Radio show aims to help Southwest Honor FlightLUVERNE — One by one, a handful of Rock County veterans bonded by their common service in World War II shared their stories. Some told of love found while on furlough from active duty, others recalled horrors seen while liberating concentration camps.
LUVERNE — One by one, a handful of Rock County veterans bonded by their common service in World War II shared their stories. Some told of love found while on furlough from active duty, others recalled horrors seen while liberating concentration camps. The men said they meet every afternoon for coffee, and they already had an easy camaraderie when they gathered at the Rock County Veterans Memorial on Wednesday to be interviewed by Judy Stratmann of Yankton, S.D.-based radio station WNAX.
Stratmann interviewed the veterans to raise awareness — and, it is hoped, funds —for the Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight, an area initiative that aims to send veterans from Nobles, Rock, Murray and Pipestone counties to the World War II Memorial and other sites in Washington, D.C.
She spoke with Terrie Gulden, who serves on the executive committee in Rock County that is planning the flight. He said people may opt to sponsor a veteran or purchase a button to raise the roughly $136,000 needed for the flight. The committee will need to raise at least $70,000 by late February to charter a flight. There are still seats available for about 60 veterans; and about 60 volunteers also are needed to assist the veterans.
“The whole concept is to give these guys an opportunity to see the memorial in their lifetime,” Gulden said. “What it’s all about is to let these guys fly with their friends, people they have known and been with since the war.”
He said fundraising efforts have gotten a solid start.
“We’re doing this on faith,” he explained. “We also know that people are very generous, especially in this part of the country, when it comes to a cause that is worthy.”
The vets were treated to a live performance of “Greatest Generation” by Lonny Carpenter, a singer-songwriter from Lake Benton.
“I don’t think all of America can thank you enough for all that you’ve done,” he said while readying his acoustic guitar.
Stratmann asked the veterans about their combat experiences and anticipations of seeing the memorial.
U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Warren Herreid, Luverne, told of celebrating with his buddies on his son’s due date.
“We liberated some wine and had a party … and the next day we found out he wasn’t born yet,” he recalled with a laugh.
His son, Warren Jr., was eventually born and visited the memorial last year with his father.
“It was wonderful,” said Warren Sr., who shared somber memories of the war, too. “We liberated one of the concentration camps,” he said. “That’s probably the worst sight I ever saw in my life.”
Luverne resident Leroy Luitjens, a retired army corporal, spoke of his work after the war.
“We guarded the prisoners of war, and we took them out to chop wood to rebuild the country,” he remembered.
He met his wife of 62 years, an Austrian, while serving abroad.
“World War II was so different than the wars we have today,” he said. “It was fought in a foxhole. And the communications have changed so drastically.”
The program, featuring audio from the interviews and the “Greatest Generation” song performance, will air at 11:51 a.m. on Jan. 18-22 on WNAX 570 AM.