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



In Memory of U.S. Army Private First Class

Donald Dean Layton

Leola, South Dakota, McPherson County

April 26, 1949 - August 4, 1970

Died of Wounds in Vietnam



Donald Dean Layton was born on April 26, 1949, in Leola, South Dakota, to Edward (Frank) and Dorothy (Serfoss) Layton. He had one brother, Leslie, and one sister, Arlyss. Donald attended most of his grade school years at Spring Township rural school and Leola Grade School. From there he moved to Frederick, South Dakota, where he finished grade school and went to high school until mid-senior year. In Donald’s senior year he moved with his family to Aberdeen and graduated from Central High School in 1967. Besides being a popular student and a true “gentleman,” Donald was an honor student and a very talented athlete, competing in football, basketball, and track. He was known to be a wonderful dancer, a skilled hunter, and a talented artist. Later he went to Northern State College for two and a half years. After two years in college he married his high school sweet heart, Diane Geranen, on June 3, 1970, in Frederick. His widow, Diane, remembered his entry into the service like this:

His idea was to serve his country, get out safely and make use of the veteran’s benefits to ultimately finish his college degree and get a good, strong start on our journey of married life. He wanted to be an Engineer and also get his Master’s Degree… He wanted to buy a nice acreage in the country, build a rambler house and have three healthy, happy children. He very much wanted a family and a normal family life, and was really looking forward to getting home and getting settled after his 2-year army hitch.

Donald Layton entered the service January 26, 1970. He received his basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington. On June 18, 1970, only two weeks after his marriage, Donald was sent to Chu Lai, Vietnam as a Private First Class in Company C, 5th Battalion, 46th Infantry Division, 198th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. He “dutifully wrote wonderful letters several times a week all the while he was in the service,” reported Diane. She remembers that his handwriting was beautiful.

On July 30, 1970, Army Private First Class Donald Dean Layton was wounded in Vietnam. According to his commanding officer:

…Donald’s unit was moving to its night defensive positions in the Nui Day Tham Mountains, approximately seven miles southwest of Tam Ky City, in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam.

At 5:50 P.M., Donald was seriously wounded when a concealed enemy explosive device was detonated. Donald was immediately evacuated by helicopter to the 91st Evacuation Hospital at Chu Lai. However, due to the seriousness of his wounds and despite every possible effort by skilled medical personnel, Donald passed away…

The family first heard of Donald’s injuries through the Brown County sheriff. Diane, desperate to get more information, contacted Senator McGovern since he was in Aberdeen giving a speech that day and he assisted the Laytons in getting more information about Donald’s wounds. On August 4, 1970, at 1:45 PM, Private First Class Donald Dean Layton died of his wounds. Diane remembers: “I received the dreaded knock on the door by two uniformed service personnel to deliver the final blow.” Donald’s body was returned in a glass-covered casket to the United States for his funeral service on August 15, 1970, in the same rural church where they had been married only two months earlier. After the service, he was buried with military honors at the Green Mound Cemetery near Leola.

Donald’s awards and medals included the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, Military Merit, National Defense, Republic of Vietnam Service Medal; Donald also had an expert badge on the machine gun, and auto, rifle, pistol.

Donald is currently survived by his mother, Dorothy Schlosser, Aberdeen, SD, his brother, Leslie Layton, Jerseyville, IL, his sister, Arlyss Ketterling, Leola, SD, and his widow, Diane (Layton) Von Bank, Shakopee, MN.

Donald’s commanding officer also wrote, “Donald was an exemplary soldier who gave his life assisting his fellowman and his country. He was greatly respected by the officers and men of this battalion, and his loss will be deeply felt.” His widow, Diane, closed with, “I still miss him terribly.”


This entry was respectfully submitted by Krista Kerutis and Tanner Triscori, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on March 31, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by a South Dakota Vietnam Veteran’s bonus application and the McPherson County Herald, issues 8/13/70, 8/20/70. Also Les Layton, brother, and Diane Von Bank, widow, provided information and profile approval.


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