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



In Memory of U.S. Army Private First Class

Steven John Surma

Waubay, South Dakota, Day County

September 21, 1946 – April 15, 1967

Killed in Action in Tay Nihn, Vietnam

Steven John Surma was born on September 21, 1946, in Muskegon, Michigan, to Stanley and Mildred Surma. He had three brothers, Stuart, Alan, Jon, and four sisters, Carolyn, Mary, Gayle, and Sandra. While Steven was young, his family moved to Waubay in Day County of South Dakota. Steven graduated from Waubay High School in 1964. Steven then farmed on his family’s farm. Steven enjoyed playing on the church softball team and was considered “an excellent batter”; he also loved to hunt, fish, and trap.

Steven John Surma entered the service on August 4, 1966, in Waubay, South Dakota. He did his basic training at Fort Lewis in Washington. He took Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) in Fort Polk, Louisiana. He came home on leave during Christmas of 1966 before he was sent overseas on January 5, 1967, to Vietnam and was stationed at Tay Nihn and Cu Chi. Private First Class Surma was part of Company B, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, and 25th Infantry Division. In a letter to his older brother, Stuart Surma, on February 25, 1967, Steven wrote these words:

Vietnam is a quite a nice place. A guy doesn’t really know what it’s like until you get over here. Right now we are on a big operation by Tay Nihn, Vietnam. It started about five days ago and I think it will last for quite awhile. Possibly until mid-April. These jungles are really something here. It seems you can never find the end to them. They’re really thick too, with many vines, all over the place. As you probably know I am with a mechanized outfit…I really like the tracks [Armored Personnel Carriers] except for one thing, mines. Our company has hit 5 or 6 already on this operation and they sure can goof up a track. Most of the time no one gets hurt inside the tracks but they usually get shook up pretty good…. Right now I’m the machine gunner in our squad. I carry the M-60 machine gun. I really like it as it was new when I got it. I’ve got t broken in pretty good now, as I will have fired over 2,000 rounds through it. One thing nice about the tracks you can carry plenty of ammo. I carry about 3,000 rounds all the time….

Private First Class Steven John Surma was killed in action in Tay Nihn, Vietnam, on April 15, 1967, when he was on top of an armored personnel carrier when hit by a claymore mine. His brother, Stuart, was sent to Vietnam “to the exact same place where Steve was killed—four months later.” His family says the only good thing was that he was able to visit Steve’s old unit and look at his file to see how he’d been killed.

Steve’s body was returned to the United of States and a funeral service was held at Egeland Lutheran Church rural Waubay in April 1967. Among his awards PFC Surma received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star posthumously. His Bronze Star citation included the following words: “in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results.”

Steven is currently survived by three brothers, Stuart (Dee Ann) Surma of Java, South Dakota; Alan Surma of Waubay; Jon Surma of Rapid City, South Dakota; and four sisters, Carolyn Kennedy of South Shore, South Dakota; Gayle Wordes of Sacred Heart, Minnesota; Sandra Surma of Houston, Texas; and Mary Barse of Brookings, South Dakota. Their mother, Mildred, died in 1996 and their father, Stanley, died in 1997.

Steven’s cousin, Arden Olson, from Oregon once wanted to leave a remembrance at the Vietnam Virtual Wall on the Internet. When he asked Stanley, Steven’s dad, what he should put, Stanley said, “Say he was a farmer.”

His sister, Gayle, posted this remembrance of him on on February 21, 2004:

Steven was my brother. I was about 11 years old when he was killed. I remember when he was home for Christmas we all had our family picture taken. Steven had his uniform on as he proudly displayed the fact that he was in the army. When Steve was killed, I was at school in Sioux Falls when I learned I was going home. It was strange because it was in the middle of the week. My parents told me when I arrived in Watertown on the bus. I remember the exact words my mother said when I asked why they sent for me. "Our poor Stevie was killed," she said, her voice breaking with emotion and tears. I looked over at my Dad and it was the first time I saw my Dad in tears. We all loved this man and missed him throughout the years. I don't remember much about him but I do remember gentleness about him…We will never forget him!!

This entry was respectfully submitted by Tony Nelson, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on February 9, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by Stuart Surma, Java, South Dakota, brother of Steven Surma; a South Dakota Vietnam Veteran’s bonus application, and Profile approval by Stuart Surma.


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