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Alan K. Peterson poses on the USS Kitty Hawk in 1972 during his time in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Submitted photo

Last Vietnam veteran in North Dakota National Guard to retire

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The last North Dakota National Guard to have served in the Vietnam War will retire today (Wednesday). Master Sgt. Alan K. Peterson, of West Fargo, will be honored during a retirement ceremony at 1 p.m. at the Fargo Armed Forces Reserve Center, 3920 31st St. N., Fargo. He is the last of the many Vietnam veterans to have served in the state's Army and Air National Guard during the past 30-some years.

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Peterson joined the U.S. Navy's delayed entry program shortly before graduating from Pine River (Minn.) High School in 1970. He served as a plane captain on the USS Kitty Hawk in the Gulf of Tonkin, off of the coast of Vietnam, where he maintained and cleaned aircraft, assisted pilots, and tracked work completed on the planes. In July 1972, he was sent to shore for an eight-month stint at Tan Son Nhut Air Base outside of Da Nang. There, he worked with 15 to 20 others to replace tailhooks, patch holes and repair landing gear on aircraft that couldn't be recovered by the carrier ships.

He left the Navy in July 1974, but donned a uniform again in February 1979, when he joined the North Dakota Army National Guard's Hazen unit. Peterson deployed for war again in 2003, when he mobilized to Iraq with the Guard's 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion. He also served on seven overseas duty training missions - three times to Honduras, twice to Korea and once each to Jamaica and Panama.

  During his time in the North Dakota National Guard, Peterson worked as a construction specialist, engineer equipment supervisor, motor sergeant, construction equipment repair supervisor, mechanized maintenance operations noncommissioned officer, heavy mobile equipment repairer and maintenance control sergeant. His most recent assignment was with the 3662nd Maintenance Company in Devils Lake, N.D. He also works full-time for the North Dakota National Guard at Field Maintenance Shop No. 2 in Fargo.

Peterson's service brought numerous awards, including the Iraq Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with a Gold Hourglass and "M" Device (signifying three awards, including a mobilization), the Driver-Mechanic Badge with a Mechanic Device, a Marksmanship Badge with "Sharpshooter" qualification on the M16A2 rifle, seven Emergency Service Ribbons, the North Dakota National Guard Service Ribbon with Gold Hourglass, six Overseas Service Bars, a bronze Recruiting Excellence Badge, two Humanitarian Service Medals, the Republic of Vietnam Unit Citation Commemorative Medal - Gallantry Cross, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and three Overseas Service Ribbons for two tours in Vietnam and one tour in Iraq.

Two other Vietnam veterans serving in the North Dakota National Guard retired earlier this year: 1st Sgt. Kyle Heidenreich, with the North Dakota Army National Guard, and Chief Master Sgt. James Clemenson, of the North Dakota Air National Guard.

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