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



      In Memory of U.S. Army Sergeant

Roy Dean Russell

Mission, South Dakota, Todd County

July 8, 1946 – July 13, 1971

Died of Wounds Received in Action in Vietnam


Roy Dean Russell was born in Winner, South Dakota, on July 8, 1946, to Clarence and Helen (Holmes) Russell; he grew up with two brothers, Dale and Jim on a ranch near Mission, South Dakota, where, while growing up, he and his brothers helped with ranching chores. In school Roy was a good student and athlete, not to mention that he excelled at carpentry, making his parents a cedar chest and gun cabinet in shop class. After graduating from Mission High School in 1964, Roy went to Black Hills State College in Spearfish for a time and then to a trade school in Fargo, North Dakota. After that he worked at the Farmers Coop and then a finance company in Omaha, Nebraska. In the summers he played amateur baseball and liked boating and water skiing plus driving his prized cars: a gold 1963 Chevy Impala SS and a blue 1967 Chevy Impala SS. Roy’s family wrote of him: “Roy was a loving, outgoing, dedicated, hard working man who made friends quite easily and had a sense of humor that could make the dust laugh.”

Roy Russell was drafted and entered active service on June 10, 1970, at Sioux Falls. He was trained first at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and then Fort Ord, California. As a life-long hunter, in a letter home he wrote that his M16 would make a dandy rabbit gun.” On November 15, 1970, Sergeant Russell commenced his tour of Vietnam in 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, 198th Infantry Brigade, and 23rd Infantry Division (Americal).

His brother, Jim said, “Roy was particularly well liked by fellow solders and officers. Roy frequently served as the point man for his platoon because his fellow soldiers liked his cautious approach to finding booby traps and the way that he kept his fellow soldiers out of danger.” He was respected for his ability with the M60 machine gun and the M16 rifle. If he wasn’t on patrol, Roy was known to play poker at various fire bases. In his frequent letters home, Roy would describe his experiences, even sending photos, while telling them not to worry. He made it clear that he didn’t want to be a “lifer” in the military. Because it was hard to know who was friend and who was enemy (some Vietnamese were citizens by day and Viet Cong by night), he and his comrades had nicknames for each other—Roy was “Matt Dillion” because they thought he looked like the star of Gun Smoke. In fact, some soldiers only knew each other by their nicknames.

Shortly before he was to go on R & R, on July 13, 1971, Sergeant Roy Dean Russell was “serving as point man for his patrol” when both he and an NVA point man “both entered a small clearing in the jungle approximately 50 yards across at the same time. Both raised their weapons and fired—each receiving a fatal wound from the other’s fire.” Roy, suffering severe upper chest wounds, died while he was in a helicopter being transported to a MASH unit. The rest of Roy’s unit was moved back from the front lines soon thereafter because of the de-escalation order.

Roy’s body was returned to the United States and buried with full military honors in Winner, South Dakota, on July 22, 1971. Because of the love that the community had for Roy and his family, the town’s businesses were closed during his funeral service.

Dated July 24, 1971, Jim’s parents received a letter from Roy’s commanding officer which included the following specific details:

… On the afternoon of July 13, 1971, Roy’s unit was participating in a day patrol near the village of Trang Chanh, approximately 16 miles south of Tam Ky City, in Quang Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam. At 1:15 PM Roy received a fatal gunshot wound to the chest when the unit came under intense enemy small arms fire.

Since joining our unit, Roy gained the respect and admiration of all who knew and worked with him. In these hours of sorrow, there is little I can say except we will all miss your son. I hope you can find some solace in the knowledge that your grief is shared by every member of this battalion….

Roy is survived by his father, Clarence Russell, Pierre, SD, and his brothers, Jim and Dale Russell, both of Rapid City.


This entry was submitted by Nick Tintinger, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on April 29, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by a South Dakota Vietnam Veteran’s bonus application, the Todd County Tribune, 7/22/71, 7/29/71 issues, and the Russell family via Jim Russell, brother. Profile approval by Jim Russell.


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