When Alan B. Walker graduated from Winnebago High School in Nebraska in 1967, it didn’t take long for him to become a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I graduated Monday, and Friday morning, they shipped me off to San Diego,” he said.

Six months later, he was in Vietnam as part of Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines. The battalion operated in the Hoi An area, known as “Happy Valley.”

“We got overrun, 88 of us on a ridge, and we got surrounded by 1,100 North Vietnamese,” said Walker, who is retired and lives in Rapid City. “I got hit by artillery, temporarily lost eyesight and hearing on the left side. After I healed up, I went back out into the bush again.”

Walker told the story of his family history, growing up poor on the Winnebago Indian Reservation in northeast Nebraska and his service in Vietnam in a book released last year, “Every Warrior Has His Own Song.”

Now, he’ll share his experiences at the 2011 Marine Corps Ball on Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Rapid City Elks Lodge.

Walker, the youngest of three sons — all Marines — had a strong streak of patriotism in his family and in his tribe.

“Because of being Native, it was always taught to us that men serve their country, serve their tribe,” he said.

At one time, there were five or six young men from his small community serving in Vietnam, which prompted area pastors and priests to ask that no more be sent into combat, he said.

His stepfather’s biggest speech, he said, was: “‘You boys need to leave the reservation. You need to go to school or go into the military.’ Later on, I found that kind of funny, because he and Mom never left. It’s interesting how he saw the world.”

Walker’s book is available at Prairie Edge Trading Co. and at Amazon.com.

For more information about the Marine Corps Ball, contact Gordon Paulson of the Black Hills Detachment Marine Corps League at 348-0161 or pweeo@msn.com. Reservations must be made by Monday, Nov. 7.

Betty ‘Crocker’ Dunn

Betty Dunn of Lead was the baker to beat at the Historic Homestake Opera House’s PumpkinFest Recipe Contest last weekend in Lead.

“Betty Dunn is one of the opera house’s biggest supporters,” executive director Sarah Carlson said. And she’s a good baker — which makes sense because the contest was named “Can You Beat Betty Dunn?”

“She says she’s not, but all of us would agree: If she shows up with treats, we won’t turn them down,” Carlson said.

In addition to volunteering at the opera house, Dunn and her husband, Jim, are often cast as “the classic townspeople” in Gold Camp Players productions, Carlson said.

“We always have a place for Jim and Betty. They’re up for anything,” she said. “Jim was a priest one year, and Betty was a nun in ‘The Sound of Music’ last year. They are at auditions early, and they stay late.”

And Dunn is a good sport, even posing for a “snooty” photo to help promote the contest, which attracted 12 competitors and raised funds for the opera house.

But it looks like next year’s contest will have a new name. Joyce Christensen, president of the Lead Chamber of Commerce, won over the judges with her pumpkin crunch.

“Now, Joyce is the one to beat, and that might be kind of difficult,” Carlson said.

Custer’s got talent

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Dennis Andersen of Custer found a new audience for his jokes when he auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” last month.

Andersen has been performing as a “Mrs. Doubtfire”-type character — inspired by the 1993 movie in which Robin Williams dresses as an older woman — since last Halloween, when he won a costume contest. He has entertained people on the streets in Custer and at Deadwood’s Kool Summer Nights.

At 64, he’s a relative newcomer to show business.

“When you’re going to be an old lady, you’ve got to be an old man,” he said.

He traveled to St. Louis on Oct. 22 and 23 for the  audition, where he did his “stand-up comedy for the ladies.”

“I stood in front of a producer and two other people, one with a camera. You say your jokes, and they don’t crack a smile or laugh or anything,” he said.

He hasn’t heard if he will advance to the next round, but he did get to record “St. Louis’ got talent” — which is not easy to say — for the opening of the NBC show, expected to air in March.

In the meantime, “I’ll be putting some more stuff  together,” he said.

To see Andersen in action, go to YouTube (search dmrsdoubtfire). You’ll recognize him by his pink sweater, ruffled blouse, brooch and earrings.

“I’ve got a good pantyhose joke,” he said.

Know an interesting neighbor? Contact Deanna Darr at 394-8416 or deanna.darr@rapidcityjournal.com

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