Clarence Hakes served in Navy, Air Force and Army

Clarence Hakes Navy Boot

Once known as Decoration Day, the national holiday of Memorial Day is set aside each year on the last Monday in May to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while in defense of our country.
One such patriot from Milaca who died in the jungles of Vietnam on Feb. 24, 1971, is among the many who will be honored during Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.
Clarence Dean Hakes, along with four others, lost their lives while on a supply run, with the cause of the crash ruled as a mechanical failure.
The son of Emma and Wallace Hakes, of rural Milaca, Clarence Hakes was the sixth of nine children, with six brothers and two sisters.
Over the years Hakes was best known by his family and friends as C.D.
Following graduation from Milaca High School in 1958, he began his first of military stints, serving in three branches of the service.
An account of his three changes of military uniforms comes from a school paper his daughter Barb Beeuwsaert penned during her sophomore year at Princeton High School in October 1982, with her mother, Virginia, providing the details. It was just a couple months after Beeuwsaert had turned 4 years old that her father was killed. She still holds onto that school assignment today.
According to that account, following graduation, Hakes joined the U.S. Navy in 1958 and served until 1962, while working as an aviation structural mechanic with his specialty listed as an aircraft pneudraulic repair technician.
Initially Hakes wanted to become involved in the aviation field in the U.S. Army, but he had learned that a college education or aviation training was needed.
Once Hakes was discharged from the Navy, it wasn’t long before he was back in uniform, this time in the U.S. Air Force. His enlistment in the Air Force covered another four years, keeping him in uniform until the end of 1966.
That proved to be a busy year as Hakes married Virginia Tenney, a 1964 graduate of Cambridge High School, in January 1966. The couple’s daughter Barb was born Dec. 1 in Cambridge, and Hakes ended his stint in the Air Force on Dec. 16, 1966.
Shedding his military garb for a short period of time, Clarence went to work for Northwest Orient Airlines in Minneapolis, working on aircraft hydraulic systems until 1968.
Now, some 10 years since graduation that included eight years of military service, Hakes made a decision to join the U.S. Army and entered on April 26, 1969. Following his desire to be involved in aviation, he learned how to fly Huey helicopters at Fort Rucker in Alabama.
According to Beeuwsaert’s paper, if the academic level was high enough, he could go on to advanced flying.
That took him to further training in Georgia, where he learned mechanic and pilot skills to fly Cobra gun ships.
Once his training was completed, now with the rank of chief warrant officer first class, Hakes received his orders to Vietnam.
In Vietnam he was to work as a mechanic on the Cobra gun ships, although he was also qualified to serve as a pilot.
The area he was sent to, according to Beeuwsaert’s account, listed her father as being in a place where only 10 percent were expected to make it back alive.
On this particular mission Hakes was a passenger on a Huey and not involved as a crew member.
The Official Report of Casualty form stated: Died 24 February, 1971 in Vietnam as a result of injuries received while passenger on a military aircraft which crashed and burned.
Hakes was in country for just under five months before the fatal helicopter crash, having commenced his tour of duty on Nov. 17, 1970.
Hakes is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Beeuwsaert recalled her mom pulled a few strings, as originally officials weren’t going to allow pallbearers from the Navy, Air Force and Army to be a part of the service.
Beeuwsaert related from her paper that there ended up being four pallbearers from the Army, along with two each from the Navy and Air Force.
Her mother was told having all three branches of the service represented had never been done before.
In addition to events at Arlington, a memorial service was held prior to the burial for family and friends in Cambridge.
Following the memorial service, Beeuwsaert said, her mother and Hakes’ parents, Emma and Wallace, flew out to attend the service at Arlington.
For his military service, Hakes was awarded numerous medals.
Among them was a Navy Good Conduct and he was recommended for re-enlistment.
From the Air Force he was also commended for his service.
His Army service medals were highlighted by receiving a Bronze Star and Air Medal.
In addition, he received the National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign and Gallantry Cross.
Back home, when the Milaca VFW club was chartered on Aug. 7, 1989, Hakes was honored once again with his name being used along with Korean veteran Curtis Siemers for the Milaca Siemers-Hakes VFW Post 10794.
Siemers was killed in Korea in 1953.
Now, more than 40 years since Hakes’ death, Beeuwsaert can only rely on memories of special times with her father.
Beeuwsaert works as the salon manager at Sheer Beauty located in downtown Milaca.
Among her memories is “sitting on his lap driving the car,” she said.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, she remembers taking her Uncle Jay’s crop dusting plane up one time with her father. Around the age of 3, she was having a “hard time reaching the steering wheel” when she pulled back, sending the plane upward, and the engine stalled. Thanks to some quick thinking and skills her father possessed, they landed safely at the Cambridge Airport.
According to Beeuwsaert, her father would have been 75 this Dec. 23. Her mother, Virginia, now resides in Princeton.
Along with Hakes, several members of the Hakes family answered the call to serve their country.
Younger brother Phil served in the Air Force; he died four years ago in Colorado.
Harold, a sergeant in the Air Force, was dubbed as the “family recruiter,” serving as a recruiter in Fargo. He now makes his home in the state of Washington.
Another brother, Bruce, opted for Air Force duty and now makes his home in Texas.
The elder brother, Jay, who still resides in Milaca, spent his service time in the Army.
Two other brothers died due to accidents.
Fred, at the age of 20, had been inducted in the service in 1961 before dying from a toboggan accident.
A seventh brother, Carroll, died at the age of 7 from his injuries after falling off a hay wagon.
The large family also included two sisters, Elizabeth “Betty,” residing in the Minneapolis metro area, while Kathryn lives in South Dakota.
For Beeuwsaert, this is a time of year that spurs special memories.
“I think about him this time of year, his birthday, Christmas and when his grandson was born,” she said.
Beeuwsaert makes her home in Foreston with her husband, Jeff; they have a son, Ross, 27, and a daughter, Ashley, 21, who works at Milaca Depot Floral.
Ross and his wife, Amber, now have an 18-month-old son, Ayden, a great-grandson who someday will hear the story about his great-grandfather.
Veterans remain special to Beeuwsaert; she and her husband are in charge of the St. Louis Catholic Cemetery in Foreston each Memorial Day.
“We always give them an updated list of veterans and go out to the program there,” Beeuwsaert said.
As Beeuwsaert keeps busy and remembers those good days, while knowing her father “was good at what he did,” his memory will live on through descendents he never got to know.