Veterans Day observed at Minnehaha Elementary School
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
Minnehaha Elementary School students got a living history lesson last week when veterans from Superior came to give a presentation. They brought military artifacts from the past and stories of their service.
John Kanzler served during World War II. He was in Tokyo Bay and watched as Japan signed the instrument of surrender, ending WWII. Though it was more than six decades ago, Kanzler said he remembers it well.
“At that point, you knew you were going to go home — that was the big thing,” he said of the moment. He joined the Navy when he was 17, only after promising his mother he’d finish high school when he returned. After two years of service and witnessing the historic end of the war, he returned home and completed his last semester of high school as a veteran.
Bob Patterson lost his brother in WWII, but still chose to join the service when he reached 18. He served on a ship during the Korean War. They moved often and were stationed in various locations during the war, but he was near Korea when the war ended.
“I thought four years was a long time, but I enjoyed it,” he said.
The men are volunteers at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior. The center honors Richard Bong, a Wisconsin native and WWII hero. He shot down 40 Japanese aircraft and tragically died in a training accident in 1945. His legacy remains, and it was his heroism that inspired another of the Minnehaha speakers to join the military.
“Richard Bong was my hero,” Sid Palm said. He said he was a paper boy in Duluth during WWII and every time one of Bong’s heroic feats was on the front page, Duluth customers would receive their newspapers a bit later than usual. Palm would hide out and read about Bong’s feats before delivering the papers.
Palm joined the Air Force, following in Bong’s footsteps, and served in Korea. Later, he found out he was in the same military outfit that Bong had served in.
Scott Markle, education outreach at the Bong Center and an Air Force veteran, presented the bulk of the program to the Minnehaha students. He told them about Bong, drawing laughter when he called him “the Justin Bieber of his day.” Some students even got the chance to try on military outfits the group brought to the presentation.
Though the appearance was lighthearted, there was a somber undertone as each of the veterans shared their stories with the students. They remembered veterans who have perished and asked the students to do the same on Veteran’s Day and every other day of the year.
“Every boy and girl that didn’t come home at the end of the war…they’re my heroes,” Kanzler said.