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



In Memory of U.S. Army Private First Class

Howard Elmer Drain

Custer, South Dakota, Custer County

September 7, 1952 – March 17, 1972

Killed in Aircraft Crash in Da Nang, Vietnam


Howard Elmer Drain was born September 7, 1952, in Hot Springs, South Dakota, to Howard and Grace (Webb) Drain. He had two sisters, Ivy and Dawn. Elmer attended schools in Custer and Pringle, South Dakota, where he enlisted in the Army before he graduated. He liked to write poems, play the guitar, and he loved animals. He was employed at Custer Theater and in the summers, he worked at the Forest Service. According to Elmer’s sister, Ivy, “Elmer was tall, quiet, and very kind. He was known to family and friends as ‘Fuddy.’ He loved corn on the cob, and wanted to come back home and work in forestry.”

Elmer enlisted in the service on January 6, 1971, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, during high school. After basic training, he was sent to Vietnam to serve on September 14, 1971. PFC Drain was a member of Troop F, 9th Cavalry, 3rd Brigade, and 1st Cavalry Division.

PFC Drain wrote a letter to his sister, Ivy, in November of 1971. It reads:

Rain, cold, locked [illegible] and in mud up to your Alpha! Thanksgiving is over with and I had a fun time with a C-ration. The 101st should be standing down soon. I was hoping to go home with them but looks like I’ll get transferred to another unit. Which means I’ll probably lose my jump pay. Well I hope every- thing is going along real fine back home. Have you been down to see the folks? Bet they’re really hard to catch since they got that new pick up. I’m out at the Observation Post Apollo now; [I] live in this culvert you can’t even stand up in! I don’t really mind it ‘cause like I don’t have to get my hair cut and I try and grow a beard. Also nobody hassles Pathfinders and I don’t have to pull any details. I haven’t pulled K.P. (kitchen patrol) for about 6 months now! All I do is give weather reports and talk on the radio. Well keep your head straight, and don’t let ‘em get you down. Love and peace.

Private First Class Howard Elmer Drain died on March 17, 1972, as the result of a helicopter crash into a river near Da Nang, Vietnam. His body was found ten days later and returned home, and buried with military honors in Black Hills National Cemetery. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart. His father, Howard, died three months later, and they are buried two graves apart. James T. Fazer, a fellow solider wrote a comment about PFC Drain on March 17, 2002. It reads: “Too long, too hard, too young.”

The current survivor of PFC Drain is his older sister, Ivy Little, of Hot Springs, South Dakota. In closing, Ivy had these words about her little brother: “Elmer had 80 days left to serve and he could have come home. Sadly he was killed – love and miss him terribly!”

Memorial marker photo and Vietnam Wall (DC) photo by Mrs. Hansen

This entry was respectfully submitted by Emily Bauer, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, February 9, 2006. The information was provided by Ivy Little, sister, in Hot Springs, South Dakota, the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application, and Profile approval by Ivy Little.


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