Fallen Vietnam veteran gone but not forgotten

By Jennifer Archibald

For many Americans, the wounds of Vietnam will never heal. That is true for Barbara Zlomke of Batesland who lost her brother Edwin Harry Case on Nov. 1, 1968, in Kontum, South Vietnam.

Army Specialist Fourth Class Case, at the age of 21, died as a result of a minefield explosion. He and his company were clearing a friendly minefield when one of the mines that had already been removed detonated. He had only been in Vietnam for seven months.

“It was horrible and really bad,” remembers Zlomke.

Case joined the Army on Sept. 22, 1967, in Hot Springs, S.D. He then went to Fort Lewis, Wash., for basic training and afterwards to Fort Gordon, Ga., for communications training.

He was stationed on April 5, 1968, in Vietnam as a U.S. Army Specialist Fourth Class in Company D, 299th Engineers Battalion, 937th Engineers Group, 18th Engineers Brigade.

“You were lucky if you got to know Case well. But it didn’t take long to find out that if there was work to be done, Case would be doing more than his share. I don’t think he ever missed a mine sweep. He was a good man in the field or as a friend,” said his Commanding Officer at a Nov. 2, 1968, memorial service for Case and another solider who also died in the event. 

“It doesn’t make sense to me why they would send a radio man out to clear a mine field,” said Zlomke.

“I still have the letters he wrote to us and he sent my daughter and I kimonos from overseas,” she said.

Case was born on March 15, 1947, to Clifford and Birdie Case in Alliance, Neb. The family made their home in Batesland, S.D., where Edwin attended grade school.

“He was quite a bit younger than me, but was a good kid and never caused my parents any problems,” said Zlomke.

In 1965, Case graduated from Bennett County High School.  After graduation he attended a technical college in Denver, Colo., where he studied drafting.

Prior to joining the Army, Case worked as a school bus driver between Batesland and Martin and at a local auto body shop in Martin.

Case was buried in Chadron, Neb., after a memorial service with full military honors held Nov. 14, 1968, in Gordon, Neb.

His military efforts awarded him the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, Expert Badge with automatic rifle bar, and Marksman Badge with rifle bar.

He is survived by his mother, Birdie Case of Gordon, Neb.; sister Barbara Zlomke and brother Clinton Case of Thousand Oaks, Calif., as well as several nieces and nephews.

Vietnam veterans have received little thanks for their service and sacrifice in our nations longest and most controversial war, which started in 1955 and ended in 1975. 

Case is one of the 58,272 Vietnam veterans who was finally appreciated on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial also referred to as “the Wall.”

The monument was founded by Jan Scruggs, who fought in Vietnam as an infantry corporal from 1969-1970 to honor his fellow fallen and missing soldiers. It was funded completely through non-profit donations with no help from federal funding and completed in 1984.

In 1996, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund unveiled a half scale replica of the monument called “The Wall That Heals.” The replica along with a mobile education center travels to communities throughout the United States.

Veteran and Bennett County Sheriff Paul Williams and his wife Susan went to see “The Wall That Heals” in Aug. when it was in Chamberlin, S.D.

“I had done quite a bit of research and Bennett County had quite a lot of soldiers that were wounded, but Edwin’s name is the only one in our immediate area that is on the wall,” said Paul Williams. 

“I wanted to see his name. He was older than me, but I did know him. Ed was well known here in Martin,” he said.

“It was a very emotional experience,” said Susan Williams. “We know now that when you’re 18 years-old you’re still just a baby and it breaks your heart. It just makes you want to weep.”

Other area names on the wall include: Arlen John Hunter from Kyle, S.D.; Blair William Two Crow from Kyle, S.D.; Roy Dean Russell from Mission, S.D.; Gabriel Laurence Two Eagle from Parmelee, S.D.; James Charles Bermingham from Gordon, Neb.; Morris Edward Ostrander from Gordon, Neb. and Dennis Ralph Moreno from Hay Springs, Neb.

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