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



In Memory of U.S Army Specialist Fifth Class

Samuel Joseph Jorgensen

Pukwana, South Dakota, Brule County

October 25, 1949 -- February 14, 1970

Died of Wounds in 45th Surgical Hospital in Vietnam

Samuel Joseph “Sammy” Jorgensen was born October 25, 1949, in Chamberlain, South Dakota, to Lenford “Jiggs” and Ellen (Scales) Jorgensen. He had two brothers, James (Jimmy) and Larry, and two sisters, Sarah (Sally) and Linda. Samuel attended grade school at one-room school houses, Lindley and Prairie Star, in Lyman County north of Reliance. He then went to Chamberlain High School, graduating in 1967. Samuel had a lot of interests, such as wrestling, motorcycles, shooting guns, and swimming. He worked at Charlie’s Steak House as a dishwasher during high school. Sam also had a love for fast cars. He was an easy going person; he loved to be around people, so he had lots of friends. His sister, Linda, recalls that Samuel “always looked after Jimmy and me and spent lots of time playing with us.” She remembers that he took her to buy new clothes on her birthday because he was “generous and caring.”

Samuel Jorgensen entered the service on June 26, 1967, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and he did his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He also did tank and armored corps training in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and Fort Knox, Kentucky. Linda had this memory:

I remember one time when he was going to come home on leave. He snuck out early from the base because he had a ride part way home. He hitch hiked the rest of the way and the last leg caught a ride with a highway patrolman. He was nervous the rest of the way because he thought he may have been caught, but when he called the base no one had even noticed he left early.

Jorgensen was sent to Vietnam and commenced his first 12-month tour as part of Company M, 3rd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, “Blackhorse Division.” While serving, Samuel’s mother passed away in April of 1969, so he came home on leave for a month before returning to Vietnam. He then signed up for a second 6-month tour, and again came home for a month’s leave before returning to Vietnam in September of 1969.

Specialist Fifth Class Samuel Joseph Jorgensen died on February 14, 1970 in Tay Ninh, South Vietnam, one month before the end of his second tour in Vietnam while serving as the platoon leader and tank commander. The following quote is from his sister Linda when she found out that he’d been killed:

My memory is of a very cold and snowy February day. I had stayed home from school with my dad when I noticed this dark colored car coming up the driveway. Two men in uniforms came to the door and asked to speak to my dad. It was February 19th and I realized it had taken 5 days for the military to notify my family of my brother’s death. That seemed like a very long time.

His commanding officer later sent a letter to the family with more specific information. The following lines were included: “On the afternoon of 14 February 1970, your son was performing his duties as a gunner on a tank when his tank was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. Samuel was given immediate attention by our medic, but succumbed to his wounds a short time later.”

After his body was returned to the United States, Samuel Jorgensen’s funeral was at the United Church in Chamberlain, South Dakota. He was then buried at the River View Cemetery with military honors.

Samuel Jorgensen received many awards including a Bronze Star, a Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal, and National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device(1960), Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation, and a Sharpshooter Badge with Pistol and Rifle Bars. The following is from his Bronze Star Medal citation:

Specialist Five Jorgensen distinguished himself by heroism in connection with ground operations against a hostile force on 14 Feb. 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 man 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 service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

Current survivors include Larry (Jan) Jorgensen of Greeley, Colorado; Sarah (Art) Smith of Sheridan, Wyoming; James R. (Joyce) Jorgensen of Pflugerville, Texas; Linda (David) Kiester of Sheridan, Wyoming. He was preceded in death by his mother, Ellen, in April of 1969. Here are Linda’s closing words about her brother, Samuel:

I was surprised at how difficult this was for me to do. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my brother. We were very close. My brother’s death 10 short months after my mother died nearly killed my father. He was in frail health the remaining years of his life.

A friend of Samuel’s, CDR Paul Williamson, posted a remembrance of him on and in it were these words: “Sam’s life was taken in defense of his country’s interests on Valentine’s Day 1970. Sam was twenty years old. Sam never had the chance to enjoy so much of the life that we take for granted.”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Brittney Mills, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle school, February 10, 2006. The information for this entry was provided by Linda Kiester, sister, Sheridan, Wyoming, the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application, and the Brule County News, issues 2/19/70 and 2/26/70, and Profile approval by Linda Kiester.


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