Friday, November 15, 2013

Honoring Our Veterans

Dale William Youngern 1920-2013
On Monday this country honored the lives, past and present, of those courageous men and women who served, and continue to serve, in our nation’s military.  There are so many I know personally: my best friend, Kari’s, father, Lyle, who passed away in July, my mom’s two brothers, Uncle Bob and Uncle Earl, my Uncle Walter on my father’s side, my cousin, Ian, and my frequent companion Jesse’s brother, Scott, and his son, Neil, just to name a few.  All gave heroically, whether in actual combat or in service of those who were fighting.  It is fitting that we salute them all year, not just on Veteran’s Day.

But today I want to highlight the military service of one veteran in particular, the father of my dear friend and former colleague, Judy, who lives in Dallas, Texas.  Dale William Youngern passed away on September 7 at the age of 93.  He was, by all accounts, the epitome of a hero, in war and in life. This is his story.

Judy’s father was raised on a South Dakota farm during the Depression.  Although the family was poor, their youngest son excelled in school and in sports, playing quarterback for his high school football team.  Indeed, the athlete earned a spot in the record books for his physical prowess when he was recognized by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for being the only sportsman who ever cut a quail out of the sky with a football kick as the bird flew over the field of play. Despite being only 5’ 8” in height, Dale was also starting forward on his high school basketball team.  In 1937, he led the team to the South Dakota State basketball championship. 

That same year, Dale’s beloved basketball coach was offered head coach position at North Dakota’s Grand Central High School.  Knowing what a talent he had under his wing, the coach insisted that young Dale move with him to their neighboring state.  So Dale left his parents, his brothers, Cliff and Vern, and his sister, Elaine, and moved north with his coach.  While in Grand Forks, Dale met the girl next door, the charming Florence Brady. It was love at first sight for both of them.

Dale Youngern was 20 years old in
this photo, taken in 1940
In 1942 at the tender age of 22, Judy’s father enlisted in the United States Army, just about the time that generals Eisenhower and Marshall recognized the need for an elite special force similar to Britain’s Special Service Brigade. Colonel William O. Darby was commissioned to select and train these young American warriors. Dale Yongern, along with tens of thousands of other enlisted men, volunteered for the exclusive but treacherous position. Only a few hundred of the most physically and mentally fit were chosen to serve in the First Battalion of the U.S. Rangers, nicknamed "Darby’s Rangers". A charter member of the legendary unit, Judy’s dad joined the ranks of what would eventually form the Green Berets, elite Rangers and all other Special Forces.

As a member of the First Battalion of Rangers, Youngern took part in the Anzio invasion south of Rome prior to D-Day. The goal was to wrestle Rome from the Nazis so the Allies could move north to Germany. Commanded by General Clark to provide reconnaissance to the Anzio beachhead before invading Cisternia some thirty miles away, the 568 Rangers of the First Battalion set out by moonlight on foot for the village, each armed with a knife in his boot and a rifle. But the Wehrmacht had monitored the establishment at Anzio from the mountaintops, and as the Rangers approached Cisternia, they were ambushed by 10,000 Nazis fortified with panzer and tiger tanks. Their ranks were decimated. Only six Rangers survived. Judy’s father was one of them. Youngern swam the "Mussolini Canal" back to Anzio Beach in the dead of night, paddling silently past Nazi troops who were smoking and joking along the canal banks. 
In this 1943 photo, Dale Youngern was a
member of the elite Rangers

After returning to Anzio, the intrepid survivor was assigned to the First Special Service Force where he was instrumental in the invasion of Southern France. Following D-Day, Youngern was sent to Normandy and then on to St. Lo, where he continued fighting across France to Regansburg, Germany, his location on V-E Day. Dale Youngern fought in five campaigns: Italy, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, the invasion of Southern France, Central Europe and the battle of the Rhineland. After Germany surrendered, he was sent to Norway to round up Nazis. Having served his country for three years, three months and three days, Judy’s father was honorably discharged with the rank of Corporal and was decorated with five Bronze stars, the EAME Theater ribbon and a Good Conduct medal.

Dale married Florence Brady on September 11, 1943.  In 1945 he returned from military service to his sweetheart in Grand Forks.  He attended the University of North Dakota and graduated with a degree in accounting. Dale went on to pass the state boards and became a Certified Public Accountant. He worked alongside his father-in-law, Edward Brady, and later became managing partner of Edward W. Brady, Ltd., growing the firm into one of the Midwest’s most prestigious accounting firms.   In the late 1960s, when computers were still nascent behemoths, Mr. Youngern foresaw a future dependent upon their sophisticated numerical abilities and computerized the Brady firm, which he had now merged to form Brady Martz and Associates PC. 

Along the way, Dale and Florence raised six beautiful, adoring daughters, all of whom became successful, independent women in their own right. He didn’t lecture his children about honesty, kindness and generosity.  He practiced those attributes every day of his life, whether it was complimenting the paperboy and the milkman on their dependable deliveries or flattering the waitress with earnest conversation at their local Dairy Queen, where he took his six daughters for ice cream every Sunday afternoon.

My girlfriend, Judy, seated at left, with her parents and five
sisters in 1999 
In 1980, Dale retired. For many years he and Florence wintered in Hawaii and, more recently, in Florida, although they always returned to Grand Forks to spend their summers with family and friends.  Dale was a past president of the North Dakota Society of Certified Public Accountants, a member of the University of North Dakota Alumni Association, and served on the Board of Directors for United Hospital (Altru Hospital), along with other organizations and service clubs. He and Florence were charter members of Holy Family Catholic Church in Grand Forks.  Dale adored his wife for 74 years. When Flo fell ill, he refused to put her in a nursing home. Instead, he dedicated his life to giving her tender, loving care at home for her final seven years. 

Dale was equally dedicated to his six children, 15 grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren, although his love for the game of golf was right up there.  No matter the condition of the course or the weather, Dale could be found on a green partaking in his favorite hobby.  He made four holes-in-one over the course of his lifetime, the most recent one just four years ago when he was 89 years old!

Such is the stuff of which legends are made.  Dale William Youngern was a stellar example of our “greatest generation”.  As we consider our veterans this week, let us pause to pay tribute, not only for the war heroes they were, but also as the men and women who went on, after their military service, to lead quiet but remarkable lives of integrity and honor.  Mr. Youngern, I salute you.  May you rest in peace.


  1. Lynell,
    thanks for a magnificent tribute to my forever hero!
    x0x0x, Judy

  2. What a beautiful accolade ~ brought tears to my eyes. I wish I had gotten the opportunity to meet Judy's extraordinary father.

  3. What a wonderful tribute! Very we'll said! I was so looking forwRd to meeting Dale. Now I'll have to wait for heaven....

  4. What a wonderful tribute to Mr. Youngern.