Fallen Heroes Honored: Bridges across South Dakota dedicated to soldiers who gave all including Perkins County’s Dale, David Crow
“I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” – Nathan Hale
This sentiment, expressed by Nathan Hale, one of our country’s earliest patriots, has echoed and re-echoed in the hearts and lives of thousands upon thousands of Americans in the centuries that followed his life and his death while serving our country. The idea that liberty is more precious than life has reverberated in the call to defend the freedom that we hold dear, and thousands of Americans have indeed given their lives to follow that call and fight for this freedom.
In all, 3,073 South Dakotans have made this ultimate sacrifice since World War I. In 2019, SD governor Kristi Noem and the SD Department of Veterans Affairs, SD Military Department and the SD Department of Transportation launched a program to remember and publicly honor these servicemen and women, aptly called the Fallen Heroes Bridge Dedication Program.
“This new program will dedicate state bridges to South Dakotans who died while in active service or were classified as missing in action,” said Audry Ricketts, spokesman for the SD Department of Veterans Affairs. “Naming South Dakota bridges in honor of our fallen gives us the opportunity of remembrance, reflection, and respect—to honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to this nation. Although these heroes are no longer with us, their memories live on in the hearts of their loved ones and our state. They cherished liberty and loved freedom enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life.”
The Fallen Heroes Bridge Dedication Committee meets annually in April and selects six heroes to honor and six bridges to dedicate that year. Families of fallen soldiers can submit an application to have their loved one honored in this way, and those not selected will remain on file for consideration in future years. Dedication of the bridges are held May through November. While some dedications have been postponed due to Covid, this is the general plan for the long term of this mission to honor combat heroes that were killed or missing in action.
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman
Two of these heroes were honored at the Perkins County American Legion Memorial Day program in Bison, SD. Eric Kahler shared their story:
“March 25, 1950, cousins Dale and David Crow along with David’s brothers, Dick and Eugene, went to a makeshift recruiter’s office at the local post office in Lemmon. Together, they voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army. Dale and Dick were only 17 years old at the time of their enlistment, so their parents were required to sign releases so they could join the Army. Two days later the four Crow boys were on a train from Lemmon, headed for a US Army boot camp in Kansas.
“Within months of their enlistment, the conflict in Korea had escalated dramatically. One week after the completion of their boot camp, they had received orders they were heading to Korea. Upon arriving in Korea, the Crow boys were hustled from ship to train, picking up pieces of information on the current situation of the war as they went. The Crow boys began making their way to the front lines to defend the Division Artillery Headquarters.
On September 4th, 1950, Dale, David, and Eugene received orders that they would be pulling out to clear Hill 285 the following day. Dick was assigned to patrol with his company instead of providing support to Company G.
“Two days later, on September 6th, 1950, the Crow boys and their fellow American soldiers continued advancing up Hill 285. There was every indication that they were breaking the enemy’s hold on the hill. They passed minefields and defensive structures and received word that other regiments would soon be joining them in the fight.
“While Dale and another soldier were advancing up the hill, Dale was lifting his rifle to his shoulder, when he suddenly felt an intense burning sensation in his stomach. He looked down and saw that he had been shot. Clenching a hand to his stomach to stem the bleeding, Dale fell to the ground. Just then, a thud sounded a few feet away from them. It was a live grenade. Dale and the soldier who was with him looked at each other, knew it was over. In an instant, Dale lunged on top of his fellow soldier, knocking him to the ground, and threw his body over the soldier, absorbing the entire impact of the grenade. With this selfless act of heroism, Dale had given up his life to protect his fellow soldier. A few seconds later, the soldier rolled Dale off himself. At seventeen years old, Dale had become the latest casualty in the Korean War, sacrificing his life to save his comrade’s. The night ended terribly for Company G. All but nine of its 600 men gave their lives in the battle for Hill 285. Two weeks later David’s family, like Dale’s, also received a telegram informing them that David had also been killed in action on Hill 285 on September 6, 1950.
“Sixty-two years later, in 2012, Greg Crow made a remarkable discovery while researching the family’s military service history. He located Alvin Myers, Company G clerk who was in the battle for Hill 285. Alvin provided a firsthand account of Dale and David’s sacrifice.
“Alvin revealed that the soldier Dale dove upon to protect from the explosion of the enemy grenade was his cousin David. Sadly, David was killed by enemy small-arms fire just hours after Dale had save his life. David’s brothers Dick and Eugene survived the war.
“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country, they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.” — President James Garfield.
SD Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden attended the dedication ceremony in Bison.
“I am proud to announce that we have dedicated eight South Dakota bridges,” he said. “Today we dedicate a ninth. This will help us remember the stories of these heroes for generations to come. Freedom is precious and at times must be fought for. We honor Dale and David and all of our veterans.”
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” — General George S. Patton
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