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



In Memory of U.S Army Staff Sergeant

Steven Mark Kuster

Rapid City, South Dakota, Pennington County

April 1, 1948 -- February 7, 1970

Killed in Action in Vietnam

Steven Mark Kuster was born on April 1, 1948 in Rapid City, South Dakota to Henry and Elma (Schipke) Kuster. He had two brothers, Dick, Clarence, and a third brother, Dennis, who preceded him in death; he also had three sisters, Teresa, Zita, and Dessie. He attended the Rapid City schools throughout his school career, including St. John’s, Wilson Elementary, and South Junior High. Steven graduated from Rapid City High School in 1966. Steven liked to hunt, fish, play football, wrestle, and explore the “backroads of the Black Hills.” He worked at Hermanson’s Grocery Store during high school and from 1966-1968, he attended South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Steven’s mother was involved in designing the Kibben – Kuster Elementary School in Rapid City.

His brother, Richard, had these memories of Steven: “He was my best friend. He was a very selfless person and would give you the shirt off his back if you asked for it. He was an easy going person and fun to be around. He had a wry sense of humor. Just an all around good guy.” His sister, Dessie, remembers that they teased Steve about his birthday which was on April Fool’s Day and that on birthdays their mother, Elma, always made them their favorite dinner and cake and that Steve’s was “Boston brown bread and baked beans,” and once he had a “covered wagon” cake that had “Boston’s brown bread with plastic people riding the wagon across the prairie.”

Steven volunteered and entered active service circa 1968. After his basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington, he had additional training in the Special Forces group while “in country.” When he went overseas in April of 1968, Staff Sergeant Steven Kuster was attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the An Khe area of Vietnam. Later S/Sgt. Kuster was stationed with Special Forces in the Kontum area where he served as a Green Beret and was part of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (Provisional) unit known as the LRRP. They were trained where they fought. Most of his letters, according to his brother Richard, “stated that he was safe and told me not to worry” but were written prior to his being in the Special Forces. After that, his letters were fewer as his duties were top secret.

Staff Sergeant Steven Mark Kuster was killed on February 7, 1970 near An Khe in South Vietnam. According to his brother:

He was a squad leader and had assigned some men for water detail. At the last minute one of the men reported to him that he was ill. Instead of finding another soldier to go, Steve went himself. The road had been swept for mines and was declared clear but the delay of a few minutes allowed the Cong to remine the road. The result proved to be fatal for Steve and several other soldiers.

His body was returned to the United States and buried with military honors at Black Hills National Cemetery. According to Dessie, it was “a great comfort to have Steven’s remains returned home. We never had to undergo the agony of those families whose loved ones were missing in action or prisoners of war.” The family was also grateful when they knew for sure he had been killed immediately and did not suffer. The soldier whose place Steve took contacted the Kuster family when he returned from Vietnam and then wrote to them for a time.

Prior to his death, S/Sgt. Kuster had been awarded the Bronze Star with first and second oak leaf clusters, the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze service star, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Parachutist Badge. Posthumously he was awarded a third Bronze Star oak leaf cluster and the Purple Heart.

Current survivors include two brothers, Clarence, Seaton, Illinois; and Dick, Riverton, Wyoming; two sisters, Dessie Kuster-Severson, Bradford, Pennsylvania; and Zita Kuster-Illum, Pine, Colorado. Steve’s mom and dad, Henry and Elma, and his sister, Teresa, have passed away.

In closing, Steve’s family agreed that even 36 years later, it is difficult to reconcile their loss. “Even though it has been 36 years, the wound is still fresh and the grief very much alive. We all miss him very much.”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Dustin Conway, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on February 7, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by an obituary in the Rapid City Journal, dated February 12, 1970. Additional information and profile approval by Dessie Severson and Richard Kuster.


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