U.S. Marine Private First Class
Dexter was born in Graceville, Minnesota, on May 21, 1947, the
first child of Clifford and Lillian (Pratt) Dexter. He moved
with his parents to Milbank, South Dakota, where his father
worked for Dakota Granite Company. Ronald and his three
siblings, Bruce, Douglas, and Lisa, were raised and educated in
Milbank. Ronald had a love of baseball and was a left-handed
pitcher for the VFW Teeners in 1961. He later received an
achievement award from Milbank High School and graduated in May
of 1965. During the summer after high school, Ronald worked for
the city of Milbank as a caretaker of the city parks. His
supervisor, Mr. Darrell Pribyl, remembers Ronald as “a
dependable and able helper.”
On June 2, 1965,
Ronald received notice that he had been accepted into the United
States Marine Corps and left for basic training in San Diego,
California, on September 21, 1965. Later that year, on December
17, Ronald returned home on leave and “met his baby sister,
Lisa, who was born that day.” His family recalls how happy he
was to have a sister. While still on leave, on December 28,
Ronald married Patricia Roggenbuck, and the couple went to Camp
Pendleton, California, where their daughter, Rhonda Kay, was
born on April 29, 1966, just a few months before Ronald was sent
overseas as part of the 1st Battalion, 26th
Marines, Co. D., 3rd Platoon.
aboard the USS Iwo Jima aircraft carrier, PFC Dexter
wrote home in a letter dated August 14, 1966, that he was
“floating about 200 miles north of Saigon,” and that he “didn’t
realize how big the ocean was.” He knew, however, that he was
about to go into combat. On August 16, 1966, he was among the
1,000 Marines who came ashore in Vietnam from the Iwo Jima.
His last letter home was dated just days later, August 22, 1966.
Ronald’s mother then wrote him a letter dated September 12,
which was later found among his belongings.
19, 1966, Marine Private First Class Ronald Clifford Dexter was
killed by a missile wound to the head in the vicinity of the
Quang Tri Province while he was fighting the enemy. Ronald’s
parents were notified by telegram the next day.
The body of PFC
Ronald C. Dexter was returned to the United States and after a
funeral, he was buried with military honors that included a
13-Marine Honor Guard at the Milbank cemetery on October 1,
1966. His family remembers, “It was a very hard day for his
family, classmates, and the whole town.” Ronald was the only
casualty of Vietnam from Grant County.
sister, Lisa, was only 9 months old when he died, so she never
knew him, but says that his memory is kept alive by the family’s
talking about and remembering him. Every September 19, Ronald’s
friend, George R. Gunzl, calls from Florida. He says that he
“held Ronald when he went to be with the Lord, and he was a
PFC Dexter was
awarded the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation, the
Combat Action Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross
Citation, Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.
is currently survived by his wife who has remarried, his
daughter, Rhonda, who is married with two children, his parents,
Clifford and Lillian, his brothers, Bruce, Willmar, MN; Douglas,
Milbank; and sister, Lisa (Dexter) Robison, Sioux Falls, SD.
This entry was respectfully submitted by Chantelle Janke, 9th
Grade, Spearfish High School, Spearfish, South Dakota.
Information and approval for this entry was provided by the
Dexter family via Clifford, father.