Veterans Day: The stories of Minnesotans who served


It is the 11th day of the 11th month, the moment when in 1918 fighting between the Allied Nations and German forces stopped, signaling the near-end of World War I.

Now, Nov. 11 is celebrated as Veterans Day – a day President Woodrow Wilson described in 1919 as a time to "be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory ..."

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are an estimated 369,149 veterans in Minnesota, 93 percent of whom are male.

About 74 percent are wartime veterans, with 129,641 having served during the Vietnam Era, 97,696 during the Gulf War, and 34,270 during the Korean Conflict. There are still 18,523 World War II veterans in the state.

Today, news outlets are telling the stories of some of those 369,149 veterans. Here's a brief look at each one.

MPR tells the tale of Ruth Knox, a now-95-year-old who served in the Women's Army Corps during World War II, signing up not a month after D-Day. She was one of 350,000 women to sign up for the task, and told MPR about her responsibilties and struggles: Working as an attendant on Skymaster cargo planes or caring for wounded soldiers. And while working in an Army office, she said a soldier tried to grab her "every day."

She returned to St. Paul after the war and raised six children with her husband.

The Pioneer Press looks at the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a nonprofit that brings quilts meant for comfort and healing to veterans around the country. The Pioneer Press spoke with Rose Hirschey Dukatz, who brought a quilt to her older brother, 79-year-old veteran Richard Hirschey. Hirschey, who served in Korea, is battling asbestosis and told the paper the quilt "is, in a way, a kind of recognition."

– The Star Tribune spoke with Minnesotans about their time after the war – specifically the ones who went to college decades ago thanks to the GI Bill. One of those is Jeanne Bearmon, who served in the Women's Army Corps and married a Minnesota man after the war. She moved to the North Star State and enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1946.

An estimated 25,000 WWII vets went to the U of M – more than any other college in the U.S., the paper reports.

“Without the GI Bill, I never would have gone to college and I would have lived with disappointment," Bearmon told the Star Tribune.

– A difference in military branch couldn't keep Amanda and Don MacKinnon apart. The Bemidji Pioneer reports Amanda was in the Army when the two met decades ago – Don in the Navy. They met at the Defense Language Institute, learning Russian every day for a year, then quickly got married before shipping off to Japan. Thirty-four years later, the MacKinnons are still happily married and calling northern Minnesota home.

MinnPost says WWII veteran Jim Carroll – who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and parachuted on D-Day into Normandy – was scheduled to receive France's Legion of Honor medal Monday at Bloomintgon City Hall. But the snow postponed the event for now. The Minnesota Historical Society details his time in the war with interviews and images.

– The Duluth News Tribune spoke with JoAnn Payment, whose father received a signed letter from Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing for his service during World War I.

– Both the Hibbing Daily Tribune and Rochester Post-Bulletin looked at veterans memorials in the area, and how they're being used for Veterans Day events.

– The Austin Daily Herald reports Mower County is still seeking military correspondence – any mail from soldiers to their family or friend, or vice versa, from the Civil War up through today – for the Minnesota Military Family Tribute’s story stones memorial.

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