Before Tim O'Brien was drafted into the army, he had what some would consider an all-American childhood. He was born on October 1, 1946, in Austin, Minnesota, and raised in Worthington, a small prairie town.
At Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, he received good grades and became student body president. Occasionally, he'd attend peace vigils and protests against the burgeoning war in Vietnam. He graduated in 1968 with a B.A. in political science and thought of becoming a writer, inspired in part by his father's personal accounts of two World War II battles, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, published in The New York Times. Then O'Brien got his draft notice. He once recalled in an interview that "even getting on the plane for boot camp, I couldn't believe any of it was happening to me, someone who hated Boy Scouts and bugs and rifles."
O'Brien spent his tour of duty from 1969 to 1970 as a foot soldier with the 46th Infantry in Quang Ngai province. For some of that time he was stationed in My Lai, just one year after the infamous My Lai Massacre. He was sent home with a Purple Heart when he got hit with shrapnel in a grenade attack.
O'Brien published The Things They Carried in 1990. His many accolades include a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Book Award, an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships He currently teaches creative writing at Texas State University.
"As a fiction writer, I do not write just about the world we live in, but I also write about the world we ought to live in, and could, which is a world of imagination."
—Tim O'Brien, from a lecture at Brown University
Jason McEntee serves as Professor and Department Head of English as well as the Interim Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at SDSU. His teaching and research interests are in American literature and film studies, with a focus on war literature and film.
He serves on numerous boards and committees, ranging from the local to international levels. His recent work on the South Dakota Humanities Council board of directors helped South Dakotans gain exposure to the importance of the humanities, including bringing the annual Festival of the Book to Brookings for the first time since the festival began in 2000.
His work with the Sioux Falls Veterans Administration Health Care System has helped establish a long-running Literature and Medicine program while it has also helped establish, with help from the South Dakota Humanities Council, veterans’ writing groups in Brookings, Sioux Falls, and Vermillion.
SEcretary Larry Zimmerman, SD Dept of Veterans AFfairs
Larry D. Zimmerman was appointed Secretary of the SD Department of Veterans Affairs in September 2011. Secretary Zimmerman serves as the voice for South Dakota’s seventy-five thousand veterans and advocates for and provides the pathway for all veterans and their families to receive the benefits due to them.
In 2014 Secretary Zimmerman led the Department and its partners on a statewide campaign to reach all veterans – Operation RAV. The Department was recognized nationally for their efforts and was awarded the Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence award. Zimmerman and his team will spend the next three years reaching out to veterans per war era.
Zimmerman served 29 years in the South Dakota National Guard retiring in January of 2013. He completed a tour in Afghanistan (OEF) as the Operations SGM for the nine Northern provinces in that country, and before that was the CSM in both the 109th RSG in Rapid City, SD and the 109th En Bn in Sturgis, and the Regional Training Institute at Ft Meade along with numerous other positions within the Army Guard. Zimmerman was Active Duty Army from 1973-1976 in the 4th Infantry Division at Ft Carson, CO.
Zimmerman is a lifetime member of: the American Legion (Piedmont), Veterans of Foreign Wars (Custer), Disabled American Veterans (Sturgis) and Vietnam Veterans of America (Watertown).
Dr. Bill Meirose
Dr. Bill Meirose served as the Executive Director of the South Dakota Joining Forces Initiative in the state from July 2016 through June 2017. This position was intended to build community networks to help Service Members, Veterans, and their Families.
He has been married to his wonderful wife, Valerie, for 38 years. They have three children and six grandchildren. He was born and raised in Sturgis, SD and currently makes his home there. He served with the South Dakota Army National Guard and retired with 20 years of service including three years of active duty with the Army. In the course of his professional career, he has worked 10 years for the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center at Ft. Meade, SD, served as an Associate Pastor for over 20 years, and as the Transition Assistance Advisor for South Dakota for 5 years.
He has earned a doctorate in Adult and Higher Education from the University of South Dakota, a Master’s degree in Education from South Dakota State University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Black Hills State University. He has several certifications for teaching several professional topics and is a Master Trainer for Suicide intervention and prevention.
Dr. Michael Fellner
Dr. Fellner is a licensed and Board Certified Psychologist. He received his B.A. degree from Queens College, City University of New York, his M.A. degree from Temple University in Philadelphia and earned his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1973. After initially teaching for Texas A&I University, (now Texas A&M University in Kingsville) he relocated to South Dakota where he worked for 29 years at the V.A. Black Hills Health Care System working variously as the Chief of Psychology, head of Special Programs, including Neuropsychology, Substance Use Rehabilitation, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder programs and started the Vet Center in Rapid City. Following his retirement from civil service, Dr. Fellner was appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer of the VA Black Hills Health Care System Research Foundation. He has continuously taught in the Masters Degree program in Counseling for South Dakota State University for the past 20 years. In this capacity he has been selected three times as the teacher of the year. In 2012 he accepted a five year contract to work as the Mental Health Consultant for the Box Elder Job Corp program in Nemo, SD and now works as a Mental Health Consultant for the Northern Hills Drug Court. He also does accreditation site visits for internship and residency programs in Health Services Psychology across the country.
In his leisure time he plays the organ, piano and cello, and supports the development of art, theater, and music in the Black Hills area. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Black Hills Playhouse.
Originally from New York City, Dr. Fellner has lived in the Sturgis community since 1975. He is married to his wife, Carol and they have three daughters and three granddaughters.
Jerry W. Derr is the Commission Assistant / HR Director for Meade County, SD. He has a 25+ year professional career in county/state government and international business. Following a stateside law enforcement career, he headed to Iraq to train the Iraqi Civil Security Forces under a Department of State Program (CIVPOL). While in Iraq, he attained the position ofPrincipal Deputy Program Manager - overseeing a staff of 1300+ personnel, to include 900 US law enforcement officers.
In 2012, Mr. Derr and his family formed the non-profit Sergeant Colton Levi Derr Foundation. The Foundation’s mission: Veteran Advocacy, Assistance and public Awareness of the battles our heroes face when they come home. The Foundation was formed following the suicide of Mr. Derr’s son Colton - an active duty Army Sergeant who battled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Troy Spear joined the military in 1989 after graduating high school. Beginning his service in the US Navy, Troy's career spanned 24 years while serving honorably on active duty in all 4 branches of service: Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Army. His career duties included narcotic operations in support of the US Coast Guard, Aviation Storekeeper, Radar Employment Chief, Intelligence Analyst, Training and Operations Non-commissioned Officer, and Casualty Notification and Assistance. During his 24 year career, he served combat tours in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Provide Comfort, Operation Restore Hope, Mogadishu, Somalia, and Camp Doha, Kuwait and Balad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
After serving eight years active duty in the South Dakota National Guard's 82nd Civil Support Team, Troy retired in February 2013 at the rank of Sergeant First Class.
Angela Sutton is the Meade County Veterans Service Officer.
She assists the County's veterans and their families to access US Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and health care; advises them of possible State benefits; explains the potential impact of veteran's benefits on other Federal Programs; and intervenes in errant communications between veterans and the VA. The position "County Veterans Service Officer" was created by state statute in 1944.
Dr. Dewey J. Ertz
Dr. Dewey J. Ertz is a Clinical Psychologist Specialist. He graduated with honors in 1977 and has over 40 years of diverse experiences. During his years as a psychologist, Ertz has treated trauma survivors (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/PTSD) and conducted research about trauma that focuses on veterans’ treatment and addresses psychological, physical, social and spiritual issues related to PTSD. His research and implementation of Veteran’s Writing Groups is part of ongoing health care initiatives that develop healthier coping strategies and increases social support networks among veterans.
Larry Mayes, Retired Air Force Colonel
Retired United States Air Force Colonel Larry Mayes was born in Pierre, SD, graduated from Onida High School in 1962, and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in History from Northern State University in Aberdeen in 1967. He enlisted in the Air Force and was commissioned in 1968. His service in Vietnam from the end of 1969 through his Air Force career change in 1970 was night time supervision of airlift loading—transferring supplies and soldiers from the US cargo planes to air fields near combat zones .
He was also involved in five missions in 0-1 Bird Dog aircraft over the Central Highlands. His new career in Security Police /Forces took him to other overseas assignments for 15 of the next 27 years, retiring 1998 as Commander, USAF Security Forces Center, Kirkland AFB, NM.
While in the military he earned Masters Degrees in Counseling from Ball State University, Muncie, IN, and Public Administration from USD. He lives in Rapid City with his wife of 51 years, Pat. They have two grown children, Jon Derek and Janelle.
Anne Bodman, Black Hills Storyteller
Anne Bodman, a member of the Black Hills Storytellers and a former storyteller with the SD Arts Council Touring Program, will tell stories from the Odyssey for area classrooms. These lively, classic tales of the long and difficult journey home for Odysseus—a warrior, husband, and father—will take listeners back over three thousand years to hear of problems that continue to face today’s returning veterans and the families waiting for them at home.
Maynard Kaderlik, Chair Vietnam Veterans National Agent Orange Committee
Maynard Kaderlik, member of VVA Chapter 470 in Minoka, MN , is also the chair of a Vietnam Veterans National Agent Orange committee. He was stationed in the Mekong Delta and his exposure there to Agent Orange eventually led to prostate cancer.
But, beyond his own suffering, his involvement in the committee is to share the story of his own son, who was born with a dislocated hip and a severe learning disability, and his granddaughter who was diagnosed with autism.