Veterans honored

Whether it was from an incoming mortar or rocket remains unknown, but shrapnel tore into James Tofteland of Minot. Tofteland was serving as a sergeant at a remote artillery fire base in Vietnam when he was wounded in action.

“Two of my buddies lost their lives. Others were severely wounded and sent home. I was more fortunate than they were,” said Tofteland.

Tofteland received his Purple Heart, given to U.S. servicemen wounded in combat, during a ceremony in the Ex-Servicemen’s room at the Ward County Courthouse Friday. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., presented the coveted medal to Tofteland 44 years after the incident.

“He was in a really tough war, a really tough time, really tough duty and he was wounded,” Hoeven told a near capacity gathering. “It is so right and so appropriate that we’re here today and that we present you the Purple Heart.”

A round of applause followed when Hoeven handed Tofteland the Purple Heart and several other medals – sharpshooter marksmanship qualification badge, marksman marskmanship qualification badge, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Army Good Conduct Medal and Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal First Class Unit.

Tofteland was the second veteran to receive medals during Friday’s ceremony. The other recipient was former Private First Class Joseph Swital. Swital enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard in 1994 and served as a combat engineer until being honorably discharged in 2002.

“There’s no finer National Guard in the country than our North Dakota National Guard,” said Hoeven. “Joseph Swital had a very important skill set.”

Swital lost his service medals during the flood of 2011. On Friday Hoeven issued replacements for Swital’s National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Expert Badge with Auto Rifle and Grenade Bars.

“It was a lousy feeling. It was something that I didn’t think about at the time,” said Swital, recalling the onset of the 2011 flood. “After the fact, it set in. It’s really nice to have them back.”

“These awards are just one token of our gratitude for the many sacrifices these veterans made defending our freedoms,” said Hoeven.