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



In Memory of U.S. Army Sergeant

Darwin Lyn Labahn

Burke, South Dakota, Gregory County

May 5, 1949 -- June 3, 1969


Killed in Action in Vietnam


Darwin Lyn Labahn was born on May 5, 1949, in Burke, South Dakota, to Vernon R. and Iola (Ragan) Labahn. Darwin was generally referred to as Lyn. He had two brothers, Vernon Eugene (Gene) and Roger Duane, and eight sisters, Barbara Lillian (Barb), Judy Noreen, Kay Ann, Connie Lou, Patricia Mae (Patty), Cynthia Marie (Cindy), and Janet Lea. When he was five, Lyn’s family moved from Burke to Gregory, South Dakota. Darwin attended grade school in Gregory; in grade school he liked to swim, play ball, ride bikes, read, and play marbles. About the middle of his freshman year his family moved back to Burke where Lyn graduated high school in 1967. According to his family,

Lyn spent hours putting together models of battleships, helicopters, tanks, fighter jets, bombers, and other military vehicles. His Grandfather Claude Ragan built a child’s table and chairs for the younger children of the family. He would pull the table up to the sofa and spend hours putting together his models. When he was feeling ill, he would take his mind off of his upset stomach or sore throat by playing with his little green army men, tanks and tents. While lying in bed, Lyn would build hills and valleys out of his bedcovers, and would sometimes fall asleep with his toys surrounding him.

Darwin Lyn enlisted in the army right out of high school and left on June 27, 1967 for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Proceeding basic training he went to Fort Knox in Kentucky for armored training. Sergeant Labahn was sent overseas to Vietnam on October 28, 1969, as a Sheridan Tank Commander for Troop C, 1st Squadron, of 11th Armored Calvary Regiment. The following is part of Sergeant Darwin’s letter to his family on June 3rd, 1969, which was written the day he died:

… I don’t care why they [Vietcong] aren’t standing and fighting and I don’t care as long as they are running… I hate to quit but the word was just put out that we are moving out in 5 minutes and I want to get this sent cause I don’t know when I will get to write again.

On June 3, 1969, Sergeant Darwin Lyn Labahn was killed in Vietnam. According to 1st Lt. James M. Usher, Sergeant Labahn’s unit was in the jungle “when he drove into a trap set by the Vietcong. Darwin’s platoon was in the lead and Darwin was driving the lead tank. The right track of his tank hooked a very thick vine which was attached to a large dead tree. As he pushed forward, the dead tree snapped and fell on top of Darwin.” A letter later written to the family by Colonel James H Leach says, “A military commander’s most difficult and heart breaking task is to write to the family of one of his men who has lost his life in the service of his country…” Sergeant Labahn was buried in Burke, South Dakota on June 15, 1969 at Graceland cemetery with full military honors.

Sergeant Labahn received the following medals: Military Merit Medal, Gallantry Cross with a Palm, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Infantry Badge. Prior to his death he received: National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with One Bronze Service Star, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, Expert Badge with automatic rifle bar and the Sharpshooter Badge with rifle bar. The following is his citation for the Bronze Star:

For distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the republic of Vietnam during the period January 1969 to June 1969. Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results. He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he was faced as a result of the ever changing situations inherent in a counterinsurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems. The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States Mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the communist threat to its freedom. His initiative, zeal, sound judgment and devotion to duty have been in the highest tradition of the United States Army and reflect great credit on him and on the military service.

Current survivors include his mother, Iola Labahn, Sioux Falls; and his siblings: Barbara Sanders, O’Neil, NE; Gene Labahn of Springfield, MO; Judy Hoffman, Butte, NE; Kay Grim, Grand Forks, ND; Connie Moore, Springfield, MO; Patty Kuchta, Sioux Falls; Roger Labahn, Tempe, AZ; Cindy Zeeb, Watertown, SD; and Janet Hanson, Sioux Falls. In closing, his family said, “Lyn truly lived and breathed the military and they believe he died living out his life long dream.”


This entry was respectfully submitted by Alex Reid and Chase Hartje, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, February 10, 2006. This information in this entry was provided by Patricia (Labahn) Kuchta, sister, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application. Profile approval by Patricia Kuchta.


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