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



In Memory of U.S. Army Private First Class

David Lee Rickels

Timber Lake, South Dakota, Dewey County

April 19, 1947 – February 3, 1968

Killed in Action in Kontum Province, Southern Vietnam

David Lee Rickels was born on April 19, 1947, in Raton, New Mexico, to Elliott and Mildred Rickels. He had two brothers, Mac and Bud, and five sisters, Joyce, Marie, Laura, Kathy, and Betty. David attended grade school until he was ten in South Dakota, he then moved with his family to Texas where he went to school until tenth grade, before moving in with his uncle in South Dakota, graduating from Timber Lake High School in 1966. During his time in South Dakota, he worked on his uncle’s ranch. David loved rodeo, especially bareback.

David Rickels entered the service on May 25, 1967, at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. David was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for basic training June 2, 1967, and then to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for Advanced Infantry Training on August 12, 1967. PFC Rickels was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. He arrived in Vietnam on November 14, 1967. In his last letter home, postmarked January 31, 1968, David wrote these lines:

….We’ve moved back up around Dak To and the hills are just as steep as I remembered them to be. But all this will probably seem like it was a picnic when the monsoon season gets here. I’ve got a new 16 now; it’s a brand new model with a chrome bolt and chamber. Probably as worthless as the rest of ‘em but it ain’t give no trouble yet. The Lt. got me one of them starlight scopes I was telling you about; it’s as heavy as a 105 but it looks like it might work pretty good. If it don’t I’ll can the sniper plan….

On February 9, 1968, Mr. and Mrs. Elliott Rickels received a telegram from the government saying that Army Private First Class Rickels was reported missing in action; it read:

The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your son, Private First Class David L. Rickels has been missing in Vietnam since 3 Feb 68. He was last seen in base camp when camp came under a hostile rocket attack. Search is in progress. Delay in notifying you of your son’s missing status was due to the tactical situation existing in Vietnam for the past few days.

On February 26, 1968, they received another telegram that told them of their son’s death; it read:

The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your son, Private First Class David L. Rickels died in Vietnam on 3 February 1968 as a result of metal fragment wounds received in the incident previously reported to you. He was previously reported as missing (His remains have been recovered). This confirms personal notification made by a representative of the Army. Please accept my deepest sympathy.

Private First Class David Rickels’ remains were accompanied by a military escort to Love Field, Dallas, Texas on March 1, 1968, and was buried with military honors March 3, 1968 at Pioneer Cemetery in Graham, Texas. He was awarded many medals and citations; one of them was the Bronze Star with a V for Valor. The following is part of his citation:

For heroism in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Private First Class Rickels distinguished himself while serving as an Infantryman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Division. On 3 February 1968, Company C was pulling perimeter security at a base near Dak To, Kontum Province. In the early evening, the perimeter was subjected to indirect enemy rocket and mortar fire from distant hills. Just before moving into his bunker, Private First Class Rickels saw a vehicle hit by enemy fire. He yelled to his comrades in the bunker and led the way to the vehicle to aid the wounded. As the small group of men ran to aid the wounded soldiers, an enemy rocket impacted near them and Private First Class Rickels was mortally wounded. Private First Class Rickels’ personal bravery, professional integrity and devotion to his fellow comrades and his duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

David’s girlfriend’s photo is on the butt of his rifle

Current survivors include his four sisters, Joyce, Laura, Kathy, Betty, and his two brothers, Mac and Bud. The family’s closing comments in regard to David, “We will always love and miss our brother. We honor his memory and will never forget him.”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Nick Smith and Brian Jones, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on February 8, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by the Rickels’ family via Laura Rickels, Graham, Texas, sister of David. Profile approval by Laura Rickels.


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