Looking over the SKS Vietnamese rifle donated to the Minneota Vietnam Museum was Royal Hettling (left) and Charlie Hettling (right) of the museum and Rick Merritt, who donated the weapon.

Vietnam weapon donated to museum

Kim Huchun played sports in Minneota — not unusual for a youngster — except that Huchun was a Korean refugee. He found his way to this community and was taken in by the Dirckx family.

Sometime during his stay, he was befriended by “Doc” William Merritt, who also coached the fine art of boxing.

One of those “Doc” helped was Huchun. The young man never forgot Merritt — or Minneota. He went off to become a captain, and later gained more rank in the United States Army.

When he came home from Vietnam, he brought a Vietnamese rifle, presumably an SKS he’d salvaged from a cache of weapons in Vietnam.

Last week, Rick Merritt of Missouri, son of former Minneota Veterinarian Doctor Merritt, returned to Minneota for a visit — and he brought along the weapon that has been in his family ever since.

“I knew for a long time I wanted to donate this old Vietnam artifact to the Hettling brothers’ Vietnam Museum,” said Rick Merritt. Thursday, he finally got his chance.

The weapon, an SKS rifle, probably Chinese made, was handed over to Charlie and Royal Hettling for safe keeping in their museum.

Inside the worn and battered box concealing the weapon was a photo of Kim Huchun and a paper with the words, “Use in North Vietnam.” “I remember Kim telling my dad he learned Patriotism in Minnesota and that was the reason he served in the military.”

He gave the weapon to Doc Merritt and his son Rick has always hung on to it as an important artifact.

“He brought the gun back and gave it to my dad,” said Rick Merritt. The weapon was likely used in combat in Vietnam and Merritt figures it was Chinese made.

Charlie Hettling said he felt the weapon was a nice addition to his museum in Minneota, which is dedicated to the Vietnam war and the Minneota soldiers who fought and died in it.

“What I like the most are all the decals inside the box (next to the weapon),” apparently put there by Captain Huchun.

Rick Merritt, who doesn’t get back to his hometown very often, was impressed with the work being done on the Vietnam Memorial and History Center.

The Hettlings established the center in the old restaurant building on Highway 68 in Minneota and have been adding artifacts and information ever since.

A chronology of the war, lots of photographs, history, weapons and military equipment can be found in the museum.

The Hettlings open the museum for special events such as Boxelder Bug Days and Memorial Day.

And, they are on call for anyone who wishes to tour the museum at any time. All it takes is a call to the Hettlings.

The highlight of the museum are plaques Charlie Hettling had made in Vietnam and dedicated to each Minneotan who lost his life in the Vietnam war.

Kim Huchun

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