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Honoring WWII vets

When the World War II Memorial is dedicated on the Capitol Mall in St. Paul this Saturday, Detroit Lakes resident Truman Hermanson will be among those WWII veterans on hand to witness the event first-hand.

"They've never really done anything for us World War II guys, and now, all of a sudden... they're going to do a bang-up job," he says. "I'm really looking forward to seeing it."

Hermanson also hopes to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of the next group of "Honor Flight" veterans who will be making the trip later this year, courtesy of a fund-raising drive organized by WDAY in Fargo.

A native of Fertile, Minn., who grew up in Mahnomen, Truman enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November 1940 -- more than a year before the U.S. officially entered the war. Two of his pals, John Beaudoin and Tomas Fugere, both from Fargo, enlisted with him.

Hermanson eventually ended up battling the Japanese in the North Pacific, where they were entrenched on North American soil in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. He was amongst those airmen who helped "get them (the Japanese) out of Attu and Kiska.

Truman's future wife, Priscilla, was an Army nurse during the war, working with amputees.

"She had it worse than I did," Truman says, noting that her job was a difficult, though important one.

After five years with the Air Force -- half of that time being spent in the Aleutian Islands -- Truman married Priscilla and they moved to Leeds, N.D., where they had a Ford dealership for many years.

He and Priscilla then moved to Colorado, where they would spend the next 40 years together. Truman worked as a contractor, constructing homes and apartment buildings.

In 1993, they moved back to Minnesota. After Priscilla passed away in 1998, Truman moved to Detroit Lakes.

"I thought I might as well move back here," he said. "This is my home, this area... all my folks are buried here."

Though he hadn't lived in Mahnomen since 1940, Truman, now 84 years old, says he was surprised to see how many residents he still knew when he occasionally stopped in for a visit.

Of the 30-some veterans from Mahnomen County who will be joining him in St. Paul on Saturday, Truman says, "I probably went to school with 18 of them."

The new World War II Memorial is located south of the Minnesota State Capitol building in St. Paul. Saturday's dedication ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with a roll call of Minnesota WWII casualties (ongoing).

In the large pavilion near Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, there will be presentations by WWII authors and area filmmakers. There will also be a WWII encampment on the front lawn of the Capitol, along with the Red Cross Bloodmobile, and Minnesota Historical Society activities and displays.

There will be a group picture of World War II veterans attending the event at 1 p.m., and a flyover by WWII-era aircraft at 2 p.m., followed by the dedication program (which is expected to last no more than an hour).

The post-program reception will include performances of popular period songs by WWII-era singers and an orchestra. The festivities will conclude at 4:30 p.m. with a "Missing Man" flyover, followed by a 21-gun salute and Echo Taps.

A complete listing of events for Saturday's dedication is available online at the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Web site, You may also call 651-296-2562 for more information.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454