This is the eleventh article in a Scroll series on Ricks College and BYU-Idaho alumni who lost their lives in the service of their country.

The following are profiles of three alums who died during the Vietnam War.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Dale K. Larson

Dale Larson was born on October 24, 1947, in Burley, Idaho, to Verl Larson and Nola Hansen. He died Binh Duong Province, South Vietnam on November 12, 1968.

Pfc. Herbert Kirk Skinner

Portrait of Herbert Skinner.

Herbert Skinner Photo credit: Courtesy of Dale Bailey

Herbert Skinner was born on January 3, 1949, in Santa Monica, California. He died in Quang Nam, Vietnam on December 7, 1968. He received the purple heart.

Sp4. Ariel James Smith

Portrait of Ariel Smith, 25 years old, taken in military uniform at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1969.

Ariel Smith at 25 while at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1969. Photo credit: Courtesy of Angela Fullmer

There was almost nothing Ariel Smith wasn’t good at. Several of the boys he beat in high school wrestling tournaments went on to the Olympics. The first time he ever pole vaulted he broke a school record. He was the “world champion” of the annual spud picking contest in his community. Not to mention he was on the diving team.

Ariel Smith was born on December 19, 1943, in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to Robert Lee Smith and Ina Grace Soelberg. He was raised on a farm in Shelley.

When he wasn’t accomplishing great athletic feats, he and his brothers found all kinds of ways to have fun. In the winters they loved to skate at a local frozen canal. They would throw rocks at the fish beneath the ice and chase them as they scurried away. A rope bridge above the canal was low enough that with enough momentum the boys could skate up to it, jump and grab it, swinging far back and forth.

Sometimes Ariel hooked a pair of wooden skis to his pickup truck and towed his brothers around the farm fields. Sometimes, they took a bunch of two-foot-high straw bales and set wooden planks on them. They packed snow on top making jumps that would send the boys 15 ft. in the air.

Ariel loved his brothers but sometimes he let his competitive spirit get the best of him.

Home from army training, one day, he challenged his little brother Doug to a wrestling match since he heard that Doug had won a few high school matches. He was confident his natural abilities and recent military training would make it easy, until Doug quickly pinned him down. Flustered, Ariel quickly called for a second round. Doug pinned him again. Their dad, Lee, sat in his chair laughing the whole time.

The Lee and Grace Smith family 1956. Ariel stands on top far right by his younger brother Doug.

The Lee and Grace Smith family 1956. Ariel stands on top far right by his younger brother Doug. Photo credit: Courtesy of Doug Smith

But as much as he liked to have fun, he put lots of work into the family farm, especially after Lee lost his leg in a hay baler accident.

He also had a wife and baby son. Before departing for the war, he told his father to put his army payments into a bank account for his son.

Around midnight on November 8, 1969, Ariel was a machine gunner aboard a pontoon boat in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. In a recent letter he lamented to his mother how he was the only one living among the soldiers who came with him from home. At the front of the boat, he stood on the machine gun platform scouring the area through night vision goggles. The pontoon driver creeped up slowly to an enemy area. Soon Ariel spotted one waiting, but it was too late. An enemy soldier launched a rocket straight at Ariel hitting him in the chest.

Ariel as a baby (far left) with his older siblings sitting on a truck.

Ariel as a baby (far left) with his older siblings. Photo credit: Courtesy of Doug Smith

Later that morning, across the ocean, Grace Smith returned home from a night shift at work. Lying in bed exhausted she suddenly heard, “Mom! Mom!” It sounded like Ariel. Stunned, she looked at the clock and saw it was 6 a.m. She began crying and started calling all her children, starting with the oldest, Jennings, to see if they were okay. When Doug picked up the phone and told her he was okay, Grace said she believed Ariel was dead.

It came as no surprise when military personnel arrived at the house a short time later. When she read the documents they handed her, she told them they had the wrong death date. When the officials checked their official records, they found she was right. They made another trip to her house and asked how she knew what day he died.

“Well, I knew,” is all she said.