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Take time to talk to, thank your veterans

If you didn’t notice, Herb Suerth died Oct. 14.
Who?
Herb Suerth, 92, was not a household name in Glencoe. In fact, he never lived in Glencoe or even McLeod County. But he was connected to Glencoe in a way.
Suerth was featured in The McLeod County Chronicle in November 2010 after he spoke to Glencoe-Silver Lake High School history students about his World War II experiences as a paratrooper with Easy Company, 506th Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. That was the company featured in the hit movie “Band of Brothers.”
I didn’t know Mr. Suerth had been to GSL to speak to the students until after he went back to his Wayzata home. So I called him up and asked for an interview. He graciously agreed, and I traveled to Wayzata.
It was one of my most memorable interviews. Like all the other World War II veterans I interviewed over my career, they were all gentlemen in more ways than one could imagine, emphasis on “gentle men.” They all hated war, and Suerth was not different.
After hearing his story, I took a different approach to begin the article. And I’m glad I did. It read:
“It was more than 65 years ago, but to Herb Suerth, 86, of Wayzata, it is still seared in his memory.
“It was Christmas Day near the Belgian crossroads town of Bastogne in 1944. Suerth’s Christmas dinner was rations taken off a dead German soldier. He didn’t need it any more.
“The German was a blond-haired, blue-eyed kid. When he buried him, it took about an hour because the ground was frozen, and there was two feet of snow.
“‘I wonder if his mother ever found out what happened to him?’ Suerth said.”
Pretty powerful stuff.
After the interview, Mr. Suerth asked me where I was from. When I told him International Falls, his eyes lit up.
He said his foxhole mate at Bastogne during the “Battle of the Bulge” was a fellow from International Falls. His name was Frank Soboleski. I knew the name, but never knew Mr. Soboleski was at the Battle of the Bulge, let alone in World War II. Sadly, Mr. Soboleski also died earlier this year.
Suerth’s passing is a good reminder that our World War II veterans are dwindling at a rapid rate. There are so few remaining, but they include at least two other Glencoe natives that I interviewed in the past — Elvin “Speed” Homan, also a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne, and Merrill Burgstahler, a 1940 Glencoe graduate who served under General George Patton with the Fourth Armored Division in Europe.
As Veterans Day approaches, take time to talk to and thank these war veterans for their sacrifices, old and not-so-old. What they experienced, they never forgot.
Thankfully, some of their stories have been recorded but, sadly, most were never written down because nobody bothered to ask them: “What did you do in the war?”
Rich Glennie was the editor of The Chronicle for 23 years. He retired Aug. 1, 2014.