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



In Memory of U.S. Marine Private First Class

Michael Eugene Gearhart

Watertown, South Dakota, Codington County

 November 19, 1946 – May 16, 1966

Died Non-Battle from Illness Contracted in Vietnam

Michael Eugene Gearhart was born November 19, 1946, in Rural Retreat, Wythe County, Virginia. Bernard and Helen (Ellison) Gearhart were Michael’s parents. Michael attended public schools in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Michael’s family remembers him as “inquisitive, soft-spoken, and reserved.” He liked to read and collect stamps, but he also liked being outdoors where he could explore and collect rocks and arrowheads. He made his own bow with cedar arrows and liked to hunt whenever he had the chance. In addition, he was an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts. He moved with his mother to Watertown, South Dakota, where Michael spent a year before entering the service. 

Continuing in his family’s tradition, Michael joined the military, entering the Marine Corps in Omaha, Nebraska, on September 2, 1965. First trained at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Michael was then stationed at Paris Island, South Carolina. On January 6, 1966, PFC Gearhart embarked from California on the USS Bexar and arrived first at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and then White Beach, Okinawa, where he stayed from February 2, 1966, until he departed for Chu Lai, Vietnam on April 5, arriving on April 13, as a part of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, and 1st Marine Division.

Not long after he arrived in Vietnam, Private First Class Michael Eugene Gearhart became ill and was evacuated to Clark Air Force Base on the Philippine Islands where he died on May 16, 1966.  His body was returned to the U.S. and buried with military honors at Roselawn Cemetery, Rural Retreat, Virginia. For his service, Michael was awarded the Marksman Badge with a Rifle Bar.

Michael is survived by his uncle, Jim Ellison, as well as a number of more distant relatives.

This entry was respectfully submitted by John McGroarty, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on March 30, 2006. The information for this entry was provided by the South Dakota Vietnam Veteran’s bonus application, the Watertown Public Opinion 5/17/66 issue, and National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.  Additional information and profile approval by Jack Ellison, cousin.


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