Monday, August 26, 2013

War and the dedication of those who served... Cannon Falls Military History Museum

  "Train for war… but pray for peace."
The estimated survival rate of a “tail gunner” - the man operating a machine gun in the tight rear compartment of a B17 airplane in WWII - was seven missions.  But Army Staff Sergeant John Cockriel lasted through 50 of them and came back home again.
Vince Cockriel has the uniform of his Uncle John on display at his recently opened Cannon Falls Military History Museum a few miles southwest of Cannon Falls at 33504 Warsaw Trail.

The display shows Vince’s dedication to honor the men and women who valiantly served their country.
Vince explained that John, “hit all the big ones.”  He bombed in front of the invasion of Normandy and at Anqio and on and on.  “He was  typical of the WWII era ... sacrificing, unselfish -  they didn’t expect a lot.
“Not only the men but the women sacrificed equally as much... either as nurses or correspondents or on the homefront.”

Vince explained his family’s role in the military.  His two grandfathers were in WWI.  Then his father, five uncles and one aunt were in WWII.  Later, six cousins and Vince himself were in Vietnam.  And three nephews were in the Gulf Wars.  

Recently at his museum, WWII reenactors explained the importance of recognizing the valor of these military heroes.  They help you step back in time - to the 1940’s - to get the feel of those tense and tragic times.

Alissa and Paul Wirth from Hastings, MN portray a war correspondent and a member of the 117th Infantry Regiment.  Alissa explained how only about 259 women were correspondents compared to a thousand or so men.  But they wrote about the fighting men they met and folks back home read their stories and in that way they would know their loved ones were still alive... at least at that time.  
Women also had to deal with the male attitude prevalent in some units.  For example, women became pilots but they were mainly based in the U.S.

  Paul Wirth explained that his reenactment character would have enlisted soon after the Pearl Harbor attack and then landed in Normandy on D Day.  Paul describes some of the dangers they encountered like the wire stretched out when landing at Normandy that cut off body parts.  And although a “Command Car” was supposed to be used for officers, it was soon noticed that the Germans had discovered this and would target them.   It was safer not to ride in them.

  Paul continued that even though they knew that “every step could be your last...  we always thought we would come home.”

Another reenactor, First Sergeant Steve Landgraf, wanted to clarify what war is really like.  He explained, watching war on TV is all “shoot-em up”.   “But it’s not glamourous... it’s horrible.”  

“It’s a shame we ever have to have a war.”  Steve concluded: “As the saying goes: You train for war but you pray for peace.”  At least today there is patriotism back in America... so please...when you see a someone who has served... "just say thank you.”

And we also say “Thank you” to Vince for reminding us of all who served so valiantly.



Saturday, August 10, 2013

Superman... in Zumbrota, MN?

It's a Bird...It's a Plane... 
It's Superman in Zumbrota!

Just like Clark Kent of Superman fame. Although there probably isn’t a phone booth for him to change into his flying outfit in all of Zumbrota, MN - there is an optometrist whose friends think he comes pretty close to the flying hero!

Dr. Kevin Kish opened his office early one morning and was surprised to see the cabinet doors were open.  Then a man came out of another room and threw a punch at him and ran out the front door with a bag of cash and stuff.
No time to change into his superman outfit - but Kish chased after the burglar!
  He explained, “There wasn’t a lot of speed here - we were two 60 year old guys!  Anyway I hollered at someone on the street to call 911 and I kept chasing him.”
The duo headed down Main Street.  
Kish continued, “He’d run a little and I’d run...  then he’d turn at me and I’d go back... he’d yell at me and I yelled back... in Norwegian!” (Ya Shure!)
Anyway, they got to the east side of town and the burglar fled into the woods where Kish lost him.
By this time law enforcement and a K9 unit had arrived and the suspect “got nailed in some tall grass.”
  And friends sent Kish a Superman shirt and shorts!
It’s stories like these that we get to hear at the TRIAD meetings - local citizens and law enforcement - on the second Wednesday of every month at the Shepherd’s Center. 
Look what was found along the road... 
Another man told a story about what he found when walking along a road near his farm near Rochester, MN.  (We’re keeping his name private at this point.)
It was just a piece of paper... a receipt from a tire company in Wanamingo.  When he got home he tossed it in the garage.
A few days later he was going down the road when he noticed something further in the woods - it looked like a money bag!   It had a lot of checks inside so he called the sheriff’s department.  A local bank had been robbed.  Two men had taken a bag with $4000 in cash.
The police had a picture of them on the surveillance tape from the bank but no names.  Then our man recalled the receipt he had picked up along the road.  Would that have any connection?  Well, the police checked it with the tire store’s surveillance tape and they had a perfect picture of the robbers along with their names on their purchase.
Just borrowing a car? 
Then Rod Johnson told this story.  His wife Bernie had called him at work and explained that someone had come and asked to borrow a chain because he was getting a car from their neighbor.  After she gave them the chain she called the neighbor and he said he hadn’t given them permission!  He proceeded to walk down to the men and asked what they were doing and then called the sheriff’s department.
The men were stuck and couldn’t leave!  Their story was that they were just pulling the car out to pull their pickup out.
No eye witnesses were available but Rod explained that the next day when the deputy was talking to another neighbor about this concern he was told that a member of their family had recorded the whole thing on video!  And that helped prove what the guys were really doing. 
Suspicious van... 
Another local citizen became suspicious of a van driving without lights after midnight.  Especially after it parked and some of the passengers got out and started walking around the dark neighborhood.  This area had been targeted for burglaries earlier that year. 
So Jay Sjoblom followed the suspects in his vehicle and kept up communication with police in order to keep them under surveillance until they could be apprehended.   
Looks to me like we have more “Clark Kent/Superman” heroes around here than we thought!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Pioneer Day at Chapel Hill

Hear the sounds of memories...

Listen carefully and you may hear the sounds from the memories echoing on the wooded hilltop...  the laughing of children pulling tricks on each other, the singing of the congregation and the sorrowing of mourners as they buried their loved ones in the small graveyard.

It’s a steep climb to the old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church built 140 years ago in Belle Creek Township southeast of Cannon Falls.   Rev. Samuel Poole Chandler helped build it and it was dedicated in 1873.   

His great great grandson, Orland Chandler of Wauwatosa, WI has been restoring the site for several years.  (Pictured with wife Kay and the remodeled chapel.)

It was an enchanting Saturday recently when the first annual Pioneer Day was held on the site.  Volunteer Coordinator, Nancy Ellison, organized the festivities.     

A Civil War encampment was demonstrated by three members of the Third Minnesota Company C.  It was led by Captain Randy Kuznicki (r) and the gun salute was demonstrated by Blair McNamara and Terry Norton.  There are between seven and possibly nine Civil War veterans buried in the cemetery.

Demonstrating the technique of using a bayonet during the Civil War is Blair McNamara.  Interestingly, this method was not popular with soldiers.

Kids played tricks on each other too!

“I kinda thought you’d do that!”  One of the boys playing the old game of ”Tug of War” dropped the rope and sent the other boy sprawling in the grass!  Want to guess which one did it?  See video on Youtube or (OK - it's the boy on the left.)

Various crafts of the times were demonstrated like spinning, weaving, candle making and wood working.
Jonya Pacey
Gayle Dahl

And today... using a modern “memory maker”, ( a little point and shoot camera like we did), you can add these moments of celebration to your own.