Minnesota veterans get special attention this Memorial Day weekend


Veterans in communities across Minnesota are the focus of some special attention as the nation celebrates Memorial Day this weekend.

Veteran receives therapy dog

On Saturday, one Twin Cities area veteran received a service dog named Rex, who is trained to assist him with his post-traumatic stress disorder and other service-related medical conditions.

Ed Abrahamson of Inver Grove Heights, who recently retired from the South St. Paul police department, is an Army veteran who served during the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.

In addition to PTSD which stems from his war experience, he has chronic pain and fibromyalgia, according to FOX 9.

Abrahamson told FOX 9 he has many "dark days" due to his medical issues.

"There are days I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's scary,” said Abrahamson.

His wife Dana contacted a group called Rebuilding Warriors several months ago and requested a therapy dog for her husband, hoping a companion animal would help him.

At a ceremony Saturday, Abrahamson was given Rex's leash for good.

"If I'm in a crowded environment - that is one of my triggers - and my anxiety starts to escalate, Rex will be there to help," Abrahamson said, according to KARE 11.

Jeff Anderson of the Rebuilding Warriors program trains the dogs to help veterans with PTSD.

“If you get anxious, this dog will actually jump up on you and tell you, ‘Hey, get back to reality,’” Anderson said, according to KSTP.

Rex is an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois, who was rescued from an abusive owner.

According to Rebuilding Warriors, an average of 22 veterans die by suicide due to PTSD every day. The group, which is based in California, plans to place 10 dogs with veterans this year around the country.

Documentary tells story of Minn. veteran and Nazi pilot who saved him

A Minnesotan who survived after his plane was shot down over Denmark during World War II lived with a nagging question for decades: Why was he, and the rest of his crew, spared?

A German fighter pilot who could have easily shot their damaged B-17 bomber out of the sky instead allowed the crew to land safely.

A documentary airing Sunday night called "Mortal Enemies" will tell the story of that veteran, 91-year-old Les Schrenk of Bloomington, and his search for the German pilot who spared his life.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press spoke to Schrenk about that ordeal, about his capture and survival in a German POW camp, and about his meeting with the German pilot in 2012.

The two men began an unlikely friendship three years ago that continues now.

"Mortal Enemies" airs at 6:30 p.m. Sunday on Twin Cities Public Television.

 Veteran gets 'bucket list' ride-alongs with police

Air Force veteran Gary Madison said it took a terminal cancer diagnosis three years ago for him to start pondering the experiences he wanted to have before it was too late.

According to WCCO, one of those items on the list for Madison, 68, was a police ride-along; he'd considered becoming an officer when he was younger but it never worked out.

He thought Minneapolis would be a good place to hang out with the police.

“I figure there’s a lot going on in Minneapolis,” Madison said, according to the station. “I could learn a lot about what police do."

Minneapolis police Sgt. Ryan Johnson volunteered to be Madison's guide late last week, in part because Johnson's father died of cancer a few years ago. He said it was "an honor and pleasure" to show Madison around the city.

Madison has ride-alongs scheduled with three other police departments in the next several days, according to WCCO.

90-year-old bugler still plays 'Taps' for comrades

The Winona Daily News tells the story of Jim Scholmeier, a veteran from Fountain City, Wis., who has been playing taps since he was in high school. At 90, Scholmeier tells the paper he's probably the oldest bugler in the state of Wisconsin.

He only missed a few years during World War II; he served in the Navy from 1943-1946.

Scholmeier plays taps now at the funerals of friends and military comrades he's known since the war.

“It’s kind of an honor to do it,” Scholmeier told the Daily News. “It’s something that should be done."

Scholmeier will also play his bugle at several Memorial Day services in his area.

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