Legionnaire of the Month
We thank the community members who continue to identify more Vietnam Vets. The most recent one we learned of is Ron Eitreim who has agreed to share some of his military experiences. We will start with some background information. Some may have noticed a different title in this Legion Article. It was interesting to me that Ron is one of the descendents of whom our Garretson Legion Post 23 is named after--Henry G. Fix. So it is appropriate that we introduce Ron as the grandson of Clarence Fix who was an older brother of Henry G. Fix. This also looks like a good opportunity to share a little more background about Ron’s great uncle. I had the opportunity to visit with Ron’s Mom, Henrietta at Palisade Manor. She prefers the name Hank and told me she was proud to be named after her Uncle Henry. In an effort to learn more I also talked with her sister Ella Mae. Ella said that back then people didn’t talk much about the war. My folks didn’t talk much about Henry. Before moving to Garretson they lived in Iowa. Before coming to IA they lived in Germany. She did not remember where in Germany but recalled being told that they moved around to avoid all the wars that went on in Europe. It seems ironical that Henry was perhaps shot by people of his own German heritage. Had his family never left Germany, he may have been fighting against Americans. For anyone who has not been to the Henry’s grave I would encourage you to stop at the large gravestone located in the NW corner of the Lutheran Cemetery and pay your respects. I copied some information from the below website
“Henry G. Fix was killed July 27, 1918. Family was not notified until Sept. 24, 1918. First mention of change of name of Post to Henry G. Fix Post 23 was in Dec 1921. Henry G. Fix was the son of Oliver and Henrietta Fix and was 20 years old when killed. A memorial service for him was held October 29, 1918. Remains were returned and a funeral was held June 19, 1922.” To Read more, go to http://centennial.legion.org/south-dakota/post23/1919/07/07/henry-g-fix-post-23-garretson-sd-established
OK, on with Ron’s story. Henry’s great nephew Ron was born 2/25/1950 in Sioux Falls to Lloyd and Henrietta Eitreim. He grew up in the Sioux Falls and Garretson Community with some time in Rapid City. Ron was the oldest child and has 3 brothers and 1 sister. In 1976 Ron entered the Job Corp and after completing that program with the equivalent of his High School Diploma he went down to visit with the Army Recruiter in Sioux Falls. The recruiter must have done a good job as Ron enlisted for 3 years in the Army. The next thing Ron knew, he was at Ft. Lewis taking his basic training.
Let’s let Ron tell the rest of his story. “I remember arriving at Ft. Lewis in March of 1968 and the weather was unpredictable. On the same day it could snow, then the sun would shine and before the day was over it was raining. It rained a lot and doing ‘the low crawl’ under wire with bullets shooting over our heads was no fun. But I got through it all and was sent to Ft. Ord, CA for 8 weeks of AIT training as a mechanic. After that they sent me to Ft. Hood, TX. We didn’t have a lot to do there and I sent in my 1049 requesting that I be assigned to Korea. I did not want to go to Nam and heard that the duty in Korea was much better. The next thing I knew, I was sent to Vietnam. Soon after arriving there I was talking with a Buck Sgt. who asks me if I liked dogs. I had grown up around all kinds of dogs and so I said “Yes”. The next thing I know, I was being trained as a Sentry Dog handler. A German shepherd dog was assigned to me and I had to work with him on a 25 ft. leash. It was important that from the start you showed them you were their boss and were dominant over them.
We would go out on patrol, with me and my dog taking the lead. We were in the jungle and slept in pup tents. When the hair stood up on my dog’s back, I knew there were enemies close by and shooting would soon start. We’d hit the dirt and would not get up until the shooting stopped. I never carried a M-16 as I needed both hands free to work with my dog. I did carry a 911 but you had to be really close to hit anything with that. One day I recall we were going into a village and we had a reporter accompanying us. Again, my dog reacted and shooting started. After it was all over, the reporter went into a hutch with me and saw a young kid—maybe 14 or 15 years old. The reporter said something to me about “you baby killers”. I got really mad and told him to look closer—under his body was a M-1 rifle with his finger still on the trigger.
One day when we came out of the field I was called in and told, you are not supposed to be here. You are supposed to be in Korea. The next thing I knew I was in Korea and assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 71st Artillery Unit in Camp Torothon. We were about 6 miles from the DMZ and on a clear night you could still see some fighting going on. Before I was assigned a dog I saw this huge German shepherd that was locked up. I ask about that dog and they said he was too aggressive and had injured handlers and therefore they were going to ‘put him away’. I said I wanted him and to make a long story short, I ended up with him—the best dog I ever had. But he was dominant and I had to show him more than once that I was the Alpha Male. In Korea, we walked patrol around our camp and basically were on guard duty. One day as we were patrolling, I heard a shot ring out and I hit the ground. The sniper took out my dog. I saw him up above the cyclone fence with Constantine wire. His rifle must have jammed before he could get more rounds off and I was able to take him out with my pistol.
After 13 months in Korea I was sent to Ft. Sill OK. From there I was sent to Ft. Riley KS but there was some mix up with my orders. I had gone home for a short time and they said I was AWOL. Finally we got things straightened out and I was discharged on May 28, 1971.
After getting home I went to work for Keeler Tire Co. I got married and we had 2 kids—a son Bobby and a daughter Heidi and have 5 grandkids. In 1974 I had back problems and was not able to work full time. As I get older, I have more health problems but I do what I can. I really enjoy getting out and doing some fishing. But we no longer have the big ‘Goudy Fish Feeds’ that we used to. In 1980 we moved to my Grandpa Clarence Fix’s place. We got divorced in 1981 and I moved in to stay with my mom.
I’m not one to attend meetings. But the American Legion is a good organization that does a lot of good. So when Mark Williamson ask me to join, I said why not and have paid my dues ever since.” Ron has ever since been an ongoing long time member of the American Legion, Post 23. The pride he takes in his membership is evidenced by the milestone ‘Continuous Membership Certificates’ he has posted on his wall. .
Ron, on behalf of our country, we thank you for your service.
For God and Country,
-Post 23 Member