to record it all for history. Someday I would like to meet someone else who was there with me. My tour of duty from August through October didn't always see action. There were medical pacification teams, flame platoons, bird dog operations, eagle flights, firefly missions, missile batteries and others. I remember them, but now I paint "en plein air"—in the open airin the wonderful places of South Dakota.

- Stephen Randall, Sioux Falls, SD


Also served in the Army November 1975 to May 1995. Was a 1st Sergeant in the Army.

- Duane Riedlinger, Black Hawk, SD


Robert M. Roseland was awarded the Air Medal for Heroism in December 1968, after he and fellow crewman Joel S. McDaniel risked their lives for the success of their mission.  The citation from Roseland's award reads as follows: "For heroism while engaged in aerial flight in connection with military operations against a hostile force: These men distinguished themselves by exceptionally valorous actions while serving as crew members aboard a UH-1C helicopter supporting a Special Forces reconnaissance team besieged by overwhelming enemy forces.  Upon arriving over the team's location, they pinpointed enemy positions and placed effective machinegun fire upon them.  The enemy gunners returned fire, yet these men fearlessly leaned outside the aircraft to continue firing.  During the extraction of the team, they provided suppressive fire which drove the advancing enemy force back.  Their courage and professionalism contributed immeasurable to the success of the mission.  Their actions were in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service and reflect great credit upon themselves, their unit, and the United States Army.” 

- Robert Roseland, SD


I never served in Vietnam during my time in service.

- Joseph Rowe, Sioux Falls, SD


I joined A company 1st battalion 7th Calvary November 18, 1965. I recall one incident being inserted into a hot landing zone to flank an enemy position ambushing one of our units. Three choppers were down in the landing zone; I remember seeing dead pilots inside. To flank the ambush, we had to cross a river. I was on point with two men, and as we crossed, they were shot in the middle of the river. Why I was not, I don’t know. I scrambled up the bank, and the 1st sergeant said we had to get the dead men out. No one wanted to go, so I said I would go back in, but I would need help getting them up the bank. I made two trips in. However, we were stuck and couldn’t cross.

Meanwhile, the M-60 wouldn’t fire but one round at a time. The 1st sergeant hollered “LeClair, get over there and fix that machine gun.” He knew I was a machine gunner in Germany before Vietnam. I worked my way over, between guys firing M-16s throwing grenades. I grabbed the gun, checked it over, and knew the problem right away. The gas port was upside-down. I turned it around, screwed the cap back, and fired a burst of 10-20 rounds. After I returned to my position, we figured there were spider holes in the riverbank. I gathered six to eight grenades, crawled to the bank, and dropped them over the edge. The ambush was breaking off near sundown, so we took our two dead and pulled back.

I was nominated for a Silver Star, but received the Bronze Star for valor. I didn’t know until later that I was even up for an award. I never thought I was a hero, I was just doing a job that needed to be done. 

- LeClair Roy, Tea, SD


My brother wanted to serve his country by going to Vietnam; he was proud of his country and what he did. During his life, he often spoke of that war and the other conflicts going on throughout the world. He was as grateful as I am for the freedom that we have in our country.  Our brave men and women gain that security each day they put their lives on the line for us in every trouble spot around the world.  My prayers go out for our fallen soldiers and their families and those who are MIA for their safe return. 

- James Rudd, SD


Anyone in the 26th Marines can remember the truck convoys from DaNang to Khe Sanh; the hot days and raining wet, soaking rides, as we escorted these convoys to their destinations. There would be kids trying to sell us hamburgers on the way. Also, the road mines and ambushes, the first time I heard a round fired towards me, the whistle as it went by my head, then I knew, this was real. Those were "Good Days Bros." After that, it was walking in bush and paddies for us. I'll never forget the Brothers we lost, never...I still think of you guys today.  OOORRAAHHHHH

- Charles Running Hawk , Lincoln, NE


While many units of the AVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) may not be well-thought of by persons who fought in Vietnam, the Rangers acquitted themselves very well.  The base camp for the 37th was in DaNang, though we there on only two occasions.  We were almost always in the field, primarily in the mountains, with a mission to find and fight the NVA (North Vietnamese Army).  Though armed only with the M1 rifle and carbine, the Rangers never hesitated to take the fight to the NVA.  I am proud to have served with them.  I was similarly privileged to have served with members of the 5th Special Forces in the SOG Operation (raiding of the Ho Chi Minh Trail).

- Terrance Ryan, Madison, SD


Phan Rang, Vietnam

It was in the hour before midnight when I would start my normal shift.  The rockets and mortars came pouring in.  We scrambled to our little sandbag hut.  There was only one opening, so the heat inside was oppressive, probably nearing the 120 degree range.  Sweat covered every part of our bodies.  I sat as close to the opening as possible, there were seven of us in very crowded quarters.  During the attack "Pedro", the Air Force rescue copter, was called into action. I watched as the chopper lifted off with its crew.  About a hundred feet off the ground, part of the main rotor disengaged, slamming into a nearby building.  "Pedro" dropped from the sky like a thousand-pound stone.  It hit the pad, burst open, and then burst into flames. I, along with my fellow airmen, jumped up and ran for the aircraft, hurdling over twisted, jagged pieces of metal, dodging "incoming" and rounds from what I figured was an AK47.  It was obvious there was no hope for the on-board medic.  We ran to what was left of the cockpit, and as a group we pulled out the two individuals.  The heat was like a severe sunburn on our face and hands.  We loaded them on a ground ambulance. I looked down at my blood-covered hands.  I would never know if anyone survived. It was just a part of what went on.

On Christmas Eve, 1968, I decided if I got back, I'd try to go back to school and make something of myself.  There had to be a reason for my survival.  I'm proud to say that through voc rehab for my injuries, I was able to complete my schooling, and am now a school superintendent. I'm just one of the guys who went through the hell called Vietnam.

- Richard Schaffan, McIntosh, SD


I was a crew chief on a Huey Helicopter during my tour.  I truly appreciate the recognition you are giving the Vietnam veterans.

- Frank Schroder, Gillette, WY


Buried in Fort Snelling Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

- Henry Schumacher, Minneapolis, MN


Was in delayed enlistment program May 10, 1967. Retired from Air Force Reserve on May 9, 1973.

- Jerome Schwartz, Wood Lake, MN


I was in port at Yokosuka about a week before the capture of the USS Pueblo. I saw it then. We were on our way to Australia for the Coral Sea Festival when it was captured. We went back to Yoko to top off food and fuel and we were sent to monitor activity outside port where it was still tied. We could see it. We were detected and harassed a couple of times, but escaped. I met Pete Bucher's widow at our reunion in Flagstaff, Arizona in May 2006. What a gracious and pretty lady.

- Thomas Scoblic, Ortonville, MN


A Good Day Got Spoiled                                               

We ran into an L-shaped ambush one morning while pulling off our night log hill.  Our platoon lost its first gun and four others, including the point man.  We had 22 or 23 guys wounded, so we decided to pull back to logger hilltop and get reorganized.  Gun ships and air strikes peppered the ambush sight as we helped our wounded get back up the hill.  We needed to be re-supplied with ammo, water, food, etc.  We cleared an LZ for “dust off” choppers and to get our wounded out. 

Around sundown came our re-supply chopper.  He was out about ¼ mile and called for smoke.  While guys were readying the right color, an automatic burst of small arms fire hit the re-supply chopper.  He bellowed with black smoke all the way down to a small clearing at the base of the hill.  As soon as the bird landed, all four crewmen got out, ran to the tree-line for cover and the Huey burst into a huge fireball.  Well, there goes all our re-supplies and most importantly our “mail”, we thought!

While watching all this happen, I noticed three NVA running toward the burning chopper area and the crewmen’s location.  I opened up with my M-60 machine gun, pinning the enemy down, or at lease made them get behind the tress, stopping their advance toward the downed crewman. Then, a couple gun ships showed up, saw my tracers and peppered the area.  While that was going on, a brave pilot in another Huey dropped down beside the burning chopper, picked up the four crewmen and got out of there with them safely.

The sun was down, but it was still light out; we needed drinking water.  Our throats were dry! The map indicated a small stream over the back side of the hill, so I grabbed eight canteens from other guys, made a mission to the creek below, and filled them.  Luckily, I filled all eight with no enemy around.  I got back up the steep hill in the dark with full canteens and was greeted by thirsty buddies!

- Neil Spaid, Blunt, SD


I entered the service one year after graduating from Riggs High School in Pierre, South Dakota and two months after I got married.  I enlisted in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on August 30, 1968.  I did my basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington. After graduating from basic training, I went to AIT schooling at Fort Yustus, VA for UH-1 helicopter mechanic training. I was reassigned to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, GA.  While in Savannah, my daughter was born and I received my orders for Vietnam.  I took a month's leave before going to Vietnam.  I arrived in-country on September 14, 1969 at Cam Rohn Bay and was assigned to the 116th Aviation Battalion as A door gunner/mechanic on UH-1's.  My unit was a VIP unit and we flew for Generals, Colonels, and battalion commanders.  We also provided air support for any unit needing assistance.  I was promoted to Specalist 5 and I was number 1 on the promotion list.  I finished my tour of duty and was reassigned to Fort Lewis, Washington.  I reenlisted for six more years and went to Germany for three years.  I spent the remainder of my military career in Fort Lewis, Washington and was honorably discharged as a Sergeant E-5 on June 22, 1977.

- LaVerne Stevens, Casa Grande, AZ


Attack on U-Tapao,  Jan. 10, 1972 

It started out as another normal night on Sunday, January 9, 1972, when we were posted for another night of duty at U-Tapao with our dogs.  We were tasked with securing the 18 miles of the base perimeter and were the first line of defense.  Unknown at the time, a team of sappers were preparing to attack our B-52s parked in their revetments. The attack route started from along the Sattahip-Ban Chang Highway and went through four holes cut in the perimeter fence.  They crossed the open field up to the roadway, where they were detected.  They then ran to the B-52 area and exited through the bomb dump.

The following account of that night was taken from statements given by members of the 635th SPS K-9 Section:

Security Police K-9 handler, Sergeant Al Stoltenburg and his dog, Mac* (3M72), were assigned the post along the access road to the bomb dump.  The road ran along the north flight line from the gate on the Sattahip-Ban Chang Highway to the gate of the bomb dump.  Trucks delivering munitions from the deepwater port at Sattahip used this route. Around 0130 hours, somewhere in the area between the kennel area and the flight line, Mac alerted and led Al to two figures laying in the grass along side the roadway.  When Mac was within three feet of the intruders, they both opened up with small arms, firing six to eight rounds as they rose up, thankfully missing both Al and Mac.

Then, as the sappers ran towards the B-52s, Al called in the attack, completing the report just as they reached the B-52 area.  One of the sappers was able to get near enough to one B-52 to throw a satchel charge into the intake of an engine, and under the wings of two others.  One intruder confronted one of the flight line maintenance personnel and attempted to fire on him, but the gun was either empty or misfired.

There were three explosions heard by all personnel working that night.  By now, the radio was abuzz with traffic, dispatching response teams and back-up forces to the area.  The sappers chose an exit route through the bomb dump. This decision proved fatal to one of the attackers during the firefight with posted and responding Security Police forces.  The area was lighted by a number of flares and lights from the towers in the area.  One attacker was killed and the second was able to escape over the fence and disappear into the jungle outside the base.

The Security Police and Security Police Dog Handlers not posted at the time of the attack responded and were assigned a post or to special detail.  Hours after the attack, and after dawn, a thorough search of the area was conducted for any live ammunition left over from the attack.  Numerous other charges and detonators were discovered.  The charges had either fallen off the sappers as they ran, or did not detonate because the “quick” fuses being used were not seated far enough into the charge.

The damage to the three B-52s was minor with one B-52 having engine number 7 replaced and the other two having bullet holes in the fuselage repaired. All three aircraft flew sorties within 24 hours of the attack.

Final thought of the handlers after that night:  We all remembered the long night, getting off post at about midday, and going straight to the club to wash away the night. 

Many thanks to the following Security Police K-9 Handlers who contributed to this story:  Scotty Linney, Rick Maurer, Jim Mayer, Frank McKinley, Tom Ozuna, Al Stoltenburg, Bernie Turnbloom, David Wymer and Larry Zacker.  

Now, the rest of the story!

*USAF Sentry Dog Mac, Tattoo 3M72, arrived at U-Tapao in the 1968 build up, commonly called the "Third Wave".  He arrived from Lackland AFB, TX on September 22, 1969, with his original handler, A1C Wayne Luker.  Mac was assigned to Al Stoltenburg in October of 1971. 

This article appeared in The Bangkok Post on January 11, 1972.

U-TAPAO RAID FAILS

Vietnamese killed in daring attack

A SUICIDE squad of two communist terrorist infiltrated the American B52 base at U-tapao in Rayong Province in the early hours of yesterday and attempted unsuccessfully to put the giant bombers out of commission.

One of the infiltrators, a Vietnamese, was shot dead and the other was captured, Air Chief Marshal Dawee Chulalasapya, Chief of Staff, Supreme Command said last night on his return from the base.

While one of the engines of the B52s had to be replaced, two others which were slightly damaged were ready to fly on missions by noon yesterday and all three were operational, he said. The terrorists were believed to have made their entry into U-tapao Base around 8 p.m. Sunday.

At that time, a miniature bus carrying eight to ten persons shuttled along the highway outside the fence of the base. It moved back and forth between three guard posts. The guard houses are 100 meters apart. The middle of these three guard posts was vacant and the spotlight was out. Later, it was learned that the light had been out of order and the guard house unoccupied for the past seven days.

The movements of the bus were later suspected by investigators to have been an attempt to attract the attention of the guards in the other two posts. While this diversionary tactic went on, the infiltrators lying among the tall grass of the embankment got through the barbed wire of the fence. The wire was cut in four places.

Thai and American investigators are trying to find out how the terrorists managed to cross the half-kilometer of clear ground towards the flight line of the B52s. There is a mound of earth with five sandbagged guard posts near the flight line. It appeared that the terrorists took several hours to negotiate the distance to the aircraft.

One of the infiltrators managed to plant a charge under Engine No 7 of the nearest eight-engined B52. At 1:30 a.m., the bomb exploded, causing fire and flames and damaging engine No 7 and the one nearest to it, engine No 8. Engine No 7 had to be replaced but engine No 8 could be repaired.  Two other explosions followed. One caused by the throwing of a charge under the next plane put some dents in the fuselage and damaged a few rivets.  The plane was ready to fly by noon yesterday. One report said that the third explosion did similarly slight damage to a third B52 but another report said that the charge damaged a truck.

Suddenly, four flares shot up, brightening up the field. They had presumably been tripped by the terrorists.  An American Air Force sentry saw one of the terrorists near the fence and challenged him. When the terrorist raised his gun, the sentry shot him. He fell down dead. In his right had he was holding a .38 gun with two shots already fired. His left had held a grenade. Four plastic bombs were found hanging from his belt. On his body was found an identification card giving his name as Som Sukcharoen, 30, of Amphoe Muang, Nakhon Phanom. It was believed the identification was false. Air Chief Marshal Dawee said he was of Vietnamese nationality.

Thai and American officials are questioning two Thai guards supposed to have been on duty near the fence which had been cut. They were identified as Boonlue Angsupan and Visut Suthipan.  A helicopter search has been launched over land and sea to find out how the terrorists had come and to find if any others were hiding in the vicinity. Vehicle checkpoints have been set up to look for the strange minibus which had been observed outside the base.  Nobody on the base was hurt. Thai and American officials are closely co-operating in the inquiry.  Governor Somporn Thanasathit of Rayong was giving the matter his personal attention. They are puzzled by the manner in which the terrorists managed to gain access into the base and to move across a clear area to the flight line without having been observed or challenged.

It was admitted by both Thai and American officials that infiltration by small group into a big base was always possible. The investigators want to know why the spotlight which had been out of order for the past week had not been replaced or repaired. Alsatians trained for patrol duty had barked at the time of the maneuverings of the minibus, but no attention was given to them because of the diversionary tactics.

- Allen Stoltenburg, Watertown, SD


I don't have a story, but I was born and raised in Miller, SD, and graduated from South Dakota State College in 1961.  I joined the Navy upon graduation.  Thanks for the wonderful work that you are doing to remember the vets from South Dakota!! 

- Eugene Stubsten, Chattanooga, TN


I served three temporary tours of duty in direct support of operations in Vietnam while assigned to U-Tapao Thailand flying air refueling mission over the Republic of Vietnam. 

- Raymond Summers, Keystone, SD


I was proud to serve my country and did so, receiving an honorable discharge. On my first leave home, I was met by my mother and father and an uncle. My dad was a WWII veteran and my uncle served in the Korean War. This really made me feel good having support at a time when it seemed like the whole nation was against veterans. I and others were waiting at the Tacoma Seattle airport in Washington at approx. 0200 hours for departure for overseas duty to Alaska, when a large group of people spat on us and called us "baby killers". I have never forgot that, either. But this is the USA and the freedom of speech goes a long way, even if it hateful, demeaning and just mean-spirited! It is fortunate we live in a country where one has the right of free speech, but for an 18-year old kid, this was an experience I never encountered before or would again. I have never forgot but I did move on with my life! There were also those who wished us well with Godspeed and to those folks, I want to say Thank you for your support when I needed it most! 

- James Symes, SD


As a surgeon for the 5th Battalion 42nd Artillery, on December 1968, I received orders for a temporary duty assignment.  I was flown to the headquarters in the Saigon area.  There were four others who had received similar orders.  The five of us became team members for the negotiated release of POWs.  We were briefed as to what we could say and do.  On Christmas day, dressed in our new, newly pressed uniforms, cleaned boots and real haircuts, we were flown by two helicopter pilots to an area near the Cambodian border.  They deposited us in this open area and departed.  We were not permitted to have weapons on this assignment.  There was no one in sight for the first few minutes and suddenly, the whole area was surrounded with armed Viet Cong soldiers.  The negotiations lasted approximately three hours.  We were unsuccessful but a second meeting was arranged.  We were then picked up and transported back to the Saigon area and were treated to a Christmas Eve dinner with General Westmorland at his mess.

The second meeting on January 1, 1969 was similar; however, this time we did negotiate the release of three POWs and they were flown back to the hospital in Saigon and we never saw them again nor did we find out their names.  The next day, we were returned to our units.  The five of us on the team had never met before that mission, nor have we ever seen each other again.  It would be most interesting to meet any of the remaining negotiating team or the POWs.

- Ronold Tesch, M.D., Brookings, SD


From February 1976 to July 1996 served in the SD Army National Guard as M day.  Retired as Group Commander for 109th Engineer Group

- Roger Thorstenson, Selby, SD


I enlisted in the US Navy at the age of 17 with the permission from my mother. After boot camp, I was stationed on the USS Providence for my entire Naval career. The Providence saw action off the coast of Vietnam during her tour as Flagship of the 7th fleet for two years. We provided naval gunfire support to Army and Marine Spotters in the field. I was a Radarman and part of my duties were to talk to the spotters and get coordinates for the gunners to shoot rounds into. I had a special assignment on "Monkey Mountain" DaNang as Radio Net controller with the USAF installation there. I was only subjected to mortar attacks three times during my stay. The USS Providence was hit only twice while I was onboard. I was and still am proud that I served my country. Ten years after the war, I re-entered the military USAF and retired with a total of 23 years service.  I am proud of every minute.

- Dennis Tolliver, Lennox, SD


I also served in Beriut Lebanon/on the USS Inchon/TAD to HMH 262 Beruit Airport in addition to my service in Vietnam.

- Leonard Toohey, Newell, SD


I was a Tank Commander for four and a half years in South Vietnam.

- Maynard Traversie, Newell, SD


May 25, 1971, I returned to the USA. I said good bye to the friends, and memories at my parents’ kitchen table one night, knowing it was over about May 30t,1971.  I stayed in the Army Air Guard, and finished college at Dakota State in1971.  In 1974, I earned a BS degree in Industrial Arts teaching and met my wife Jayne in 1972.  We were married in 1975 and I stayed in the Army Air Guard until 1976.  Today, 2006, I am a Jet Flight Examiner for the FAA.

- David Van Liere, Huntington, IN


During my service in Germany, I was privileged to visit the divided city of Berlin.  West Berlin was a vibrant, cosmopolitan city like many others I saw in Europe.  East Berlin was appalling.  There were still walls pockmarked with bullet holes and piles of rubble laying around from WWII, thirty years after the end of that war.  West Berlin was full of cars and bustling with people.  East Berlin had very little car traffic, and the people there seemed listless and drained of hope and life.  And this was the showplace of communism!  This contrast has stayed with me ever since, and has made me ever grateful for those brave souls who gave their time and in some cases, their lives, so that we in this country can remain free.

- Robert Van Sickle, Gillette, WY


I graduated from high school in Pollock, SD in 1966. I was living in Aberdeen, SD when I received notice that I had been drafted. I was actually drafted out of Emmons County, ND where my parents' farm was located.

- Kenneth Vander Vorst, Pollock, SD


Flew RF-4C's in Vietnam in 1966 and in Okinawa in 1967 until March 1968. Taught student pilots in T-38's at Randolph until May 1971. After departing from the USAF in 1971, was hired as one of the original pilots for Southwest Airlines.

- Eugene VanOverschelde, Coppell, TX


Jet aircraft mechanic and non-status air crew member on B-57s and C-130Es in Vietnam.

- Melvin Vavra, Elk Point, SD


My husband served at Ft. Detrick, MD (the biological and chemical laboratory). While there, he was exposed to many toxins and diseases which were used in the "war effort". His duties were mostly in the civil engineering field. He does not know I am submitting his name to this worthwhile cause. Although he did not serve in Vietnam, many of his friends, neighbors and classmates did. He honors and respects all they did for our country and the sacrifices they endured. Thank You, Linda Velder

- Gary Velder, Newell, SD


While on recon patrol one day, our eight-man recon team was walking under some mango trees.  The branches of these trees provided an overhead cover much like a open umbrella.  As we proceeded along in single file, there was suddenly the sound of bullets cracking through the top the trees from above.  We all flattened out on the ground, looking around to see where the fire was coming from.  To our surprise, we discovered our attackers to be a group of monkeys high in the rocks up above, throwing down rocks at us.  We were much relieved to see that we were not under enemy fire.  We continued on our way laughing as we went.  I know that this sounds crazy, but it is a true story.

- Rolf Vensand, Littleton, CO


Served in infantry after basic and AIT at Fort Lewis. Assigned to special infantry command with 8th Army United Nations Command in Seoul, Korea for 14 months. Was infantry Sergeant with unit responsible for ceremonial duty as honor guard and security of CINC of Pacific Forces.

- Curtis Voight, Rapid City, SD


January 1968, the Tet OffensiveThe 4th of the 23rd was at their base camp in the Iron Triangle.  Some of us became aware of the sound of 122 rockets passing overhead.  Shortly before dawn, there were sounds of gunfire and we had a small element of the hardcore Viet Cong MR4 or MR7 coming up out of the ground inside the base camp wire. This was quickly resolved and we were ordered back to the CuChi base for further deployment. This entailed a fighting breakout from our perimeter area and we proceeded to CuChi where my platoon was sent to secure the HocMon Bridge.  Other elements deployed to Saigon, the GiaDinh area, where we lost some of our vehicles.  Unnerving, as it was our battalion.  However, we performed well, sustaining few human causalities.

- Russ Walberg, Rutland, SD


I entered the Army on the heels of the Vietnam War.  Military service was not popular at the time.  The Army was moving from a draft to a voluntary service organization.  I faced many challenges as a young officer from South Dakota, least of which were the drug and alcohol problems in the Army at the end of the Vietnam War.  After my officer basic training at Ft. Belvior, Virginia, I was dispatched to the 82d Engineer Battalion in Bamberg, Germany.  My wife and I were living in a small German apartment near the East German border.  Our German neighbor asked me one day if the US Army would stay and fight if the East German/Soviet Army invaded West Germany.  What a profound question.  I told her, "Yes, we would." However, in thinking about my own unit, which had about a third of our soldiers enrolled in the Army's drug and alcohol program, I wondered how many would fight.  Many were repeat drug offenders, just waiting to be thrown out of the Army.  It was a challenging period following the Vietnam War, moving our Army to a voluntary service.  We made that transition and when I retired from the Army in 1994, I knew we had the best trained and equipped fighting force in the world.  In 1975, when my German neighbor asked me that question, I had to ponder about my response.

- David Weeks, Piedmont, SD


I arrived in Vietnam in November 1967 at Tan Son Nhut AB, and was bussed to the receiving area. Then I was processed out and finally assigned to the 8th Battalion 6th Artillery.  That was the same time the bloody battles on Hill 875 and Hill 823 were taking place.  These were some very important battles that the US forces won but were very costly in lives.  It had raged on for 33 days.

The first six months were like going to school.  The men who were there became teachers and then would be rotated out of the country, leaving the somewhat seasoned recruits to become the teachers in turn.  After six months, I was assigned driver on the Star Wrecker, one of the three recovery vehicles.  There was also the 578 retriever and the M 88 tank retriever.  One of the first tasks with the wrecker was to take ammo off an ammo truck and reload it in to helicopters to be air-lifted out to the 155 MM guns. 

Removing and replacing the barrels was another task.  As time moved on, we were putting up electrical lines so every tent and building could have one light.  A 60 KW generator was installed and that became another one of my everyday task. Sometimes we would be assigned to construction work, making our own bricks by mixing cement and clay and pressing them one at a time.  It was a tremendous task to keep enough bricks made.

Guard duty came at two levels, night guard duty and 24-hour guard duty.  After guard duty, you went right back to your assigned tasks.  One of the last tasks or endeavors the motor pool attempted was to manufacture a riding lawn mower. Parts were salvaged from the salvage yard. When the project was competed, it was the only one at that time.  We were caught by an inspection team, and it was not an authorized piece of equipment, so it had to be destroyed.  No further attempt was made to replace it while I was there since it was getting close to the end of my year.  I left the country in November 1967

I had 90 days left in the Army and was discharged 76th Hem Company at Ft Knox, KY.  I returned to my SD ranch and have remained here ever since.  I was in the Reserves from March 21, 1968 through March 21, 1972.

This is my account of the Vietnam War. Warren Weischedel (US 558398771) Headquarters Battery 8th Battalion 6th artillery 1st Infantry Division.

- Warren Weischedel, Agar, SD


I was one of the “lucky ones”; I got to serve my country, but didn’t get sent to Vietnam.  But every day of the almost three years I spent at Ft. Leonard Wood MO, I remembered those who were over there.

We sent thousand of troops from our training base to Vietnam who were well-trained and motivated that served proudly. As a three-year enlisted man, I did my whole tour at the 5th AIT Brigade, feeling both blessed and guilty as others suffered much greater hardships.  While motivated by the “draft”, I joined to serve to defend my right to think and live freely. I was often called the “loyal opposition” because like many others, I was against the war, but loved my country and fellow soldiers. I maintained that loyalty and attitude after active duty by returning to South Dakota and spending the next 30 years in the active Army Reserve. Most of that service was spent continuing to train new soldiers to serve proudly during future missions as we have most recently observed.  I retired as a Master Sergeant in 2004. God bless America.

- David Welch, Sioux Falls, SD


Was there when with Americal Division served with Powell.

- Luke White Stone, Pine Ridge, SD


Three tours in Vietnam: one on the USS Yorktown, one on the USS Ranger, and one tour in-country. 

- Gene Whitefeather, Rapid City, SD


Who can forget the smell of Honey buckets burning, sunsets, and still searching the skies when the faint sound of a chopper is heard? 

- Michael Whiting, Rapid City, SD


I was born in Wagner, SD and grew up in Fort Pierre. I graduated from Stanley County High School in 1969. I enlisted in the Army in September of 1969. I went to basic training in Ft. Lewis, WA. MP school in GA. I was stationed in Ft Eustis, VA for eight months then got my orders for Vietnam in August 1970. I was in-country from September 2, 1907 to April 3, 1972.

An MP in Vietnam was hated by everyone except other MPs. The Viet Cong hated us because they thought we kept the US soldiers in line (little did they know) the South Vietnamese for the same reason, and the US soldiers for the same reason. You learned fast that it was a no-win situation no matter which way you turned, so you kept to yourselves and tried to do your jobs as best you could. I worked check points, Combined Forces Patrols (which included one USMP, one VN civilian policeman TC, one VN MP and one Korean MP). I served on Convoy duty several times and I served in the US Customs unit for my last ten months in-country. I returned home and left the active service for two and a half years (I was in the reserves). I came back to SD for that time, and then moved to Nebraska where I joined the Active Guard Program (Active Army stationed with the guard) and served in many different positions in my 25 years there. I retired in 2001 and now work for the Homeland Security US Immigrations Service. I have never forgotten my roots in SD. It is true: "Great Faces, Great Places".

- Scott Wilson, Lincoln, NE


Agee, Brown, and Newcomb—I think about you often...

- Edward Wold, Rapid City, SD


I spent 13 months in Vietnam and my duty was an experience I'll certainly never forget. From the moment I landed and got off the plane and smelled the air and felt the heat for the first time, to when I flew out over the country and looked back at what I had experienced and how I had grown in those 13 months, I was a different person inside. I just knew I had grown more mature. After having been in a war zone, things could only get better! I got off for a while in Japan on the way back to the States, and spent a week there. I jumped a hop on a C-130 for the rest of the way home, and it was full of American serviceman that weren't going to make it home. What a long and sad ride. I was the only one to jump out from the back of that plane onto home soil. Yes, I kissed the ground, and thanked God! May God be with all of those who lost their lives in the Vietnam War!

- John Young, Wakonda, SD


Allen Ziegler was a fine American citizen as I knew him. I was glad to have been able to serve with him. I had with me the most special of people from several countries of the world. As a Native American, he ranked among the best in the art of surviving in the harshest of conditions. As a squad leader, he never failed his men. He always knew what he had to accomplish and was never bitter about any mission. I always looked forward to talking with him, especially knowing he, too, was from South Dakota. We shared a common ground. I remember so vivid the last time I saw him. He stood erect with his muscular frame, his rifle resting against his knee, peering through the dense bamboo canopy, so confident, as we talked about our homeland. Now that is but a memory we can no longer share. His spirit is surely shared by all those he loved and cared for. I am glad to have known him, even for such a short time.  Sincerely, Michael Foley

      - Allen Ziegler, SD


Upon graduation from flight school in 1967, I was assigned to the 17th assault helicopter company.  Our mission included lifting infantrymen into the battle area (landing zones), evacuating wounded and killed in action soldiers to the rear of the battle area, resuppling infantry elements in contact with the enemy, and resupplying artillery batteries (fire support bases) with necessary personnel, equipment and supplies.

Below are a few war stories that took place in 1968 while flying combat missions in Vietnam:

I was aircraft commander of a helicopter in a flight of five helicopters.  Our mission was to airlift an infantry battalion into rice paddies.  On our first flight into the area, we began receiving fire from a tree line on the river some 250 meters from the LZ.  The ground fire was extremely intense and I could hear the sound of enemy fire hitting the aircraft (a “thud” sound that was very familiar and distinct).  My gunner came on the intercom and said one of the infantrymen would not jump out of the aircraft.  I briefly turned to the rear and saw a rifleman holding a structural support so tight the gunner could not release his hold.  While all this was going on, we continued to take hits in the aircraft.  I could see enemy fire impact (splatter) the water in the rice paddies.  One round entered the aircraft only a few inches above my head, ricocheted around the cockpit, and ended up by my feet.  As we departed the LZ and continued our mission enroute to the pickup area for infantrymen, all thoughts were on the five additional sorties required to complete the mission.

I was on a solo (single aircraft) mission in resupply of a FSB (fire support base).  On one of the sorties into the base, I received a call asking if I could take eight KIA (killed in action) bodies to the mortuary in the rear.  This type of request was not unusual.  We routinely took KIAs to the mortuary.  We were waiting on the ground at flight idle when a soldier approached the aircraft with a poncho.  The four corners were tied together with a string.  He put the poncho in the cargo compartment and told us that parts of seven bodies were in the poncho.  Then, two soldiers carried another KIA to the aircraft and laid him in the cargo bay.  The KIA had a hole in his chest so large I could see day-light thru it.  We were explained that the night before, a short round had exploded and killed eight US infantrymen.  The FSB had run out of body bags.

On a fire support base resupply mission, we landed on the helipad and were at flight idle waiting for a FSB soldier as he approached the aircraft.  The FSB had their TOC (tactical operations center) on a hilltop and their howitzers set up in nearby proximity.  The size and shape of the useable FSB area and hilltop limited helipad access from the ground by FSB personnel.  With rotor blades turning, the soldier, when approaching the aircraft, never lowered himself to avoid contact with the main rotor.  It was as though everything was in slow motion……as he came off the hill towards us, we (the crew) anticipated the inevitable and tried to get his attention with hand signals, body actions, and voice commands.  We watched as the main rotor decapitated him. On our return to base (Camp Eagle), my pilot said he could not continue to fly the remainder of the day and asked to be replaced.  I called flight operations for a replacement pilot and we continued our mission.

We (myself and crew) were on a solo (single aircraft) mission when we began receiving enemy fire.  In a matter of minutes, the engine and transmission instruments were in the red and we were losing power.  At the time, we had sufficient altitude to make a mayday call, so I switched the uhf transmitter to guard and, knowing our position, was able to make two mayday calls on guard. This transmission went out twice before we were on the sandy beach some 50 meters from the South China Sea.  There were no friendly forces in the immediate area and from the incoming enemy fire received before being shot down, I planned for the worst.  I instructed the pilot and two gunners to take the M-60 machine guns and ammo boxes to the highest sand dune position off of our flank and set up fields of fire. This gave us coverage in a 180-degree arc. 

I went up on the head of the aircraft and opened the cowling to see what damage had been done by the small arms fire. While on the head (main rotor area), I heard the “wizzing” sound of AK-47 rounds over my head and could see North Vietnamese working their way towards us and around sampans pulled up on the beach. The door gunners were engaged in a fire fight of their own with North Vietnamese that were disguised as “friendly farmers”.  I jumped off the top of the helicopter, ran to the high sand dune (gunners') position, secured an M-16 with extra clips of ammo, and began to engage the North Vietnamese that were working their way around the sampans. 

While this was going on, I noticed water explosions just offshore about 75 meters. The North Vietnamese were firing mortar rounds and finding their range to walk them in on us. Suddenly out of nowhere, with all the combat engagement taking place, a light fire team appeared overhead. I ran to the helicopter, put on my flight helmet, turned on the battery, turned on the radios, and transmitted on guard, “Light fire team on 090 degree radial off Phu Bai come up on guard.”  One of our own company's gunship fire teams heard my mayday call and came to investigate. Their reply was, “We see the NVA mortar position that’s firing on you. We're rolling in hot. We’ll strafe the sampans to keep their heads down. We’ve contacted company operations and a rescue ship will be here to pick you up in 30 minutes."  The battle continued until a rescue helicopter landed and we pulled the guns and crew off the sand dunes. 

The first tour in Vietnam I logged 1,238 combat flight hours.  After returning to base camp after a long day in the cockpit, it was appropriate to say “we had cheated death again”.

 

Clark Mola

17th (ahc)

I corps (Camp Eagle)

101st Airborne Division (air assault)

Republic of South Vietnam

December 1967 - December 1968

 


Richard Langenfeld entered the US Marine Corps in 1959 and spent 22 years serving his country.  He served three tours of duty in Vietnam, two as a helicopter pilot and one tour as a fighter pilot.  He was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses. 

In the book Bonnie Sue, which was written by Langenfeld’s copilot, Marion F. Sturkey, wrote, “I manned the copilot’s seat in Bureau Number 152515, and my helicopter aircraft commander was one of the most flamboyant aviators ever to strap on an H-46, Captain Richard H. “Rollo” Langenfeld.  Rollo never walked, he strutted.

“One sensed that he looked upon the entire world as his private domain.  Tall and muscular, Rollo lived on the razor’s edge, and he flew the same way.  Described by Colonel Medenhall as an outstanding pilot, Rollo was convinced no enemy gunner alive could blast him out of the sky.”

Richard died peacefully in 2005.  We will miss him. 
Sincerely, Larry Langenfeld, brother

- Richard Langenfeld, Castlewood, SD


I was drafted into the US Army in April of 1968 and after basic training, I was sent to Fort Rucker Alabama, for helicopter crewman (67A10) training.

I was sent to Vietnam and on the way, we stopped in Alaska and then somewhere in Japan. The next stop as in Cam Rahn Bay and from there, I was sent to Chu-Lai and stationed with the 123 Aviation Battalion, Aero Scout Company (Warlords). While in-country, I was doing maintenance on helicopters and then later I served as a crew chief/gunner.

I am not one to talk about Vietnam unless someone brings it up and asks me a question. Although I have been home from Vietnam for a little over 35 years, I find some things very hard to talk about. As a result of my feelings, I was only able to give a few talks about Vietnam because when I get to the subject of the death of a very good buddy of mine, I start to lose it.

I will never forget when I walked into the Freedom Bird (the plane to go home). Oh, what a feeling. I was going home to the Good Old US of A; for a lot of us never made it back.

As we approached the Pierre airport, I looked out the window and oh, what a sight. The hills and fields of good old South Dakota!! No rice patties, no jungle, and no black pajamas and pointed hats. When I got off of the plane at the Pierre airport, I will always remember the smell of fresh air (not at all like Vietnam). Once in the terminal, I was greeted by my dear Mother, my Dad and my Uncle Roy Hiller.

Thank God I made it home as many did not, for now, I have a loving family of my own, my wife, two sons (Brad and Jerid), a daughter (Stephanie Briggs) and seven beautiful grandchildren. Thank you, God. I would like to take this time to also thank ALL who put together and help to make this event, Thank You.

- Mike Maskovich, Pierre, SD


I went to Vietnam in the spring of 1968, where I sat in the front row of the airplane.  After the airplane landed and the doors opened, the heat, humidity and the smell almost knocked me out of my seat.  I had arrived in Cam Ranh Bay.  Here, I was able to experience the sounds and sights of my first incoming. 

After a few days at Cam Ranh Bay, I flew on to CuChi, which was the Headquarters for the 23rd Artillery Group.  Within two weeks, I was assigned to a 105mm howitzer battery, B Battery 6/15 Artillery, located along Highway #1 between CuChi and An Loc.

After being there for a short time, the whole gun battery was moved to Saigon and set up on the end of the runway at Tonsonhut Air Force Base.  It was really hard to hear anything when the airplanes took off.

After another short period of time, the gun battery was split in half and I went to Choulan.  We set three of the guns up on a garbage dump.  We had to haul in dirt to overlay the garbage because the guns would bury themselves every time they were fired.  Some of our people were getting spinal meningitis from being around the garbage.

One gun form Choulan and one gun from Tonsonhut Air Force Base were sent to Special Forces camp in the middle of the jungle five miles from Cambodia.  We arrived by C-130 aircraft.  Everything had to be flown in.  After several months of very little action, one night it became very wild.  The Viet Cong blew up the runway and rocketed us every night for weeks.  Lucky they missed.  One night, they even tried to overrun us, so we had to level the gun barrels and use anti-personal rounds.  I stayed there until I was wounded from one of our rounds that exploded after it came out of our howitzer.  I didn’t want to leave, but was sent back to Choulan.  I also watched one of our fighter jets get shot down on our tree line.  The Special Forces retrieved the two pilots out of trees, both with broken legs.  I turned 21 years old at the Special Forces camp.

Once again, we received orders to move.  All of the six guns came back together and went to An Loc where we supported the First Infantry and later the First Calvary.  There were a lot of rubber trees around An Loc and Quan Loy.  The rubber trees had been planted on French plantations.  After another extended stay, more orders came in one morning after working all night.  We labored all day packing everything and pulled the guns to a remote area near Tay Ninh City.

I took a job with the First Sergeant to get away from the guns.  For three months, I worked as a liaison between my gun battery in the field and headquarters battery at Ty Nihn City. I would find an airplane or helicopter going my way to deliver the mail, buy money orders, or do whatever someone needed.  We would fly over the jungle canopy that was heavily bombed by B-52s and stripped clean with Agent Orange.

I extended for two more months of service in Vietnam.  This would allow me to get out of the Army early.  I spent fourteen months in Vietnam where we all worked very hard.  We believed in what we were doing.  We spent a lot of sleepless days and nights, filling sand bags, firing artillery pieces and readying the shells for the next round.  We all had times when we were at risk; some more than others.  I am very luck y to have come home with all my parts.  There were a lot of drugs available and I am thankful for my upbringing that I left them alone.  A lot of people cam home with a habit and destroyed their lives. 

By 2002, my life had changed so much I began to wonder if I had really gone to war in Vietnam.  I found out that Hope Haven International Ministries were taking wheel chairs to the needy in Vietnam.  I volunteered to go in 2003 and 2004.  What a learning experience.  I returned to Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, as it is now called.  Saigon is a very busy city.  Everyone is trying to sell something.  I also went to CuChi and nothing looked the same.  When I was there during the war, we had heard rumors of the tunnels.  They are there, a lot of them, large and small.

There are about 200,000 people in need of wheelchairs in Vietnam.  The people are very grateful for a means of mobility that they cannot receive because of their health care system.  Since the United States left Vietnam in 1975, the population of Vietnam doubled to 79,000,000 people.

- Duane Waack, Sioux Falls, SD


On February 24, 1970, I flew out of Sioux Falls with about thirty other guys to Ft. Lewis, Washington to begin Basic Training. I was at basic for two months, then had nine more weeks of Advanced Infantry Training before I was deployed to Vietnam. When I flew into Cam Ranh Bay, I could see fences built out of Concertina wire ten feet high that surrounded the city. As I was walking through the airport with my bag, I walked by a friend of mine from Sioux Falls, Doug Farendorf . He was leaving, as he had finished his tour and was going home. We only had a few minutes to talk, and he wished me good luck. To this day, he still calls me his replacement in Vietnam.

I got on a truck with a bunch of other FNG's and joined a convoy through the hills to Ahn Khe and my unit, Co. A 3rd Bn of the 4th Infantry Div. We patrolled an area around Ahn Khe to V.C. Valley and Ple Ku. Since we were staying in the field for three to five weeks at a time, I quickly found out why we were called Grunts. It was a new experience to have 30 to 40 coats of insect repellant on between showers; it was great when it rained.

We set up one particular Fire base on a hill during the start of the monsoon season. I was completely soaking wet from head to toe for nine straight days. In November of 1970, the 4th Division was sent back to the States and everyone that had more than six months in Vietnam went with them. I only had four and a half months, so I was sent to the Americal Division, Co. B 123rd Aviation Bn. We flew Search and Destroy missions out of Cheu Lai; it was an experience I will never forget. We were called the Warlords. From all the intense battles we fought to all of our helicopters that got shot down, I feel it was a miracle that I made it back to the States in as good of shape as I did. I would not wish for anyone to go through what I did. The experience that I had in Vietnam will be with me forever. It’s hard to believe that a fourteen and a half month tour in Vietnam can consume so much of a Vet’s life, even 36 years later.

The cost of freedom can be figured many ways, with some soldiers paying the ultimate price by losing their life while fighting for our freedom, while other soldiers came home and have to live with the memories of war. 

- Mark J. O’Connor, Sioux Falls, SD


I was born and raised in Aberdeen, SD. After graduating from Central High School, I attended Northern State College (University now) for one year (1965-66) where I was majoring in education and playing football. My draft number was 4F so I thought that I would not be drafted and could finish college. There are several things that I remember distinctly. One being that there were many prisoners of war being taken in Vietnam during those years and it was very bad situation…one that most of us did not understand.

I had never been away from home before and could not imagine what was next in my life. Immediately when I turned 19 my classification was changed. Before I knew it, I was on a bus to Sioux Falls for a physical, July 8, 1966, and then on to Fort Lewis Washington for Basic Training. I was in an "experimental" group that was trained for 10 weeks. When I came home on leave, I married my high school sweetheart Wilma Olek.

I received my orders to report to Ft. Leonardwood, Missouri for AIT to work in the Motor Pool where I stayed for 9 months. We knew that I would most likely be sent to Germany or Vietnam at some point in time. I lost my brother in January, 1967, my Mother in May, 1967 and left for Vietnam, July 16, 1967. What a year!

We flew into Cam Ranh Bay and my assignment was with the Army 4th Infantry Division, Artillery, Pleiku, Vietnam. I was assigned guard duty my first night. While waiting for duty assignments, there were many soldiers assigned to painting and moving rocks. I felt then as I do today that this was very demeaning and unnecessary.

I was assigned to the Motor Pool. My main duties were to order and issue parts. I, as others, either did the driving or went along on convoys to deliver ammunition and other supplies. This was a dangerous mission. We all saw many things that I have tried to forget. We also had no hot water for showers, ate off of trays (no plates, etc.) and the weather was awful! We could only imagine what it was like to have a nice warm shower, sit at a table to eat, sit in a nice chair or sofa and enjoy all the freedoms we were used to having at home. We wondered why we were there and didn’t understand what our purpose was. There were a lot of soldiers that were raised on farms and loved animals. My buddies and I found a dog that we named "tailpipe" and he quickly became our friend. It was good to have some sort of normalcy around us.

I’m sure it’s hard for people to imagine today, but in those days we were allowed one phone call and you had to stand in line to use the phone. It was a very long line of course and there was an allotted time that could be used. (I was never able to call home.) As we did not have the many electronic opportunities we have now there was no communication for one year except by mail. Mail either didn’t come for weeks or several letters came at one time. It was a very hard time for all of us over there. It was equally hard for those loved ones at home. I’m sure looking back that being 20 years old helped me cope with my life at that time, as it did many others.

When my year of duty came to an end, I will never forget the ghost flight home. We had to stay awake to hear our number being called and then there was no such flight available. We waited for two more days until a flight was available to take us home. The anxiety you felt was immense. I was scheduled to depart from Cam Ranh Bay on June 24, 1968 on flight N254A. No such flight was listed. While waiting for our flight, I was assigned as the sergeant for guard duty the first night. When I first reported to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, I pulled guard duty at the same post. I flew back to Ft. Lewis Washington and when we got off the plane we all kissed the ground! I missed having a good buddy from Sioux Falls, South Dakota come home with me….he was not as lucky as I was. It was good to be home. I returned home June 26, 1968.

I will also never forget the flight from Seattle Washington to Minneapolis, MN. A very kind gentleman asked me to take his first class seat. (Soldiers flew 4th class stand-by.) He thanked me several times for my part in serving in Vietnam and he insisted that I sit in his seat. What a great feeling! I was fortunate to be able to return to my wife and family members who were waiting for me at the Aberdeen airport to welcome me home!

I resumed my college goals using the GI bill. I graduated from Northern State College with a BS degree in Education, and then earned my Masters Degree in School Administration. I have retired after teaching & coaching, working as a Jr/Sr High School Principal and a School Superintendent, for a total of 30 years.

During the years while finishing school, raising our family and the years that have followed, I have never talked about what I had seen or been through. I always felt that those things were better left unsaid and were in the past, just as I feel today. God had put me there for a reason and allowed me to come home safely to my family for a reason.

I was a Sergeant E5 with the 4th Infantry Division, Artillery, Pleiku Vietnam.

- Robert (Bob) J. Luce, Aberdeen, S.D.


My dad, Staff Sergeant Bernard (Bud) Kopp, volunteered for service on January 30, 1963, when he enlisted in the US Army. He went to basic training in Ft. Leonardwood, Missouri, then onto Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. He was stationed in Hawaii with the 25th Infantry Division until he left for his first of two tours in Vietnam. During his first tour in Vietnam, he served as a helicopter door gunner and worked around DaNang and Hue.

After serving his first tour, he returned to Hawaii and later his company was activated to return to Vietnam. During his second tour, he was attached to the 23rd Infantry Division as a recon Sergeant. His home base was CuChi, and he worked mostly in and around the HoBo woods and the Iron Triangle area.

Like many Vietnam veterans, my father rarely talks about his experiences. He has however, told me a couple stories I would like to share with all of you. There was the time when Bob Hope came over during the Christmas of ‘66 and did a USO show for the troops, but the story I will never forget was when their company was on patrol one evening and they had just sat down to eat their “sea-rats”, when they were ambushed by the enemy. They needed artillery assistance, but the problem was that they were between the VC and the guns. My dad called for seven guns to fire for effect. He said shells were landing over the top of their company and right on the enemy. He recalls hearing the sound of the shells as they landed between his company and the VC. Luck was with them that day as they were able to stop the attack.

I can only imagine the friendships that have been developed by the soldiers and hear about the friendship my father has with one of his old Army buddies. He has maintained contact with Dave Barber, whom he met while stationed in Hawaii. Dad talks about him often, and has told me about how he believes a person can develop such a bond with another individual, that there is some sort of special connection. He told me Dave was discharged prior to Christmas ‘66 and told him he would talk to my dad upon his return to the United States. My dad told me he had just returned to Sturgis and wasn’t in my grandmother’s house for a couple of minutes when the phone rang. When my grandmother answered the phone, she stated, “Yes, he’s right here”. Upon answering the phone, it was Dave and he told my dad “I just had a feeling you were back.”

As I previously stated, my dad doesn’t talk much about the things that the service members experienced on a daily basis while in-country, and he has just recently started talking about some of his own experiences during his two-year tour of Vietnam and the friendship he has had with Dave over the past 40 years. By listening to my dad, it helps me understand what he and many of the other people experienced during this time and the friendships that were made. My dad doesn’t like to talk about the awards and citations he received during his time in Vietnam and always says “I didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done.” My family is proud to say my dad is a “Vietnam Veteran” and we hold our heads with pride every time we see the flag fly.

- Bernard (Bud) Kopp, Sturgis, SD


I arrived in Thailand after a brief stopover in Saigon where I watched 20 to 25 brothers in arms depart for their assignment "in-country". I wondered then as I wonder still today, whatever became of these brave souls. Stepping off the plane, the heat of Southeast Asia hits you like a blast furnace. I'll swear to this day that you would sweat while taking a shower.... I was assigned to the 11th USAF Hospital, part of the 635th Combat Support Group, at a base named U-Tapao, home of the B-52, KC-135, SR71, U-2, F4, HH-43, and P-3's. Five days after I arrived the most intense bombing of Vietnam and surrounding areas began..."Operation Linebacker II".

- Terry L. Erickson, Pierre, SD


“Still Waters Run Deep”

You ran away to Canada, you hid in college dorms,
You hid behind deferments while waiting out the storm.
I still remember your faces; it wasn’t that long ago,
Now it won’t be long, old buddy, before your sons will pay the toll!

- Michael C. Grams, Faulkton, SD


In August, 1999, the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall was in Sioux Falls. My husband, Robin Haase, who is a Vietnam veteran, and I went to see the Wall. It was a very moving and emotional experience. The Wall is an incredible tribute to those who died, but I was struck by the fact that there was no acknowledgement for those who served and made it home. I wrote the following poem and left it at the Wall.

 

For Robin

 

You will not find my husband's name

written on this "Wall".

Instead, he's at my side right now,

standing straight and tall.

We're looking at the many names

of those who fought and died.

I held his trembling hand in mine

as we both stood here and cried.

 

I didn't even know him then

when he was called to go.

This distant country, Vietnam,

was a place I did not know.

I knew a war was waging there

and our men were sent to fight.

But at the time, I wasn't sure

if the war was wrong or right.

 

I was so very young back then

that I really didn't care.

It was only after I met him

that I became aware

Of the many sacrifices made

by those who fought for me,

And the terrible price that they would pay

so others could be free.

 

He says he did what he had to do

just like the other men.

He wouldn't trade the experience, but,

he'd never do it again.

He doesn't talk about the war

and I try not to ask.

I only know it's part of him

and I pray his pain will pass.

 

I thank the good Lord every day

for sparing Robin's life,

So I could fall in love with him

and proudly be his wife.

To all the families of these men

who perished in that hell,

Please know, my husband, and others like him

were beside them when they fell.

 

Robin made it back from Nam,

but he saw how these men died.

So I held his trembling hand in mine

and we both stood here and cried.

 

- By Deb Haase, August 4, 1999

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Proud wife of Robin Haase

1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

now residing in Concord, NC


On May, 5, 1970, my guardian angel was working overtime. I was a rifleman with Co. B, 1st/50th Mechanized Infantry with the 1st Field Force in Binh Thuan Province near working out of LZ Betty at Phan Thiet, RVN. As were were getting ready to set up night ambushes, a little voice in my ear whispered to skip going out on our Armored Personnel Carrier and instead go on foot patrol. As the APC was attempting to cross a stream, it set off a large mine and completely destroyed the track killing the driver, Spec. 4 Charles Aaron and the .50 caliber gunner, Spec. 4 Ramon Grayson. A second whisper in the ear soon followed after the explosion which told me to stay on top of the rice paddy dike I was standing on. A second explosion went off at the base of dike and I thought we were being mortared. I waited for the blast to hit me, but the dike saved me. It turned out to be one of our claymore mines that detonated when the track exploded. Ever since May 5, 1970, I thank my guardian angel for "divine intervention" in getting me through 14 months in RVN in one piece. Each day is a gift I never take for granted.

- Patrick M. Murphy, Sioux Falls, SD


I joined the Navy in 1967. My first tour of duty to Vietnam was on a destroyer, the USS Larson (DD-830). We supplied gunfire support along the coast of Nam, spending most of our time around DaNang and going as far north as Hue. We also provided plane guard duties for our aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Our worst tragedy actually happened during a SEATO maritime exercise, when our destroyer squadron participated with other warships from different countries in the South China Sea. On the second night out, we formed a screen around the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. The destroyer USS Evans was moving from her forward starboard station to the forward port station, crossing in front of the carrier and a collision occurred, cutting the Evans in half with the forward section sinking immediately and the back half staying afloat, losing more than half her crew.

On our return to the States they posted a volunteer list for anyone wanting to go back (in-country) to Vietnam. A good friend of mine, David Kintner, and myself signed up. After some training and R&R we flew back over in February. We were assigned to the IUWG Unit One stationed south of Saigon at Cat Lo. There our riverboats protected ships going up the river to Saigon and patrolling the other rivers in the area. I was proud to serve my country. My thoughts and prayers goes out to all those who served, were injured, or gave their lives in Vietnam.

- David Dowd, Wakonda, SD


I've written in this forum before, but after reading all the stories from Vietnam Veterans I've decided to mention something that I believe has been missed.

I served in Vietnam in 1967 and part of 1968. Afterwards, I returned home and twelve years later served in the National Guard. Most of my time in the National Guard was in South Dakota. It occurs to me that the most experienced and responsible soldiers were from the Nam era. Names I feel should be remembered are: Robert Aiken, Dennis Foell, Bob Ryland, and Steve Noble. I know there are more. In any event, these individuals served with me, subsequent to their Vietnam "experiences." Two have committed suicide and I believe that they did so partly because they had served in Vietnam. To Steve and Bob, we'll all remember you. Especially during the Pierre celebration and welcome.

- Mike Elsberry, Herreid, SD


I, as a young seventeen year old, joined the Navy. I was on 3 DIFFERENT carriers with Attack Squadron 36 including the USS Saratoga, USS America, and the USS Enterprise. I was blown overboard and into the nets my first time on the flight deck, but then went on to be the squadron trouble shooter, checking and arming the planes while on the catapults to be launched, working flight quarters to flight quarters. I then was attached to the Army and the CH 47 Chinook, 610th Transportation at Qui Nhon in the central highlands and later Red Beach, ten miles north of DaNang. Of the 4 years, 6 months, and 4 days that I served, I was overseas 4 years and 4 days of it, 2 years of which were in Vietnam.

When I returned home, I disconnected myself from all things and went on with my life...most people in my community never even knew that I had served my country. Then one day in 2002 my son, Michael, died after a valiant battle with soft tissue sarcoma. With my family's encouragement, I went to the VA seeking medical answers, but instead, I was treated crudely and rudely, to say the least. I gave up, but my daughter would not. She persisted until the VA personnel agreed to do the Agent Orange tests. I finally was given the tests, but later was told the results would not be given to me because it served NO PURPOSE either way.

I was told to start seeing my local doctor as it would cost me for any more calls to the VA. I served my country PROUDLY, in fact, I did things that if asked to do today, I wouldn't even consider. I was paid hazardous duty and combat pay at the same time for pennies per hour for what I was doing for my country in Vietnam.

Now they say because once again I am part of society and worked for a living, they WON'T HELP me. I ask nothing more of them than to support the Agent Orange research and to provide those who are left affected by Agent Orange with the necessary medical information. The truth is there should be another 100,000 names on the wall...of the ones who came home and died as well as the veterans' children who continue to die as a result of the chemicals. South Dakota has stood VERY TALL not once but TWICE now for the Vietnam veterans.

When in GOD's name are the VA and our government going to stand Tall and do what is right to help those who are left with the Agent Orange issue? WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO SERVE THE VETERANS AS HONORABLY AS THE VETERANS SERVED THEN???

I don't think anyone with an ounce of common sense believes we have adequately addressed the Agent Orange issue. We all know there is a serious problem to be resolved, not only for the veterans but for their children as well.

Jerome Fischer, Vietnam Veteran

U.S. Navy Attack Squadron 36 1965-1966

Attached to U.S. Army 1969 610th CH 47 Chinook Helicopter

 - Jerome Fischer, Wagner, SD


I spent three years active duty in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam Era from 1970 to 1973. I am proud to call myself a South Dakota native, and glad that South Dakota was there when I was discharged. I spent six years in the Army National Guard with the 147th field artillery in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and was discharged with over 11 years of military service. I still get back to South Dakota on occasion, but not nearly enough.

Semper Fi to all my fellow Marines.

- Cary J. Gill, Lusk, WY


 

“Missing in Action”

 

Far from home our bodies lie,

Sadly hidden from searching eyes.

 

We did our best, we fought for you,

We would again if you asked us to.

 

Will someone come and collect our bones?

They are lonesome here, so far from home

 

Look for us on ridges steep

It could be there you find we sleep.

 

We might be found where rice now grows

Will someone find us? Only Heaven knows.

 

If dark waters hide us well,

We will sleep forever where we fell.

 

We could be found in bits and pieces,

Search carefully now, please don’t leave us.

 

We trust in you who fear our fate,

Our spirits wander, watch and wait.

 

 

 

“Reflections”

 

One by one they heed the call,

Each must touch this black stone wall.

 

Fingers touching name of brothers

Fathers, daughters, weeping mothers.

 

Some come alone, they stand in silence,

Wanting nothing more, they stand beside us.

 

Some speak to us and know we are listening

Wonder who is here, who is missing.

 

Some look within and see reflections,

Some walk on by, no close inspections.

 

Some worry why their lives were spared,

Worry not my brothers, remember good times shared.

 

Come place your hand upon our names

We will touch you back, be glad you came.

 

- R.I. Crane, Spearfish, SD

 


 

It’s 1:30 am and the lights are blacked out on our plane to help mask the uneasiness of a bunch of (kids).  On our final approach, we see lots of city lights below to Saigon International with a bunch of flares thrown into the mix.  We disembarked at approx 2:30 am, to 90 degree temperatures and 90+ humidity.  And what was that smell?  Good Morning, Vietnam!  I have never forgotten that smell.  Did our right guard break down?  When was our last shower? 

 

We were the 5th bus out after curfew at approximately 5 am.  The temperature was still 90 degrees.  Thirty minutes later, the first two buses take small arms fire.  We hit the floor, and our driver had the only weapon.  Finally, we made it to LBJ, and waited for three days for transportation to Qui Nhon.  On our way there, we made a stop at Nha Trang, 30 minutes after a rocket attack.  I never knew a C-130 could land on a postage stamp.  And guess what?  When we got there, there was the same smell.  We offloaded about 30 guys, four of us to my unit, which was another 20 miles by a 3/4 ton truck on a very dusty, dirty, bumpy road.  I finally arrived at my new “home” for the next 11+ months.

 

My unit had already been there for three months, so the tents and trenches and guard towers and temp fence were all up.  The only building on our compound was a new mess hall, but it looked like a corn crib with four-foot high sandbags all around.  We were assigned a tent, drew weapons, and three of us were assigned guard duty the first night.  The next day, I found out my self-contained truck and equipment (round-signal corps) were lost with two other units enroute from the Qui Nhon harbor, so I had no job.  Sounds great, huh?  But no.  Instead, I had guard duty about every night--10 hour shifts.  I would sleep until 11 am, then pulled latrine duty, burning the S.H. This was usually done by 2:00 pm. The rest of the day I would be off except when we were on alert, which was about half the time.  Three months later, I still had no equipment, so I asked for a transfer.  The transfer was denied, but I was reassigned to the E.N.C.O. instead.  I should have asked sooner.  Three months later, I got an early E-5 promotion, so I could become club manager.  I didn’t have to live in a tent anymore; I had a bedroom in the club which was 4 foot by 8 foot.  Somebody had to do it.  The last three months of my tour was quite easy.  The Koreans were okay.  They (the Republic of Korea) came into our area and had it secured in 60 days. 

 

After 351 days, we get on our seat for home, and I look around at a plane full of very tired men.  There were no kids on this flight. 

 

Here’s for the boys of September 1966 to September 1967.  God Bless America and all my fellow Veterans.

 

- Norman Ohden, Boerne, TX

 


After Howard High School, I attended Business college in Huron for six months. I then received my draft notice, so I dashed down and joined the Navy, next was boot camp and A school in San Diego. Then I spent a tour at the Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, VA. While there the Battleship USS New Jersey stopped at Norfolk on its way to Vietnam, got to walk on her decks and see the 16-inch guns. A person is quite proud to be an American when you see a ship like her.

My first ship was the USS Washburn AKA, an old WWII troop transport, problem was she was in Vietnam. So off to Saigon I went. The holding barracks for Navy personnel was named Little Annapolis. After finding a bunk and locker, I found out the barracks had been mortared two weeks earlier; that makes a fellow sleep good.

After a few weeks of Saigon, I found out the Washburn was on its way back to San Diego for decommissioning. I was recruited for duty at Little Annapolis, but turned the offer down. After a few more weeks I got orders cut to return to the States.

Next ship was the USS Eldorado LCC-11,which was the command ship for the Amphibious Fleet Admiral. Picked her up in the Philippines then back to Vietnam and the Tonkin Gulf. Didn't get to see the USS New Jersey again, but sure could hear the 16 inch guns at night.

- Gary Loers, LeMars, IA


 

When the earth takes my body, let the eagle have my soul,

Let him rip it from my empty shell if he might be so bold.

 

Let him fly it to lofty heights so for a moment my soul

Might see the world below that I have missed of peace & serenity.

 

Let him carry me across my battlefields, so once again I can be with the ghosts of my friends

And ask forgiveness of the ghosts of my enemies.

 

May the noble beast feel pity on me and once again carry me home

To the place of my birth, my childhood & youth, until the moment is gone.

 

The eagle holds my destiny and this secret he will not tell,

So he will carry me to heaven on whispered wings or drop my soul in hell.

 

 

Written on 7-28-99, by Larry H. Crosby (1950-2005), Colton, SD. 

- Submitted by daughter, Christa Crosby

 


I graduated from O'Gorman High School in 1965 and attended Northern College in Aberdeen for a couple years.  I moved back to Sioux Falls, married Patty Gage, and then waited for the draft board to call. Along with 25 other South Dakota boys, I received the wonderful draft notice November 1st, 1967 telling us to report to the post office.  The next day, I was on a plane with my good high school buddy Bob Thoen heading to Fort Lewis, Washington.  Bob and I went through basic training together, then I stayed at Ft. Lewis while Bob went off to Ft. Polk.  After completing AIT, I was sent to Vietnam from April 1968 to April 1969.  Once in-country, I assigned to the Co F 50th Infantry (LRRP) 25th Infantry Division.  LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) turned out to be a good deal.  I received three weeks training from the Special Forces Group on how to live in the wilderness with little or no food or medication. Our patrol was made up of 5-6 guys who would be dropped off in the middle of VC activity routes.  Our job was to monitor and identify weapons, uniforms and to count the enemy.  After four to six days, we were extracted backed to Cu Chi. 

Best part of Vietnam:
Christmas 1968, when I located my buddy Bob Thoen only 15 miles from Cu Chi.  I stole the company jeep, drove to his base camp and was waiting for him when he came back from lunch.  We spent the day talking about how our lives had changed since Ft. Lewis.  Upon returning to Cu Chi, my 1st Sergeant was a little bit upset about someone stealing his jeep.  All two weeks of latrine duty was worth seeing Bob.  Bob was able attend the Bob Hope and Ann Margret USO show a month later.

Worst part of Vietnam:
Finding out that my good friend from AIT, Samuel T. Hill, was killed in action one day before we were going to meet for the first time since arriving in country six months before.  Like everybody else, Sam and I had all kinds of great plans for once we got back to the States.

I managed to put in my 11 months, 27 days and 12 hours before being sent home.  I was awarded The Bronze Star for duties performed during the 1968 TET Offensive when Cu Chi was overrun by the VC.  Even though my time in Vietnam wasn't the best, I tried to make the best of it...

I was assigned to the Rangers at Ft. Benning, GA until I was discharged on October 31, 1969. 

I retired moved to Daytona Beach, Florida.

- Cliff Lawrence, Daytona Beach, FL


 

I grew up in Yankton, South Dakota and enlisted in the Marine Corps for two years in late 1968 after three semesters at the School of Mines in Rapid City. I had a student deferment and my grades at the School of Mines were good, but there was so much controversy and discussion about Vietnam that I decided to go into the service and finish college later.

 

I went to boot camp in San Diego and infantry training at Camp Pendleton, California where I was trained as an 0311 rifleman. After a twenty-day leave in Yankton, I was sent to Vietnam in July 1969 with Fox Company, 2nd Bn, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. We were doing operations along the DMZ in the mountains by Mutters Ridge and then in areas along the Cam Lo River and by Cua Viet on the coast.  In late September, 1969, the 3rd Marine Division was withdrawn from Vietnam and a large number of us were transferred as replacements to the 1st Marine Division. I was assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Bn, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. We operated in the Que Son Valley and Que Son Mountains 25-35 miles southwest of DaNang. Battalion rear was at LZ Ross and LZ Baldy.

 

We stayed in the bush for long periods of time, often 80-100 days in a row, came back to a base camp for a couple of days rest, then back out for another long stretch. Living conditions were basic: sleep on the ground and in the rain for months on end (no tents, just put a towel over your face to keep rain off or curl up in a poncho liner); C-rations and often went hungry when resupply helicopters couldn’t fly (I went went days without food one time); we carried 75 pound packs; no vehicles, moved every day on foot, occasionally moved by helicopter; dug a new foxhole almost every day; no change of clothes -- wear same clothes for months on end; no bath except in a stream or village well.  There were flies, mosquitoes, jungle rot, and immersion foot; I had malaria twice. I don’t think most people understand what the living conditions are for the infantry. We did squad-sized day patrols, company and platoon movements and patrols, night ambushes, listening posts, observation posts, and guarded platoon and company lines at night. Enemy contact was fairly frequent, but less frequent and on a smaller scale than in 1967-68. We came across lots of booby traps (homemade landmines using hand grenades or artillery shells) and snipers. Everyone counted the days and knew exactly how many days they had left before they rotated out of Vietnam.

 

I left the bush on July 11, 1970. (The Marine tour of duty was changed from 13 months to 12 months in late 1969.) I spent a few days at LZ Baldy and DaNang, then flew to California and Camp Pendleton on July 20. They had nothing for us to do at that point, so all 2- and 3-year enlistees were released from active duty when they returned from Vietnam. I was a civilian back in Yankton on July 24, and I went to USD that fall. I finished college, taught school a couple of years in Iowa, went back to USD for a masters degree, served three years in the Peace Corps in the Philippines, and have been with state government in Pierre for 24 years. My wife is from the Philippines, and we have two children.

 

I’m proud of my Vietnam service and I’ve always felt that the Marines I knew in Vietnam are the best people I’ve ever been associated with. I will always remember Jack Zoodsma, Grand Rapids, Michigan, killed in a firefight February 17, 1970 in the Que Son Mountains; Frank Blas, Charleston, South Carolina, killed by a hanging claymore booby trap January 18, 1970; Lt. Jim McClurg, New York City, killed in a firefight in the Que Son Valley, March 8, 1970; and Jim Carlin, Binghamton, New York, killed by a sniper in the Que Son Valley, April 1, 1970.

 

- Tom Magedanz, Pierre, SD

 


 

I served with the 1st Infantry Division from January 1969 to January 1970 with Bravo Company, 1/18th.  We were known as the "Swamp Rats" which gives some idea of the terrain in which we operated.  I do have some particular memories from my year in Vietnam and will share a few of the word-pictures that come to mind and may also strike a nerve of recall for fellow "grunts".

 

-the heat and sweat

-the smell

-the endless mud & water

-jungle rot

-night sounds

-mail call

-the call to "saddle up"

-the fear experiences

-popping smoke

-heating rations with C-4

-feeling explosives concussions

-night time illumination

-helicopter rides into the unknown

-filling sandbags and ammo boxes

-shit burning detail

-sleepless ambush nights

-huge blood-sucking leeches

-pack weighted with food, water & ammo

-walking through rice paddies

-setting up claymores

-waiting for dust-off

-making yourself a "small" target

-getting short paranoia

 

- Gary Trusty, Rapid City, SD

 


I served on Destroyer USS Hull DD 945.  I was proud to be a part of the "Tonkin Gulf Yatch Club" and Dick Nixon's Naval Blockade of North Vietnam.  I remember shooting rice bales out of the water with 50-calibur guns and also gun runs at night with 5-inch 54's. Chasing aircraft carriers at 30 knots in the engine room of a post WWII destroyer was hotter and more humid than Vietnam itself.

- Kim R. Smith, Rapid City, SD


I don't remember the exact date; there was a U-boat loaded with various explosives moored at Bridge Ramp, which was a staging area.  A zapper swam up behind the boat with a explosive charge.  He set off the charge, hence, blowing up the boat and resulting in blowing up the staging area.  It took three days for the staging area to blow and two weeks to clean up the mess.  The boat was cut loose from its mooring.  I can still see the reflection of the burning boat in the water of DaNang harbor that night.

Many times calls were made for more gloves and body bags.  I will not even try to describe the sight or the smell.

- Dave Thompson


 

I left Vietnam in early December of 1970 after serving a year over there with the Army. I was a medic with the 35th Combat Engineer Battalion (20th Brigade) in the Mekong Delta. I spent my time in a variety of areas across the region from Can Tho to Long Xuyen to Chau Phu.

 

What a contrast between veterans coming home from Iraq today and our coming home from Vietnam.

 

We arrived in Seattle late on a Saturday afternoon. They hurriedly processed us out of Fort Lewis within a few hours. They said we were being processed quicker than normal due to it being a Saturday evening. We didn't receive the usual steak dinner given to returning veterans. They gave us a sack lunch. Then, dressed in our new Class A uniforms, we were bused to the airport.

 

Before we boarded the buses we were given a warning, which was a tell-tale sign of the times. It was strongly suggested that once at the airport we should use the "buddy system". That is, stay in a group for safety due to the anti-war protestors. It was also recommended that we seek sanctuary in one of the USO centers located throughout the airport.

 

We did experience some harassment while at the airport. Being back on US soil for just a few hours, this whole thing was quite a shock to me. I was left with ambiguous feelings about the value of having served my country.

 

Because we could buy our airline tickets cheaper if we flew in uniform, I felt compelled to stay in uniform for the trip home to Redfield, SD. I didn't have any civilian clothes with me anyway. On one hand, I felt proud for having served, but at the same time I was somewhat embarrassed to be seen in uniform. I looked forward to getting home so I could take it off.

 

Upon my return to SD, I did find the general public (but not everyone) more receptive to returning veterans. There was a difference between middle America and the west coast. Such is the case even today.

 

Veterans coming home today probably can't imagine how bad it was back then. They are fortunate to be treated with the respect they deserve.

 

Looking back after all these years, I do not begrudge those who protested the Vietnam War. Hindsight reveals that the war was wrong (my opinion) and should not have taken place. Protest was okay. But directly harassing those who served was wrong.

 

- Richard Benting, Redfield, SD

 


Three boys, all Pierre natives and first cousins by birth, grew up in Pierre and were separated by life's events, got to meet once again on the fields of battle. They were Jim "JW" Hansen, Gary Hansen and Robert "Bob" Jensen.

During the Vietnam conflict, each answered their call to serve our Great Country in the military as our fathers had done during WWII in the European Theatre.

As fate would have it, "JW" volunteered for duty in Vietnam in early 1969. Shortly after arriving in Vietnam in 1969, he was surprised to learn that he was being joined by his only brother, Gary and his cousin, Robert "Bob" Jensen.

Though they were not stationed anywhere near each other, "JW" in the Central Highlands of Vietnam with the US Army, and Gary and Bob in the north of Vietnam near the DMZ area, with the United States Marines, "JW" managed to pull off a mini-reunion in Da Nang. They had only a few hours together but to the parents back home in SD (the late Walt and Erna Hansen) and now living in California (the late Carl and Helen Jensen), the photos that were sent back to them was priceless.

All returned following their in-country experiences and did the best to pick up their lives where they had left them off. We have lost Gary since that time but "JW" and Bob are still living, "JW" in Arizona and Bob in California. A copy of one of the reunion photos taken in Vietnam is included with this story.

"JW" Hansen


 


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