Nov. 6, 2006

A day to honor veterans of war

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Two speakers will share their stories of war for the Veterans Day Program at the new high school gymnasium, Monday, Nov. 13.

The program will begin at 2 p.m. with Dassel man, Erin Tormanen telling his tragic story of his cousin, Tom Tormanen, who was killed in the Gulf War.

Erin had told this story at a memorial at Temperance Corner years back, and was asked to speak for the program.

Erin had served in the Navy, while Tom served in the Marines on the USS Enterprise. Tom had been a part of the attack in Desert Storm.

After the conflict, Tom was reassigned to a security attachment that was left there. During that time, he was killed.

Tormanen will tell his story and relate it to the sacrifices veterans make for our freedom, show how his cousin “paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country,” and give “an eye-opening experience” of a local veteran, he said.

Also speaking is World War II veteran Ed Wentzlaff of Milaca, who was on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.

Known as one of the greatest battle ships prior to the war, the USS Arizona was bombed and sunk almost immediately, according to Al Muller, who teaches a seventh grade history of World War II class.

After the ship was hit by several Japanese bombs, Wentzlaff was fighting a fire in the stern when the final bomb exploded the ship.

He evacuated onto a smaller boat and picked up a number of wounded people out of the fire-filled water, burning his own head of hair.

“He is one of our greatest heros,” Muller said of his good friend.

More than 1,100 were killed on the ship and only a few hundred survived. Wentzlaff is one of the only known survivors still alive in the Midwest and only 10 to 15 in the world, according to Muller.

The USS Arizona is now a memorial and burial place for the ship’s veterans.

After the attack of Pearl Harbor, Wentzlaff was shipped out on USS Yorktown for the Battle of Midway in June.

“This was a turning point in the war,” Muller said.

The Japanese attacked the Yorktown and again, Wentzlaff had to evacuate from the sinking ship. After spending more than five minutes in the water, Wentzlaff was rescued and returned to a Virginia naval base to train seamen, according to Muller.

Other programs

Dassel and Cokato Elementary are inviting local veterans to attend their programs honoring all who served.

In past years, Cokato Elementary has observed Veterans Day by teaching students about flag etiquette. This year, Principal Lorene Force wants to change it up a bit, she said.

From 10 to 10:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 10, there will be a brief history about the Minnesota state flag; what it is and what it stands for.

Dassel Elementary will host Craig Kay as a former Veteran to be guest speaker along with Veteran teachers as well, Friday, Nov. 10 at 9:45 to 10:15 a.m. in the gymnasium, open to the public.

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