March 19, 1947 (Norwalk, CT) – December 21, 1967; 20 years old
Married to Barbara VanSteenburg Kaske on July 14, 1967.
One daughter, Danielle, was born after PFC Kaske’s death.
Last local address: 20 Poplar Street, East Norwalk
Enlisted on October 22, 1967
MOS: 11B10, Light Weapons Infantry
Service number: 52722617
Tour Start Date: October 22, 1967
Unit: 25th Infantry Division, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company D
Born to John (1910-1976) and Mary Youngs Kaske (1915-2002). One brother, William (1945-2018), and one half-sister Arletta (1929-1999).
Casualty Location: Binh Duong, South Vietnam
Richard is on The Wall at Panel 32E, Line 36
Awarded Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart Medal.
Employed as a mechanic at Overton Motors prior to joining the Army.
From The Norwalk Hour December 27, 1967
NORWALK LOSES TENTH “SON” IN VIET WAR
Norwalk lost its tenth son in the Vietnam War. Private First Class Richard Alan Kaske of East Norwalk was reported killed in action on Tuesday by the Department of the Army. The 20-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. John Kaske and husband of six months to Mrs. Barbara van Steenberg Kaske of 20 Poplar Street died December 21st. Death came from burns suffered after a burst of Viet Cong anti-tank rounds, according to the Army. Private First Class Kaske had been engaged in combat operations with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry of the 25 Division. The unit was stationed in Chu Chi and was searching for and destroying pockets of Viet Cong in the surrounding area in a stabilizing action. The slender, blond-haired young man had been in Vietnam only two months to the day of his death. He had been drafted in March and had begun duty in May. He received basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and was given advanced infantry training at the same base. Private First Class Kaske graduated from Norwalk High in 1966. He had been a well-liked lad while there according to friends. He was shy on initial contact, but was outgoing once he became friends with a person, they said. He was “crazy” about cars and spent a good deal of time and spare money fixing up his own auto. He had an interest in Basketball which was shown by the prowess he displayed in the Church League. He was a team leader of the East Norwalk Methodist Church quintet from 1961 to 1966. He was named the loop’s most valuable player in 1962 and received the sportsmanship award in 1964. Two trophies commemorating these high points in his athletic career adorn a shelf in the bedroom of his modest home in East Norwalk. Richard and Barbara went together in high school. They were married on July 14 of this year. Mrs. Kaske is expecting a baby. She first learned the sad news shortly after noon when Richard’s father came to her checkout station at the Factory Store. He had heard that an Army sergeant was looking for relatives of Richard. Sergeant Arthur E. Walsh, an Army advisor to the National Guard’s Stamford unit, had inquired at the home of an aunt on Cove Avenue, situated directly across from the Third District Electric facility where the elder Kaske is employed. The aunt directed the sergeant to the office. Mr. Kaske was alerted to the sergeant’s presence by the office manager via the short-wave radio system. Mr. Kaske heard it while in the parking lot of the Old Well Lodge. Before going to the electric company facility, he decided he better notify Richard’s wife. He went to the Factory Store and arrived almost at the same time as the sergeant. Mr. Kaske attempted to brace his daughter-in-law for what he feared the sergeant was about to say. But the young woman knew. Mr. Kaske took her home to 20 Poplar Street and there they informed Richard’s mother, a woman known to the neighborhood for her devotion to her three children. Mrs. Kaske seemed bitter. She has been against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam from the beginning and has suffered even more since her son went to the Asian continent. She had been reading the newspapers and had suffered a little every time she saw mention of another combat casualty. She specifically mentioned how she and her husband had recently sent a .38 caliber pistol to Richard so that he might protect himself when his M-16 jammed. She related how once a few weeks ago, her son had been forced to crawl into a hole and play dead after his M-16 jammed and he was unable to fire back at the Viet Cong. She said the pistol had been sent immediately after the parents learned of the incident in a letter from Richard. Mrs. Kaske sorted through pictures taken of her son and his family in the leave periods between his entrance to the service and his overseas assignment. She blurred the specter of death by laughing at pictures some of which brought forth images of happier times spent with her 20-year-old son. Also surviving are a brother William; and a sister, Mrs. Arlette Kvance, wife of Patrolman Stephen Kvance. The flag at City Hall is flying at half-staff. Arrangements will be handled by the Raymond Funeral Home at 5 East Wall Street.
From The Norwalk Hour, January 2, 1968
The Vietnam War forced itself upon the consciousness of Norwalk Tuesday when the funeral cortege of another dead warrior wove through the uptown business district shortly after mid-day. PFC Richard F. Kaske was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery and buried in a frozen hillside, the view from which encompasses the iced-over Norwalk River nearby and the snow-studded rocks of Cranbury in the distance. The cortege included two dozen cars, containing family and friends of the 20-year-old infantryman who died in Vietnam on December 21 of burns inflicted by bursting anti-tank shells. Some shoppers, obviously aware of whose body was contained in the leading hearse, stopped in their tracks at the passing of the cortege, removed their hats, and bowed their heads respectfully. Others, either unknowing or uncaring, looked briefly at the hearse and the bereaved family following, then continued on their way. Shortly afterward, at the gravesite in the cemetery, the family, clergy, and a military honor guard performed the last loving acts for the son of Mrs. And Mrs. John Kaske and the husband of Mrs. Barbara Van Steenberg Kaske, all of 20 Poplar Street. “Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” Thus spoke St. Paul in the New Testaments, according to Reverend Richard N. Thomas, pastor of the East Norwalk Methodist Church. Reverend Thomas has conducted a short service earlier in the crowded quarters of the white church at East Avenue and Van Zant Street. He had referred more than once to St. Paul’s words in describing the unexplainable acts of man and God which so often seem to lead to tragic events of which PFC Kaske had become a part. “We are experiencing the evil of man organized in modern war. They told us World War I was the war to end all wars. They referred to World War II as the war which would make the world safe for Democracy. Somewhere we have missed our basic responsibilities. If only we could learn to practice what our Lord said: “Peace I leave with you.” Reverend Thomas, seeking to assuage the grief of the young veteran’s family, said: “I know it’s difficult to relate this death in a far-off corner of the world to ourselves. But this life has been given for you and for me, in the line of duty and for his country. We must rededicate and reconsecrate ourselves to living together here in Norwalk in love. This life has been given so that life may go on. We must return after this day to our daily responsibilities, keeping our ideals in mind, so that this death shall not have been in vain.” Reverend Thomas had known PFC Kaske when the soldier had played for the basketball team at the church. Speaking specifically to the widow who is expecting, he said: “Ten years from now I’d like to meet this son or daughter and share the wonderful things I know about this fine lad.” Speaking to the family, he said: “It may be in the unspoken word or the firm handshake, but underneath it will be the dignity of man manifesting itself in the willingness to share your grief.” Reverend William F. Scheyd, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s offered a prayer for the repose of the soul of the veteran. The 18-year-old widow is a communicant at St. Mary’s. At the cemetery where the family was sheltered from the freezing wind by a small tent, Reverend Thomas crossed three white gladioli on PFC Kaske’s casket, blessed it, committed it, and stood by as the military honor guard gave the rifle salute. A Norwalk High School student, Seth Abramson, blew “Taps.” The flag over the casket was folded and presented to Mrs. Barbara Kaske, whose head bobbed with sobs. Reverend Thomas moved over, looked the widow, the mother, and the father in the eye, and smiled proudly upon them while wishing them courage. Reverend Scheyd took the widow in his arms, comforted her, and then she was alone.
From The Norwalk Hour April 10, 1968
MEDALS AWARDED POSTHUMOUSLY TO PFC KASKE
The Bronze Star for outstanding meritorious service in action was awarded posthumously to PFC Richard A. Kaske, 21, husband of Mrs. Barbara G. Kaske, the former Miss B.G. VanSteenburg, 20 Poplar Street, at an informal ceremony at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Kaske, parents of the soldier. PFC Kaske was assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25 Infantry Division and was killed in combat in Vietnam on December 21, 1967. The award for outstanding meritorious service as well as the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in action was presented at a ceremony attended by Mrs. Kaske; the mother and father of the deceased; his brother and sister, William J. Kaske, and Mrs. Arletta Kvance. Lieutenant Laurance F. Grinnell, Army advisor, State of Connecticut presented the Bronze Star to Mrs. Kaske and read the Presidential citation honoring PFC Kaske for “distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 22 October 1967 to 21 December 1967.”
From The Norwalk Hour August 1, 1968
Kaske Family Accepts Medal For Late Hero
The Bronze Star for heroism in action has been awarded posthumously to Private First Class Richard A. Kaske, husband of Mrs. Barbara G. Kaske of 20 Poplar Street. The Bronze Star with the “V” device was presented to Mrs. Kaske, the former Barbara Van Steenburg, at a ceremony at the home of the deceased soldier’s parents Mr. and Mrs. John Kaske of the same address. Close friends and relatives were present. Private First Class Kaske, assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 27 Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, was killed in action in Vietnam on December 21, 1967. Lieutenant Colonel Laurance F. Grinnell, Army Advisor, State of Connecticut, presented the Bronze Star Medal with a “V” device and oak leaf cluster to Mrs. Kaske and read the 25th Infantry Division general order honoring PFC Kaske for heroism in connection with ground operations against an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as a radio telephone operator to a forward observer party on a combat mission near Xom Dung.
“Private Kaske’s company was moving south when they received the order to hold up for a short break. As the company paused, the second platoon came under intense enemy RPG2 rocket and automatic weapons fire from an estimated squad of North Vietnamese regulars. With the second platoon pinned down, the first platoon leader ordered his men forward to bring effective fire on the enemy positions to their front. As the platoon moved forward through the entangled underbrush, several men were wounded and Private Kaske, with complete disregard for his own safety, rushed forward to assist them. While providing cover fire for the evacuation of his wounded comrades, Private Kaske was mortally wounded by the intense enemy small arms fire. Due to Private Kaske’s valorous and selfless actions, the mission was successfully completed and the enemy force was defeated. Private Kaske’s personal bravery and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, the 25th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.”
Posted on vvmf.org June 1, 2003, by Landon McAllister
Posted on vvmf.org February 17, 2002, by Kristin Guido
You died on 12/21/67 so far away from family and friends. Yet there were others with you who fought alongside you and cared about you also. Some also made the ultimate sacrifice; some came home scarred by the memories. You were my first childhood sweetheart. If one can love so young, then we did. We went on to love others but remained friends and in doing so learned one of life’s most valuable lessons. Of all the people in my life, you had the most profound effect. And in the news of your Death was so devastating, I grieve to this day. God has recently blessed me by allowing me to be in contact with and meet some of the people from the 27th Infantry Wolfhounds. I joined their society to keep your memory alive. But my most treasured moment was meeting your daughter for the first time. We have vowed to stay close. You have 2 adorable grandsons and each resembles you. The oldest proudly carries your nickname “Rit”. Your legacy lives on. But you are sadly missed. I am planning on going to a reunion soon to see some of those I met in DC and also meet some of your other buddies I have been in contact with. This is helping to finally be able to deal with your death. I am also hoping to be in contact with Stanley and Angel’s family at some point. You each died a hear, trying to save the other. Perhaps you are the angels that I know to watch over me. But one thing is certain: you are in a place that knows only peace. God called you home so you would suffer no more. And one day when my time has come, I pray I will be carried on the wings of an angel with red hair. Rest forever in peace in peace with God. I love you, dear Rit. ‘Til we meet again. Krissy.
Excerpt from a conversation between the webmaster and James Maddox, PFC Kaske’s childhood friend
Rit Kaske was in the Boy Scouts at the same time I was but in a different troop. We were camping at the same site one time and my troop was outside in tents and Rit’s troops were in cabins or lean-to’s. I remember they invited us inside with them. I sat next to Rit and he put his arm around me because he knew we were cold.
Private Kaske is buried in Riverside Cemetery, 81 Riverside Avenue, Norwalk, Connecticut; Section 18, Plot 327. Photo by webmaster.