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



In Memory of Marine Pfc.

John Arthur Peterson

Brookings, South Dakota, Brookings County

March 13, 1947 Ė May 28, 1967

Died in Quang Nam Province, Southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam

John Arthur Peterson was born on March 13, 1947 to Carl Willard and Melinda (Olson) Peterson in Alcester, South Dakota. He had two brothers: Steven and Ward, and a sister, Ann. John grew up on a farm near Alcester until he was 13 years old when his family moved into Alcester. He loved to hunt on the farm and played football and basketball at Alcester High. John graduated from Alcester High School and attended one year of college at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota. His parents moved to Brookings after he was out of high school.

John Peterson enlisted with the Marines on August 31, 1966 since he knew he would be drafted, and John said if he were to go he wanted to be with the best. After basic training at Camp Pendleton, California, Pfc. John Peterson arrived in Vietnam on February 9, 1967 with the 1st Marines, 1st Regiment. He was engaged in combat patrols and on March 23, 1967 was wounded in the leg by a sniper on one of those patrols. Marine Pfc. Peterson was awarded the Purple Heart for this injury, and offered a trip home. His uncle, Dennis Hultgren wrote:

Because of his devotion to duty, and the comradeship he felt toward his fellow Marines, he chose to return to the same unit after recovery from his wounds. He wanted to be with, and serve with his friends. He knew he was needed.

In a letter to his parents dated April 20, 1967, Pfc. Peterson wrote, in part:

Itís so hard to keep track of time over here. Either going on patrols or working detail during the day and night ambush or standing lines at night, it seems like a guy doesnít have days and date over here. Itís all just one long year of time, no weekends, no Sundays, and never any time off. Just one long working day.

Well, just got the word this afternoon that weíll be moving again. Donít know where this time. Some outpost as far as Iíve heard. They donít tell us too much till we get where we are going. Things are going pretty good around here now. Another 14 days and Iíll be ľ done with my tourÖ

On May 28, 1967, Pfc. John Arthur Peterson was on patrol again in Quang Nam Province, in the highlands near the Laotian border. An explosive device killed him instantly when a piece of shrapnel hit his head. His funeral was held in the church in Alcester where he was baptized and confirmed. Marine Pfc. John Peterson was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery, in Alcester, South Dakota. He was awarded a second Purple Heart and several other medals, including decorations from the Republic of Vietnam.

The name of Pfc. John Arthur Peterson can be seen on Panel 21E, Row 006 of the Vietnam Veteransí Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. His brother, Steven, wrote:

The first time we went I thought we would just see his name and remember him (and I am a hard bitten engineer). When we saw the wall my eyes filled with tears. It is a very emotional experience. It took me a year to begin to come to grips with losing my brother and my parents never really did.

My brother was fond of children. My wife and I had our first child who was 3 years old when John died. Scott was Johnís pride and joy. He continued his love for children when he went to Vietnam. They were helping an orphanage and my parents sent memorials to it after his death.

The words of Pfc. Petersonís uncle, Dennis Hultgren, seem a fitting closing:

Let the stranger who may in future times read this story recognize that these soldiers were brave men who power could not corrupt, and Death could not terrify. And let their virtues plead for just Judgment of the cause in which they perished. And let us remember that these young men knew how to live, and if need be, they knew how to die. They have preserved for us all the price- less treasure of their memories. They have taught we who have the same birthright that Truth, Courage and Patriotism endure forever.

Shirley Swanson, Stanley County Middle School, Fort Pierre, South Dakota, March 28, 2006 respectfully submitted this entry. Dennis and Nelda Hultgen, Akron, Iowa, uncle and aunt to Pfc. Peterson, and Steven Peterson, Vernon, Connecticut, brother, provided the information.


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