Two-war veteran returns home one last timeHe made it back to the home of his youth one last time, then back to the warmth of his last home in the South, and then he died. Maurice Hedstrom, four times wounded as an Army Special Forces soldier in Korea and Vietnam, died on Thanksgiving Day at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Augusta, Ga. He was 81.
By: By Chuck Haga, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
He made it back to the home of his youth one last time, then back to the warmth of his last home in the South, and then he died.
Maurice Hedstrom, four times wounded as an Army Special Forces soldier in Korea and Vietnam, died on Thanksgiving Day at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Augusta, Ga. He was 81.
Raised on a farm by Inkster, N.D., and later in town, Hedstrom had come home last month to see his sister, Lois Durkin. He wanted to visit an old childhood friend, and he wanted to walk through the little town once more, even though he knew most of what he’d see was the absence of people and places he remembered.
The house he grew up in “is nothing but dust now,” he said.
The old soldier was featured in a Herald story on Oct. 4, about how his visit home had been interrupted by a heart attack. He was convalescing at Valley Eldercare Center in Grand Forks, surrounded by family who had come up from Georgia and South Carolina.
2 wars 5 medals
They had brought his service medals, clearly his most prized possessions, to keep him company: a Silver Star for saving the life of his lieutenant in Vietnam and four Purple Hearts, including one for taking a bayonet thrust to the head in Korea.
He didn’t care to talk about either war. He never had, his family members said. Even as he entered his 80s, there were nightmares. As he recovered from the heart attack and a triple-bypass operation at Altru Health System, his family was arranging for counseling when they returned home to Georgia.
But he treasured his medals.
Hedstrom had left at age 17 to join the Army and see the world, and he did that. In the late 1940s, serving as a security guard in postwar Germany, he witnessed the Berlin Airlift and the beginnings of the Berlin Wall.
After surviving the bayonet attack in Korea, he made a joke of it in a message to his mother in Inkster: “Mama, I got a hole in my head!” She reportedly did not laugh.
He served two tours with the Green Berets in Vietnam in the 1960s.
Hedstrom was older than most Americans who served in Vietnam, but his comrades from that war, most in their 60s and 70s now, also are fading.
His death on Thursday “came as a shock,” sister Lois said Monday. “He had been doing so well after he left here.” But there had been a tumble or two recently, she said, and a bout with pneumonia.
Hedstrom’s wife, Estelle, said at the time of his hospitalization here that her husband remained fond of the area despite sadness over changes in his hometown and the surrounding rural countryside.
He appreciated the warmth of his Georgia home and was eager to get back to it, but he was grateful, and the family was grateful, for the warmth, care and attention he had received here, where he had started.
“North Dakota has been good to us,” she said.
Chuck Haga is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.