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



In Memory of  US Army Warrant Officer

Robert Gene Fortin

Turton, South Dakota, Spink County

 November 20, 1949- September 13, 1971

Killed in Action in South Vietnam

Robert Gene “Bob” Fortin was born November 20, 1949, in Conde, South Dakota. His parents’ names were Victor Paul and Lorene (Wolfgram) Fortin. His nine brothers included Jim, Richard, Delbert, Steve, Kenny, Roger, Terry, Norbert, and Danny. His three sisters were Sherry, Bonnie, and Carol. They were raised on the family farm. He went to rural and town schools in the Turton and Doland areas of Spink County. In high school, Robert was team captain of the football team; he also wrestled, participated in the chorus, and was vice president of the “D” Club. He graduated from high school in 1968 and went to Lake Area Vocational School in Watertown for one year where he participated in Golden Glove Boxing. Before he enlisted, he worked at Firestone in Watertown.

Robert enlisted into active service in October of 1969. He learned about the Army Warrant Officer program and after passing tests, was accepted into it. He went on to pass flight aptitude testing and then was put in the Army’s Warrant Officer Helicopter Pilot program. He received his wings as an Army helicopter pilot and was appointed a Warrant Officer on February 19, 1971, at Fort Rucker, Alabama. In April, he left for Vietnam with his brother, Roger, where he served as a forward air controller as part of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 12th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade. Warrant Officer Fortin was shot down May 14, 1971, and he was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions taken to save the lives of his crew members. After receiving wounds from enemy ground fire, he was given the Purple Heart on July 1, 1971.

Warrant Officer Robert Gene Fortin was killed in action on September 13, 1971, by “hostile ground fire while piloting a helicopter in Vietnam.” His parents had already had military vehicles come to their farm as some of Robert’s other brothers in Vietnam had been wounded already too. But they received that “dreaded telegram,” according to a newspaper clipping on September 15. WO Fortin had been in Vietnam for five months and 19 days. The body of WO Robert Fortin was returned to the United States, escorted by his brother, Roger. “The brothers had left together and they returned home together,” reported the paper. He was buried with military honors at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Turton. On the night of Robert’s funeral, Roger wrote for his brother, “A Brother’s Prayer.”

A Brother’s Prayer
Written in Memory of Robert Fortin
September 21, 1971

Dear Lord, Give me the strength to be half the man we’ve buried here today.
And give me what it takes to meet challenges his way.
No task seemed too difficult, no burden too great;
No barrier unpassable, no ending left to fate.
He saw a people suffering, and went to aid their cause,
He asked no recognition, no handshakes nor applause.
Why do men of the same backgrounds take up such different roads,
When one takes up the burden, the other adds to the load.
He gave his life protecting the rights of the men like these,
And we’ve got them at home, as well as overseas.

                                                                    -Roger Fortin       

In addition to the awards mentioned earlier, Robert Fortin received 12 Air Medals and the Army Commendation Medal.

Robert is currently survived by his mother, Lorene, Doland; and siblings: James, Watertown; Carol Smith, Conde; Bonnie Hiles, Doland; Delbert, Redfield; Norbert, Watertown; Sherry Board, Doland; Roger, Doland; Dick, Denver; Kenny, Doland; Dan, North Carolina; Jim, Doland; and Steve, Watertown. Robert’s father, Victor, and his brother, Terry, have passed away.

In closing, Lorene Fortin wrote, “It’s 34 years since Bob left us and it sometimes feels like it was yesterday. It never gets easy.”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Ty Retzl, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on October 6, 2005. Information for this entry was provided by Golden Times, November 1996, the Redfield Press 9/23/71 issue, and the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application. Additional information and profile approval by the Fortin family, via Lorene Fortin, mother.


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