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Our Honored Dead: Vietnam

David Alan Younk 

A SOLDIER REMEMBERED. . . .MEMORIAL DAY, 1986

(By Joyce Moran)

Occasionally one is heard to complain, "Man, Iíve had a long day!" June 20, 1967 was a short day for David Younk of Royalton, Minnesota. It lasted just three hours, for it was at 3:00 a.m. that day in Vietnam that an enemy grenade found David as its target and ripped into his young body, killing him instantly.

David was born on September 9, 1946 to Helen and Joe Younk of rural Royalton. He had two older brothers, Joe Jr. and Jim, and a younger sister, Dorothy. "He was especially close to his Dad," recalled his mother. "He loved the farm and working side by side with his Dad."

David graduated from Royalton High School in 1964 and, because of his interest in motors, he went on for more schooling at the Humboldt Institute in Minneapolis. After graduating from there he accepted a job with Delta Airlines at the OíHare Airport in Chicago. His job was to attend to the maintenance of the engines on their airplanes.

According to his mother, "David had been at this job for a year and a half when, in May 1966, he was drafted into the Army. He really liked his job and didnít like having his life interrupted. But, he went into the service without complaining. He felt it was his duty to go."

David took his Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. After his "boot camp" and a leave home, he was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana where he was made a sergeant and became a platoon leader in his training company. "We felt he was being pushed ahead so fast," recalled his mother. "He was just barely drafted in May and soon afterwards he was made a sergeant and a platoon leader. But then he always did do well in whatever he undertook."

In November of the same year, David left for Vietnam. In his letters home he did not write much about the war. "He didnít want to worry us," explained his mother. However, he did have more to say about it when he wrote to his brothers. According to his brother Joe of Little Falls, "David told us it was just like hell over there." At one time he wrote that his unit had made a record breaking stay out in the fieldÖ.a period of 92 days without a break.

On June 21, 1967, the first day of summer, Helen Younk saw a man in an Army uniform looking at the mailbox. "That isnít David," she thought to herself. He came up to the house and asked her if she was Mrs. Joe Younk. He then asked if the girl beside her was her daughter. "I answered yes" recalled Mrs. Younk. "And then, fearing the worst, asked him what he had come for." It was at this time that the Younks were informed of their sonís death, which had occurred the previous day.

"Davidís father took it especially hard," recalled Mrs. Younk, "he always said that Davidís death took years off his life.

David Younk had his own dreams of what he would do when he got out of Nam. There was that special girl he wanted to see again. There was that guitar of his that still had tunes in it to be played. There was the smell of fresh mowed hay to savor. There were some motors that still needed tinkered with. There was Momís fresh coffee cake that he wanted to try again. There was a good job to return to. There was a godchild, Bonita, he wanted to hold again. There was a family to love.

David was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Military Merit Medal, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross.

In the fall of 1985, Helen Younk went to Washington D.C. to visit the monument dedicated to the American soldiers who died in Vietnam, and to find her sonís name on that monument. "It was hard to take she take," she said. "So many died. If something had been accomplished, it wouldnít hurt so bad. But what did we gain from it all? David would have been 40 years old this September. I often wonder what he would have been like."