Stephen Douglass Joyner

First Lieutenant
United States Marine Corps
26 October 1943 - 15 June 1968
La Habra, California
Panel 57W Line 027



Bronze Star (Valor), Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Stephen Douglass Joyner

18 May 2007

Steve was killed on 15 May 1968 near Khe Sanh. Acting Company Commander of Lima Company at the time, when he was killed he was leading a night counterattack against an overwhelming enemy force of NVA regulars that had overrun the company's position.

Steve and I had met when we attended Marine Corps Embarkation School together in Okinawa in March 1968.

A poster Marine, Steve Joyner was completely committed to the men he led. I am honored to have known him. Had he survived Vietnam, Steve would had a successful career in whatever field he chose. Conscientious, earnest, thoughtful, and unselfish, he represented all the virtues one might expect in a Marine Corps officer and an American.

Steve, your friends and colleagues salute you.

Dan Moore

20 Apr 2008

Lt Joyner was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat V for his heroic actions in helping save the lives of seven wounded Marines during combat action near Khe Sanh in January 1968. The Bronze Star was presented in his behalf to his mother, Mrs. June Joyner, during a presentation ceremony on November 18, 1968 at Marine Corps Air Station, EL Toro. Lt Joyner earned the medal for his actions during the week of 7-15 January 1968 while serving as platoon leader with Lima Company. He was cited for heroism while helping evacuate seven wounded Marines who had been wounded in action during a combat operation conducted near the hills overlooking Khe Sanh combat base.

A 1966 graduate of San Diego State College, Lt. Joyner played linebacker on the football team. At Fullerton Junior College, where he attended prior to enrolling at San Diego State, Lt Joyner was named to the first team all-American team as a defensive end.

From a brother-in-arms,
Dan Moore

From a friend and colleague,
Dan Moore
29 Apr 2008

I was a Girl Scout in 1968. Our troop, under my mother's leadership, sent care packages to the soldiers in Viet Nam. My package went to Lt Stephan Joyner, I didn't know how lucky I was that it went to him. He sent me the kindest thank you note I have ever received. He told me about himself and about his plans. We found out he had been killed a few weeks after I received the letter. It broke my heart and had a profound effect on me. I still have the letter and often wonder what would have become of him. He was really a good man.

From the recipient of a kind letter,
Laurie Ellen Johnson Allyn

Former North Orange County Athlete Slain in Viet Action

     LA HABRA - "Hello from Hill 689, Khe Sanh, South Vietnam. I am fine, except for the extreme heat and humidity."
     This optimistic exerpt from a letter written May 12 by Marine 1st Lt. Stephen D. Joyner, was tragically reversed Saturday when reports were received that Lt. Joyner was killed near Khe Sanh.
     According to his mother, Mrs. June Joyner, her son had been involved in intense fighting on Hill 689, near Khe Sanh, but she said she had not been told how or exactly when he was killed.
     No funeral arrangements have been made.


     The 24-year-old Marine wrote Mrs. Joyner a Mother's Day letter, which she said "I'll always remember." He said he had to write a letter because he couldn't find a card. He ended the letter with "thank you for..."
     "He was always writing letters," said Mrs. Joyner.
     In one of his messages to the Fullerton Elks Lodge, Joyner spoke movingly of what patriotism meant to him.
     "Is patriotism a dirty word?"
     "It's not a dirty word to a young Marine sitting in the mud near the Demilitarized Zone.
     "It's not a dirty word to a fighter pilot floating in the Gulf of Tonkin waiting to be rescued," he said.


     Young Joyner is a graduate of Fullerton Junior College, where he was first team All American defensive end in football.
     At California State College at San Diego he was a first team linebacker in 1964.
     In high school, Joyner participated in both football and basketball at La Habra High, but he missed his senior year in the former because of a leg injury.
     An intense person, he could not shrug off a defeat. His junior college coach, Hal Sherbeck, noted on more than one occasion he would weep in the locker room after a defeat.
     The FJC coach had hoped that some time in the future Steve would have been a member of his coaching staff.
     "I don't know a boy I was closer to - this is like loosing a son of my own," said Sherbeck, adding "he had such great faith in America and what we believe in."


     At California State College at San Diego, Joyner enlisted in the Marines during his senior year. He was encouraged to continue his education and he graduated with honors in 1966.
     The day following graduation, he left for a cross-country trip to Quantico, Va., where he reported for training Aug. 1.
     He was commissioned a second lieutenant in October 1966 and before being shipped to Vietnam he served for six months at the Marine base at Quantanemo [sic] Bay, Cuba.
     Joyner was serving with the 3rd Marine Div., L Co., 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade [sic], according to his mother. He was to have been discharged from his first hitch in 1971, but he had signed up for six years after that, said Mrs. Joyner.

Fullerton, CA

WAR HERO - Downtown Yorba Linda was choked with automobiles and the Friends Church was filled to overflowing with those who mourned for Lt. Stephen E. [sic] Joyner, who lost his life in action in Vietnam. The young Marine, a resident of La Habra, was a football star there, at Fullerton Junior College, and at San Diego State College. Services were held in Yorba Linda since he was a member of the Friends Church there. The crowds of people shown above stood outside because the church was filled.

Fullerton, CA
July 3, 1968

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines began June 1968 with its four rifle companies garrisoning several hilltops in the vicinity of the Khe Sanh Combat Base. However, it had been decided that the Khe Sanh Combat Base should be evacuated and to that end operations were planned to disrupt the North Vietnamese Army's infrastructure in the areas surrounding Khe Sanh so the NVA would be less able to interfere as the combat strength at Khe Sanh was drawn down.

The 3/4 Marines were assigned responsibility for sweeping a known NVA base area located to the southeast of Hill 678, about 13 kilometers south of Khe Sanh - and they left their hilltops to make a combat assault into the valley on 11 June. As it happened, the selected landing zone was almost on top of a large NVA bunker complex, and the first company to land - Kilo 3/4 - found itself fighting from the start. There were continuous contacts during the platoon and company-size patrols on 12, 13, and 14 June, but the operation seemed to be successful - the NVA did not seem willing to stand and fight but rather withdrew as their base camps and supply caches were found and destroyed.

That changed at 0530 on 15 June. The 3/4 defensive perimeter, located about a kilometer north of Lang Up (2), was attacked by the reinforced 4th Battalion, 66th NVA Regiment. The NVA succeeded in breaking the 3/4 perimeter in the Mike Company area, but by 0730 the breach had been eliminated and Kilo Company was sweeping in front of the Mike 3/4 lines. Sporadic fighting continued until midafternoon. The attack and its aftermath left 16 Marines and sailors dead, 58 wounded evacuated (one of whom died), and one man from Kilo 3/4 missing (found dead on 16 June). The NVA left 158 bodies and 13 POWs behind them. The Americans who died in the attack were

  • H&S Company:
  • K Company:
    • LCpl Robert J. Wills, New Castle, PA
    • Pfc Aloysius F. Spiczka, Minneapolis, MN

  • L Company:
    • 1stLt Stephen D. Joyner, La Habra, CA
    • Cpl Gerald H. Lavoie, Woonsocket, RI
    • LCpl Donald R. Hawyer, Detroit, MI
    • LCpl Charles D. Smith, Smyrna, GA
    • Pfc David M. Bertram, Campbellsville, KY
    • Pfc Richard L. Fitts, Louisville, KY
    • Pfc Gerald McClintock, Chester, PA
    • Pfc Nathan Thomas, Appling, GA

  • M Company:
    • HM2 William I. Mercer, Los Angeles, CA (Navy Cross)
    • Cpl Randall T. Planchon, Long Beach, CA (Silver Star)
    • HN James D. Cruse, Paducah, KY (Navy Cross)
    • LCpl Richard B. Murphy, Norwood, MA
    • Pfc Robert F. Lopez, Phoenix, AZ
    • Pfc Jeffery A. Thibault, Pitman, NJ
    • Pfc Jackie E. Wallace, Apopka, FL

During the 16th and 17th the 3/4 Marines again experienced only sporadic contacts, and were advised they would be lifted out of the area beginning at 0900, 18 June. That didn't happen.

At 0600 18 June elements of the 88th NVA Regiment attacked the Kilo 3/4 defensive positions, once again breaching the perimeter. By 1030 the perimeter had been restored and the Marines were sweeping in front of their positions. This attack caused the deaths of 15 Marines, but another 129 NVA bodies were found in and around the 3/4 position.

At 1515 the helo lift began. Although the NVA hit the position with more than 100 mortar rounds and 90 rounds of 152mm artillery from the NVA guns at Co Roc during the lift, there were no further US casualties.

Overall, the 3/4 Marines and its supporting engineer element lost forty Marines and sailors during the period 11-18 June.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a friend and colleague,
Dan Moore

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 18 May 2007
Last updated 11/13/2010