North High School Wall of Honor
Thomas James Minks
Class of June, 1969
Research done by Claradell Shedd, Class of 1953. PAGE IN PROGRESS
Thomas James Minks

Thomas graduated in the June, 1969 North High class.. He enlisted or was drafted where and when? His service number was_________. Thomas's next of kin was listed as Mr. Robert L. Minks, 1011 Trisha Avenue, Des Moines, IA.

Thomas James Minks
Year   Rank   Status
June, 1969   Graduated   Graduated from North High School, Des Moines, IA.
date x Enlisted in
US Army
x Where and when?
Sept.,1969 x Training x Basic Training? Fort Polk, LA
date x Training x Where and when?
date x Training x Fort Benning, GA for paratroop training?
date x Training x Where and when?
1970 x Stationed x China Beach; Da-Nang, Vietnam.
date x Enlisted in
US Army
x Where and when?
date x Enroute x West Coast to Vietnam
date x US Army/

Where and when?

date x Schooling x coming
date x Employment x Jacobsen Warehouse, Des Moines, IA
May 31, 1995 x Deceased x  
Fort Polk, LA (during the September, 1969 time frame Thomas was there)
The training at Fort Polk was rough, as many former trainees and drill sergeants will admit, but it was also very important. "The biggest thing our trainees got drilled into them was that the possibility of going to Vietnam was very likely," said Master Sgt. Leslie Morkert who was a basic training drill sergeant at Polk from 1970 through 1972. "We tried to get them to realize that sooner or later they would probably end up in Vietnam, and there they would have to use what we were teaching them here," he added. "It gave them better motivation to learn."

"The training we had here was more intense, because we were training for Vietnam, in basic training," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles Christopher Archane, who came through basic in 1970. "We had night patrols with booby traps and aggressors. Plus, the drill sergeants would teach us how to detect booby traps at night, and the corrective action to take if we hit one, and the same for daytime. All of our instructors were senior NCO’s, all Vietnam veterans, and they instilled in us that the war over there was very real. They had seen too many of their friends die because of a lack of training, and they made sure that this would not happen to us."

Master Sgt. Dave Thomas recalled advanced training "was demanding, oriented toward being physically fit and being alert at all times. The training was also pretty much up to date with what was actually taking place over there, because any time they found out any new tactic that was being used, it was sent back to the states as soon as possible so the trainees could be trained to handle it. It’s pretty much like Vietnam in the summer months, it’s hot and humid and it rains a lot, and there are a lot of swamps and stuff – it’s pretty much the same as it was over there, just not as long."

Peason Ridge at Fort Polk, LA
"Peason Ridge was a super training facility," said Master Sgt. Barry O’Toole, who was a basic training drill sergeant from 1967 until 1969 and a drill sergeant in basic training, AIT and One Station Unit Training (OSUT) from 1970 through 1976. "We had a Viet Cong village set up there, and the trainees had to search for booby traps and mines," O’Toole continued. "In the hooches we had tunnels made out of corrugated pipe, and the trainees had to crawl through the tunnel complex. It was very realistic, we even had aggressors dressed up like VC." On Peason an attack might go from point A to point B and that might cover 15 miles," he added. "You’d give private squad leader a map and say here you are and your objective is there. They’d just look at the map and go. When the soldiers got to Vietnam and saw some of the very same things that they were taught here, it gave them confidence in their ability to retain what they had learned, and in the ability of the people here to teach it," he added. "I think we saved a whole hell of a lot of possible causalities [sic] with that training."

*173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team ("Sky Soldiers") is an airborne infantry brigade combat team of the United States Army based in Vicenza, Italy. It is the United States European Command's conventional airborne strategic response force for Europe.

Activated in 1915, as the 173rd Infantry Brigade the unit saw service in World War I, but is best known for its actions during the Vietnam War. The brigade was the first major United States Army ground formation deployed in Vietnam, serving there May 1965–1971 and losing almost 1,800 soldiers. Noted for its roles in Operation Hump and Operation Junction City, the 173rd is best known for the Battle of Dak To, where it suffered heavy casualties in close combat with North Vietnamese forces. Brigade members received over 7,700 decorations, including more than 6,000 Purple Hearts. The brigade returned to the United States, where it was inactivated in 1972.
Ft. Leonard Wood post card Ft. Belvoir post card
Ft. Benning? Fort Polk, LA
Fort Polk, LA; September, 1969
caption Wedding Day; When and Where?
China Beach, DaNang, Vietnam
3-day R&R; 1970
Thomas James Minks
173rd Airborne Brigade (Infantry)
United States Army

US Army Seal

Blue Infantry Cord
Blue Infantry Cord
Combat Infantry Badge

Airborne Patch
173rd Airborne Infantry  Brigade

Red Artillery Cord
Red Artillery Cord

Presidential Unit Citation; Mortarman Patch; Marine Combat Action Ribbon; Vietnam Campaign Medal; Vietnam Service Medal with two stars; National Defense Service Medal

Examples of citations: Presidential Unit Citation (left above); Mortarman Patch (middle);
Marine Combat Action Ribbon (left below); Vietnam Campaign Medal;
Vietnam Service Medal (two stars); National Defense Service Medal

(1) Information was obtained from the Records on Military Personnel Who Died, were Missing in Action, or Prisoners of War as a result of the Vietnam War. This document can be found online at the National Archives and Records Administration at

(2) The comprehensive list of names from North High's 1893-2018 graduation classes are from Claradell Shedd's North Des Moines High School website. The names of North High School graduates can be found online at: Thomas James Minks's class page is:
11/22/10. Died 05/31/95.
Music: "Wind Beneath My Wings"
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