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



In Memory of Army Corporal E-4

Russell William Kayser

Salem, South Dakota, McCook County

 November 14, 1949 – January 6, 1970

Killed in Action in Vietnam


Russell William Kayser was born November 14, 1949, to William and Gertrude Kayser in Mitchell, South Dakota. He had four siblings: Gary, Steve, Julie, and Joanne. After Russell was born, he and his family moved to Spencer, South Dakota. Russell grew up in the Spencer area, where he attended elementary school. He liked being outdoors and working on his uncle and aunt’s farm, as well as on the Nofziger’s farm, where he also enjoyed playing cards and talking. In fact, his own family referred to the Nofzigers as his “second family.” Then Russell and his family moved again, this time to Salem, South Dakota, where Russell enrolled for his senior year of high school at St. Mary’s. Because he was 6’7”, Russell was on the basketball team, although the sport wasn’t his passion. After graduation in 1968, Russell volunteered for the Army on January 6, 1969, hoping to get advanced training opportunities as a linesman that he thought he wouldn’t get if he waited to be drafted.

After his basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington, on June 9, 1969, Private Kayser, nicknamed ‘Tree’ by his fellow soldiers, was sent overseas to Vietnam, where he was stationed as part of 6th B.N., 11th Artillery, 11th Lib., Americal Division. Exactly one year after volunteering for service, on January 6, 1970, Private Russell Kayser perished at a fire base in Vietnam when, according to the official letter, Russell was trying to de-activate an enemy grenade when it detonated. On January 13, 1970, the Kayser family received a letter from General W. C. Westmoreland, in which he stated, “It was with sadness that I learned of the passing of your son, Private First Class Russell W. Kayser, on 6 January, in Vietnam.” He went on to say:

The memory of his service will be treasured by a grateful Nation because he has joined the long line of American soldiers who in times of national peril have given their lives for freedom and for peace. In Vietnam today, as on other fields in earlier days, we are defending the right of men to choose their own destiny, the right of men to live in dignity and freedom.

The body of Private Russell Kayser was returned to the United States and buried with military honors at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. In addition to being posthumously promoted to Corporal E-4, Russell Kayser received National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star and Vietnam Campaign Medal.

He is currently survived by his mother Gertrude Kayser of Salem; Gary Kayser of Sioux Falls; Steve Kayser of Crooks, South Dakota; Julie Hahler of Mansfield, South Dakota; and Joanne Wheeler of Madison, South Dakota.

In closing Gary, Russell’s little brother, had this to say about him:

Russell was my big brother. The one I looked up to for guidance and friendship. He did not disappoint. One cherished memory is when we were on a winter camping outing for the Boy Scouts. We were tenting it and it was very cold. Russell gave me his sleeping bag to use as well as my own. He sat by the fire all night to stay warm. He was that way with everyone.

Gary wrote to us on January 6, 2005, 35 years to the day of his brother’s death, although his comment was that “It seems like only yesterday.” His final thoughts were these: “We, his family, still have feelings of hurt and longing. We still talk about him at our family gatherings. Partly to just remember him and partly to pass on to the next generation, his nephews and nieces, his memory so that he will not be forgotten.”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Michaela Kileyl. Fuerstenau, 9th Grade, Spearfish High School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on April 27, 2005. Information and approval for this entry was obtained from the Kayser family via Gary Kayser, brother.


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