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



In Memory of U.S. Army Specialist Fourth Class

Arnold Dean Syrovatka

Ethan, South Dakota, Davison County

November 4, 1948 – October 15, 1967

Died from Wounds Received in South Vietnam


Arnold Dean Syrovatka, called Dean by family and friends, was born on November 4, 1948, in Mitchell, South Dakota, to John and Madeline (Miller) Syrovatka. Dean had nine half siblings; Lawrence, Ray, Robert, John, Jerry, and James were his brothers, and Lorraine, Janet, and Marie were sisters. His siblings remember that Dean had an imaginary playmate when he was very young and as he got older he liked playing with his BB gun and participating in sports or playing cards. According to his family, “Dean exhibited an independent streak, confident but at times rebellious and sometimes challenging to authority.” He was fun-loving but had a quick temper which sometimes got him into trouble in school. In addition to Ethan, Dean went to school in places like Renner, Sioux Falls, Tea, and Plankinton. A favorite teacher from Dean’s 8th grade year at Axtell Park Junior High in Sioux Falls, Mr. Sid Stallinga, wrote some of his memories about Dean: “At times he would get into trouble just to get attention … He did get into difficulty at school and since he was in my ‘homeroom,’ I was the teacher who had to keep him after school….” Upon spending so much time with him, Mr. Stallinga and his wife became very attached to Dean and they exchanged letters with him while he was in the service.

Dean Syrovatka enlisted in the Army on February 6, 1966, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and was trained at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Dean liked the service and started taking his education seriously. He hoped to get into the University of Colorado when he got out of the service. He once wrote home, “I don’t believe things could be better with me.” While stationed first in Stuttgart, and later Heidelberg, Germany, SP4 Syrovatka served as a clerk and a driver at the 7th Army Headquarters, a tour of duty he liked very much because “he was teaching English to some German friends” while they helped him with his own German, which he had first taken in high school. After about 53 weeks, on February 13 1967, SP4 Syrovatka commenced his tour of Vietnam, specifically to War Zone C. SP4 Syrovatka was with the 244th Psychological Operations Company, 6th Psychological Operations Battalion, where he was an intelligence analyst in Task Force Oregon, attached to the 101st Airborne Brigade/ 4th Marine Regiment. His job was, according to Dean himself, “to ask a lot of questions. My interrogation sometimes will last about 4-5 hours. I don’t like it any better than he [the person being questioned] does.” When he was off duty, Dean liked to play softball, among other things. He wrote home telling his family of one game that was called “due to circumstances—VC taking shots at them.”

In early May of 1967 SP4 Syrovatka wrote in another letter informing his family about the burns he’d suffered in a recent close call:

I got sent down to Chu Jai to join up with Task Force Oregon. I am attached to the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, so it just stands to reason why I was injured. I got hit with a white phosphorous grenade. We were flying in a chopper and were receiving sniper fire from the ground. A round came through the chopper and detonated the grenade. We were 1000 feet in the air when the chopper went down…I got burns on my hands and back, I was very lucky.

In June of 1967, after being hospitalized in Japan for his burns, he went back again to Task Force Oregon and the 101st Airborne. Other than telling them he was with the 4th Marine Regiment at Camp Evans (named for a South Dakotan, Paul Evans, from Sioux Falls who had been killed in the war) and that he was looking forward to R & R in Bangkok in September, his family heard little from him through the summer of 1967.

Dean’s family was notified on September 25, 1967, that he had been shot and was in a hospital in the Philippines. In a last letter that was “dictated to a caregiver at the hospital,” Arnold Dean Syrovatka told his family how much he loved them but did not explain his condition or the circumstances of his wounds. The family was later notified that their son and brother, Arnold Dean Syrovatka, died on Sunday, October 15, 1967 “from injuries from an unexplained gunshot wound to the abdomen.” His body was returned to the United States, and he was buried with full military honors on October 24, 1967, at Graceland Cemetery in the American Legion plot in Mitchell. His name can be found on the Vietnam Memorial, Panel 28E, Line 012.

SP4 Arnold Dean Syrovatka is currently survived by half brothers, Lawrence, Sioux City, Iowa; Ray, Tacoma, Washington; John, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Jerry, Stockton, California; and James, Gilroy, California; and his half sisters, Lorraine Kracke, Brookings, South Dakota; Marie Klinghagen, Hutchinson, Minnesota; and Janet Peterson, San Jose, California. He was preceded in death by a half brother, Robert.

Dean’s teacher wrote of him: “Dean is remembered with a fondness that does not diminish with time and with an assurance that he has been carried heavenward on Eagle’s Wings… knowing he is in God’s love and care.”

His siblings said in closing, “Dean touched many hearts in his short life. An empty spot lingers in family gatherings. Dean, our beloved soldier boy, is deeply missed.”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Mason Hall, 8th grade student, Spearfish Middle School, April 30, 2006. Information provided by the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application, Argus Leader issue 10/18/67, and the Syrovatka family through Marie Klinghagen, Dean’s sister. Profile approval by Marie Klinghagen.


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