BY EMILY BYWATERS
DELANO, MN Everybody has a story to tell, and June Braith of Delano knows that well.
She specializes in telling stories - specifically, telling the stories of men and women who have served in the military.
A Delano resident for 35 years, and Minnesota resident for life, she has a special passion for hearing the tales of veterans.
“Every veteran has a story, and they all want to be told, they just don’t think their story is exciting enough,” she said.
Braith’s own background in her family’s military involvement was a key factor in sparking her interest in war stories. She had a father, three brothers, and a husband all enlisted in the services.
When she retired from Mechanical Inspecting about three years ago, she found that she was unsatisfied with sitting home all day and, therefore, decided to put her free time toward helping people.
Originally, she attempted to volunteer at a hospital but, shortly after, decided she wasn’t quite equipped for that line of work.
“I thought, ‘There’s got to be another way,” she saidd.
Luckily for her, as soon as one door closed, another opened. Braith found out that a friend of hers was planning on building a monument in Carver County, and needed people to log the veteran’s stories onto an online website. Eagerly, she agreed to assist.
“People call and ask if they can have their stories done,” she said. “Everyone’s a little different. Most of the time people send something - I have everyone’s original stories in their own handwriting - and I just haven’t had the heart to throw it away.”
Where do the veteran’s stories go?
First, they are put in a big binder that Braith owns. Her current binder has more than 100 different stories of service in it. After that, she will type them up and upload them to a special website made in honor of the different people who have served. The stories range anywhere from a simple list of facts (otherwise known as a DT 214 form) to testimonials of the veterans.
“When I see a vet’s hat, I got over there, and I say ‘Thank you for your service.’ Most of them say, ‘Oh, thank you, thank you very much’ but, every once in a while, you’ll get one that you just can’t walk away from.”
She went on to say, “If that was my dad or my brother, I’d like to think someone would take the time to listen to their stories.”
She firmly believes that it’s important to keep track of individuals’ stories, as that’s what will be passed down to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She also believes that everyone she’s ever
met has an interesting story.
The longest story she has written took several days of interviewing, but Braith claimed that she could have listened to him for hours and hours.
As for her favorite story to write, the award goes to the story of Edith Widmer and her husband. When Edith was 15 or 16, she had lived in Germany, as a citizen. Coincidentally, her husband also lived in Germany, as a US soldier.
At one point, he made her drink some water to make sure it had not been poisoned by the Germans. Braith laughed as she recounted this story, and interjected that she had asked Widmer, “And you married him?”
The full story of the Widmers, she notes, is eight pages long.
“I’m just having a lot of fun and I hope I never stop having this much fun,” she concluded. “I’ve met a lot of nice people (and) had a lot of times where I’ve come home kind of feeling drained, but it’s really opened my eyes.”
To read more veterans’ stories, visit Carver County Veterans Memorial and Registry online.