Fort Snelling Cemetery sees more Vietnam veterans laid to rest

Image 1 of 2

Cemeteries around the country, including Fort Snelling, are seeing a shift in which type of veterans they are laying to rest.

The rate of Vietnam veterans passing away is now almost double the amount World War II veterans.

Framed photos on a Jerry Kyser’s wall serve as snapshots of his time fighting in army helicopters above Vietnam.  

“I volunteered for two tours, 1968 and 1970,” he said.

Kyser is a combat veteran who’s paid his respects over the years at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

“One time I was walking up the hill and it was all WWII guys with a smattering of Korea and young Vietnam veterans killed in the ‘60s,” he said.

The decorated door-gunner joins a generation of American service members who came home from Vietnam decades ago and are now being laid to rest.

“It is sobering, but that’s the way it is,” Kyser said.

Fort Snelling National Deputy Director John Knapp said we’re in the midst of a national trend as fewer WWII veterans pass away.

“These veterans came in over a long period of time; they were passing as they aged. VA records show in 2015, about 29 percent of burials nationally were for WWII veterans, 24 percent for those who served in Korea and 34 percent for Vietnam vets,” Knapp said.

In 2018 came a shift – 21 percent WWII veterans and 24 percent Korean war veterans. Knapp said the Vietnam era of combat is “now our largest. In 2018 it represented 40 percent of the burials we did across the nation.”

Now, funerals for those who fought years ago in the jungles of Vietnam are being laid to rest next to the men and women who fought in the wars before them. 

Later this year, Fort Snelling National Cemetery will be holding a special service for Vietnam veterans.