While looking for the missing photo of Past Commander Al Thomas I was visiting with Roger Megard and learned about his brother Duane. I felt that his story should also be recorded and shared with members of our community. So here is a bit of what I learned. Duane was born in 1928 to Oscar and Mabel (Larson) Megard at the Garretson Hospital under the care of Dr. DeVall. Duane attended District #86 country school and was very active in 4-H earning top honors and awards with his projects. He loved to play baseball and even at an early age was always a ‘showman’ entertaining the crowd with his catcher antics. He attended Garretson high school and as one might expect was a very popular student. With his good nature and fun loving personality it is easy to see why he was popular and liked by all. It is still remembered that at the high school pep rallies, Duane was always the center of entertainment. Most of his friends knew him as “Diz”. Roger told me he acquired this nickname at a dance. He was dancing up a storm and told someone “I’ve got to slow down as I’m feeling dizzy”. The name stuck.
Although Duane liked to have a good time he was also hard working and serious about studies. He did well in school and was sponsored by the Garretson Legion to attend Boy’s State. After high school he attended and graduated with a degree in Economics from South Dakota State College. His intent was to become a banker with emphasis on agriculture banking. While in college, he was in ROTC for 2 years (required). The “Korean Conflict” was going strong and the military needed replacement troops. Upon graduation Duane was drafted and inducted in the Army January 17, 1951. Interestingly, several other young Garretson men-John Lerdal, Roger Engebretson, Menford Monger and Alton Rogen and were all drafted and sent as a group to Ft. Riley, Kansas. We are fortunate to still have one eye witness who can give us a little insight to what Duane’s life was like at Ft. Riley. Here is what Alton Rogen had to say. “Duane and I were best of friends starting way back in 4-H. His red hair made him stand out as a real fun character. We went to college at the same school and had some great clean fun times together. A bunch of us were drafted and sent to Ft. Riley at the same time. Back then basic training was really tough. It was winter and we had to do forced marches with our M-1 rifle and full field back packs. Duane was really tall and did not weigh much but he was wiry and tough. Even a lot of big guys didn’t make it through those some forced marches but Duane never fell out. After this rigorous basic and infantry training Duane returned home for a short leave and knew that he was going to Korea. He must have had a premonition or some sixth sense as when he was home on this short leave he told his uncle and several of his friends that he would not come back alive. Perhaps that is why he chose not to become engaged to a girlfriend who he planned to someday marry.
Duane first went to Washington and on June 18th was sent to Korea. He was immediately sent to the front line infantry to replace others killed in action. The group was split up so we no longer have any eye witness to give us details. We do know that after some time on the front he was reassigned as an Honor Guard to the Press Train near Munson where the peace talks were taking place. However, after a short time he was again sent back to the front line for the 3rd time. Unfortunately his premonition came true and at the age of 22, Cpl. Duane Megard’s life was cut short. He was killed by shrapnel on October 7, 1951.
At that time, it was the rural mail carrier that had the unpleasant duty to inform the parents of the death of a military person. The mail carrier was Lyder Larson, a relative of Duane’s mother so he asked Ernest Larson, a neighbor, to join in revealing the sad news. On October 7, 1951, the day the death notice was received was also homecoming at Garretson High School. Oscar and Mabel knew that their other son Roger was scheduled to M.C. the homecoming ceremony and crown the queen. His parents chose not to tell him of the death until after the crowning ceremony. Interestingly, six years earlier Duane who was the student body president had the same honor to crown the queen. As a side note, since these stories are all military related, this relates to his brother Roger. When he was at SDSC (now SDSU) he was compelled to take ROTC for two years but would never serve in the military because he was left as an only child.
Duane’s body was not returned to Garretson until January 1952. On January 27th funeral services were conducted at Highland Lutheran Church with Henry G. Fix Honor Guard performing military rites.
About 20 years ago, Halvor Undem, a preacher’s kid from Sherman and a Garretson High School alum came back and was visiting friends. He was walking the cemetery outside Highland Church when he came upon Duane’s grave with the birth and death dates on the stone. He said, how a life with so much future could be taken at such a young age. He asked if he could plan a special memorial service in Highland Lutheran Church. This he did and the principle speaker was Senator John Thune. It was such an appropriate tribute.
So this limited story is my final tribute and thanks to Duane Megard another great young man who made the ultimate sacrifice. Although I did not know Duane he sounds like the kind of person who would just want to be your friend and enjoy life. May there be peace on earth.
PS I happened upon this story by accident and like all the 30+ other interviews, not one of them came to me and said “let me tell you my story”. Only through friends or relatives do I learn of other stories that should be recorded and told. If you know of others that might be of interest, give me a call. Thanks
American Legion Post 23