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An honored Twins fan: Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight participant raises flag at Minnesota Twins game

By Katie Mullaly, Faribault County Register MINNEAPOLIS -- When it comes to being honored, what image comes to mind? Medals, flowers, a crowd of endearing friends? For Harry Werner, a World War II veteran, he was honored by having the opportunity...

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Harry Werner sports his Daily Globe Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight jacket as he participates in a flag-raising event at Target Field in Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy Faribault County Register)

By Katie Mullaly, Faribault County Register

 

MINNEAPOLIS -- When it comes to being honored, what image comes to mind? Medals, flowers, a crowd of endearing friends?

For Harry Werner, a World War II veteran, he was honored by having the opportunity to raise Ol' Glory at a recent Minnesota Twins baseball game, a team of which he has been a lifelong fan.

Werner says he is "a local boy" who grew up in Delavan and raised his own family in the area. His daughter, Darlene Macklin, is the executive director of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, and he participated in Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight in 2010.

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When the now 89-year-old young man was growing up, he was drafted into the United States Navy on Jan. 31, 1945 during World War II. He said his military career began in Great Lakes, Ill., where he attended boot camp.

Werner was then transferred all the way to San Francisco, a far cry from the little town of Delavan, where he boarded the Auriga AK-98 and would stay aboard that vessel for one year and nine months.

"I don't remember too much of it," admitted Werner. "I remember a lot of water, that's for sure. It was 71 years ago now, and our ship was in the Pacific Ocean headed towards Japan."

The Auriga held attack cargo, which included ammunition and equipment to aid the United States soldiers on land.

Werner said he does remember carrying the cargo to the American soldiers in Okinawa, Japan and he remembers he was ashore in Japan for just a few months before his own troop encountered "stiff enemy air opposition."

"I remember they signed the Paris Peace Treaties while I was in Japan, I do remember that," he says.

During the air strike, Werner and five shipmates "operated and fired a twin 20 millimeter gun to fight off the opposition and successfully unloaded the cargo to the soldiers in the area."

Werner was honorably discharged after one year, nine months and 20 days at sea. Upon receiving his discharge and the accompanying papers, Werner received a total discharge payment of $76.78 for his service to the United States.

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Then young Harry Werner headed home with little pocket money and little inkling into what his future would hold. Little did he know that the powers that be had plans for him after all, and that was to not only serve his country, but serve his community dutifully as well.

Shortly after arriving back to Faribault County -- in Blue Earth, to be precise -- he met his wife, Marian. They celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary June 6.

For the rest of his working career, Werner was employed as a farmer, construction worker and even worked in retail before he found his last job at Don's Fleet, where he worked happily for 52 years. Werner finally retired just last year at the age of 88.

Werner and his wife have four children; Leon, LeAnn, Darlene and Dennis. Those children produced nine grandchildren, and those nine grandchildren produced 12 great-grandchildren.

"I really don't think a man could get much happier," said Werner, but he did.

His grandson, Casey Werner, elected Harry to be a part of the Veteran Flag Raising Program by the Minnesota Twins, his grandpa's favorite baseball team.

"I was very honored to have my family sign me up for the raising of the flag," said Werner. "It was a great day and one that I will remember fondly."

His favorite part about that day on May 25 against the Kansas City Royals, you ask?

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"Two homers right at the start of the game," says Werner. "Then I knew it was going to be good."

And, for the record, the Twins won 7-5 that afternoon. Werner likes to think he had something to do with it.

"The Twins can thank me later," said Werner, laughing.

He forgets, though, that his whole country can thank him for his service.

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