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Bob Lind, Published November 29 2012

Neighbors: Honor flight for WWII vets includes reunion of friends

Richard “Dick” Raatz says he wrestles with the idea he’s a hero. All he did, he says, was serve in the military and see action.

He lets it go at that. But the folks who provided the free honor flight to Washington, D.C., in October didn’t. They praised him and the other hundred veterans on the trip for their service to their country, and they gave Dick and the others what he calls a “fantastic trip.”

Dick, 90, a native of Verona, N.D., and now of Brooklyn Park, Minn., writes about it.

“We were shuttled from place to place via three tour buses and pampered with wheelchairs, if we chose to use one,” he says.

“Heartwarming, surprise ‘best wishes’

V-mails from my three kids were handed to me on the plane.

“We were given a beautiful 8-by-11 spiral-bound brochure with our records of service medals, duties, battles and awards.

“After a full day in Washington, we were welcomed back at the Minneapolis Air Terminal by a packed house of well-wishers.

“It has been 70 years since I served and was involved in military action, (and) I find it hard to accept a hero’s title now,” he says. “And what have I to say, after seeing all of the war memorials in Washington?

“I was sickened by the thousands of names on the Vietnam Veterans Wall Memorial. What a waste of human lives. May the Lord have mercy on us for treating each other like this.”

Old friends reunite

A highlight of Dick’s trip was meeting Tilford Thoreson, 88, a Verona High School friend. They hadn’t seen each other since 1940.

But going back to being called a hero: “It just doesn’t seem right for me to accept that title for something I did 70 years ago,” Dick says. “But there seems to be a wave of patriotism sweeping the country lately, and I seem to be one of those who happened to be the right age to serve our country in the big World War II.

“My kids tell me to ‘accept it, Dad; you deserve it.’

“Maybe, when I get older, I’ll think differently about it.

“Anyway, I enjoyed the one-day trip to Washington and viewing the war memorials and museums, and I want to thank those who made it possible.”

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com

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