By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Nearly frozen, utterly exhausted, and surrounded by German soldiers, Fred Gordon didn’t know if he’d make it out of World War II alive much less be honored in front of 30,000 people 70 years later.
Called “one of the greatest American heroes in Delano,” Gordon was selected to raise the flag at Target Field prior to the Minnesota Twins game against the Cleveland Indians July 21.
“The whole family was very proud and very excited,” said Gordon, who has a wife, Cheryl, three children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Gordon’s relatives nominated him for the flag raising as a special tribute to his 95th birthday, July 14.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Gordon said.
Along with his family, 68 members of Delano United Methodist Church supported Gordon at the game.
“Fred is truly a special person, and is a beloved member of the church,” Pastor Matt Sipe noted.
Before carpooling to Target Field, the church had a special service, using the opportunity to recognize six sets of twins in the congregation.
A standing ovation
The flag raising was a once-in-a-lifetime event for Gordon and his fans.
“When the announcer was reading Fred’s decorated military service record which took a long time because he is highly decorated people in the stand slowly started standing and clapping,” Sipe noted.
“I guess they flashed my picture on the big screen,” Gordon added. “Not everyone gets that chance.”
After the ceremony, Gordon’s group headed over to their seats, in the outfield upper deck.
“You can just barely see the batter from up there,” Gordon said. “Also, it wasn’t shaded, and we were in direct sunlight.”
Luckily, Gordon and his wife didn’t have to stay there long. Gordon’s grandson, Doug, who coaches hockey at St. John’s University in Collegeville, happened to know someone with a season suite.
“So, we had really good seats for the whole game,” Gordon said.
They also got to sit by Iowa State University Alumni Association President and CEO Jeff Johnson, and his wife, Peggy. Gordon, an Iowa State graduate, started his career as a butter maker and laboratory instructor at the school’s dairy industry department.
The pastor who officiated Gordon and Cheryl’s wedding in 1980, Hugh Stevenson, and his wife, also attended.
A new nickname
Gordon has met several friends through church, and each winter, he organizes a cribbage tournament.
“This was the 19th year,” he said. “Next year, hopefully it’ll be the 20th.”
Gordon has a knack for coming up with nicknames for the cribbage finalists, and he’s had his own share of names over the years, as well “Fritz” when he was a boy; “Freddie” during his college years; and “Flash” while in the Army.
Due to his recent honor, Gordon’s friends have given him a nickname they like even better: Fred “God Bless America” Gordon.