Tag Archives: World War II

What Is On My Mind Today? A Soldier, Priest and Courage

World War II Soldier

There was a soldier on an island in the Pacific during World War II wishing he was home and anywhere but there.  His military unit had been on that beach for over a week. They were staging for a big offensive against the heavily dug in Japanese.

This wasn’t the soldier’s first rodeo.  He had been in several tough fights and knew that this one was going to be no different and probably worse.

Engrossed in his thoughts, the soldier didn’t see the army’s priest walked up to him.  The priest had sought him out knowing that the soldier was a Christian, practiced the Catholic faith, and would soon be ordered to advance into battle.

The priest took his pastoral role very seriously and always tried to visit with soldiers before they were ordered into a fight.  This day was no different and by the pale anxious face of this soldier, the priest thought that the kid could use some company and sat down.

The priest looked at the boy and asked him if he was ready for confession.  The young man’s head reared back from the force of his laugh as he responded, “Father, I have been on this beach all week, I have had no opportunities to sin.”  Well, the priest thought about that and asked the soldier if he was sure.  The soldier was certain that the tally sheet of his soul was clean, at least for that week.

The priest wasn’t born yesterday, nor did he look like it, and knew that there were plenty of ways for young men to offend God when they were all gathered together far from home with nothing to lose and no promise of tomorrow.  The priest nodded and asked the soldier, “Is there anything that I can do for you?”

The priest did not have to wait long for the soldier’s answer. The young man blurted out that he feared his luck was running out.  He’d seen too many friends die. Soldiers that were stronger, smarter, better-trained and more faithful than he, had, had their numbers called.  He explained to the priest that with each battle, gun shot, artillery or grenade blast his fear grew.  Battles were becoming harder not easier. His courage had been used up and was gone.  So, yes, there was something the priest could do for him…could he have some courage?

The priest thought about the young man’s request.

He told the young man that everyone is afraid to die…even priests and good Christians.  Only the untruthful would say otherwise and bearing false witness is a confession-able sin. The priest reminded the soldier about the many times he had seen the priest under fire in harm’s way on battlefields ministering to the wounded, dying and performing last rites for the dead.  Right out in the open.  The priest told the soldier that there are times when he is practically paralyzed with fear.

Everyone feels fear the priest told the lad. Especially in situations that are dangerous or life-threatening. If someone tells you they are never afraid….they are lying. The brave and courageous are not fearless, they have just learned to control their response to fear.

The priest then told the young soldier how he finds courage in the face of death.  He repeats the Bible verse, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” 

The soldier took the priest’s advice.

During an interview on television sporting a lopsided grin the soldier remembered repeating that biblical phrase hundreds, if not, thousands of times before the end of the World War II…which he survived.

The Twenty-third Psalm, that the priest provided to the soldier, is probably one of the most well-known verses of the Bible.  It was written thousands of years ago by King David…a brave and courageous soldier.  King David knew what it was like to be young, on a battlefield facing death.  However, the circumstances do not matter, King David’s poetic words have given generation after mortal generation peace, reassurance, hope and courage.

Psalm 23: 1-6

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord






Grandma Pat Letters: Your Parents Have Skipped School and Memorial Day…The Day of the Dead


Dear Kids,

These warm spring days sure feel good.  I bet you’d rather be playing outside than sitting in a school room.

When your parent’s were young, on the first really warm day of spring, I would check them out of school and we’d go have fun.  Wherever we went, it was outside! By the time they were in sixth grade the school staff expected me to show up and free my children to skip school, for one day.

Actually, I had my children skip school on the first warm day of spring each year for two reasons.  One, I just loved being with them and wanted to make memories with them.  The second reason that I checked them out of school was…I could.

Grandparents and parents are not perfect.  How’s that for a shocker!  There are many times that they are going to make decisions regarding you kids that they may wish they could change.  However, your parents are the people that know you best, and therefore know what is best for you. I strongly believe that loving parents are the only ones that have the sole responsibility and authority to make decisions about their children. Not the government, school administrators, teachers or social idea pushers.

Now,  I could have just lied to the school and called my children in sick on those special spring skip-school days. That would have been the easy and convenient thing to do.  However, that would have set a very poor example, don’t you think?  I had tried to teach my kids that lying is not acceptable, even when telling the truth may be uncomfortable or cause conflict.  I could do no less than follow my own advice.  Morals and ethics always count, especially when no one is looking.

So, your parents got on the bus and went to school never quite sure which day would be the day.  As soon as they were on the bus, I would change, get into the car and race to school at under 30 mph…as that is the speed limit here in town.  After they had been seated in their classroom, I would show up and check them out at the school’s office, “to spend a day with mom.”

Our school officials were great and never, ever gave me any trouble about on my practice of spending special and quality time with my children.  They were smart people and knew that no matter how many of them there may have been, I would still have had them outnumbered.

I bet you will be on summer vacation from school soon, because Memorial Day is just two weeks away.  That weekend is always advertised as the official beginning of a Minnesota summer.  Which is just nuts, because it seems like that weekend is almost always cold and rainy.  Besides Memorial Day is not even a holiday or a celebration, it is an observance….about death.

Memorial Day is about remembering the service and sacrifice of all of the military men and women who have died protecting and defending our nation.

I know you know about the Korean War and that your Great-Great-Uncle Wendell who died fighting in it.  But, you had two relatives that were killed in that war.

Yes, the same Korea that is now in the news everyday.  I do pray that after all these years that country can be peacefully return into fellowship with their neighbors and all of the nations in the world….but, that is another story.

The boys in our family that died were cousins.  They were killed about a month a part.  One, Eugene Kronbeck, had an artillery shell land on him.  Your great-grandpa has told me many times that Eugene never knew what hit him.  One second he was here, and BANG…..he was in heaven. Great-grandpa would say that just pieces must have been left of his cousin, because the casket was so light.  I think he thought the casket was actually empty.

Eugene Kronbeck.jpg
Eugene Kronbeck photo taken the morning he left for Korea Sept 20, 1951. He was killed in action Nov 25, 1951.

The other young man that did not come home was of course Wendell.  I have told you about him before.  I know, you know that he killed instantly by machine gun fire.  Click here to read the letter describing the circumstance of his death as told by another soldier who witnessed his demise.

Aviary Photo_130940619951454515
Wendell L. Larson.  KIA, Korea, Age 23. 

Many people get Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day confused or think that they are the same.  They are not. Veteran’s Day is for the living who are serving or have served in uniform. Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who died in war and their families.

Memorial Day is an important day.  It was first officially proclaimed by Civil War General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, on May 5, 1868 and called “Decoration Day.”  That first year the observance was scheduled to take place on May 30 and folks were asked to use the day to decorate the graves of the war dead.  I have often wondered if that time was chosen, because the spring flowers would be in bloom.

On that very first  “Decoration Day” General James Garfield, who would go on to be president and the second president to be assassinated in office, addressed a crowd of over 5,000 participants who decorated the over 20,000 graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Now, if those folks after fighting and killing each other for four long years during the Civil War could work together just three years after the war ended, there is no excuse for all of the hateful nonsense that is going on in our country today.  Honestly, some people’s kids!

It took over 100 years for, “Decoration Day” to morph into Memorial Day.  In 1971 a federal law made Memorial Day a national observance to be held on the last Monday of May.

It is little wonder that people no longer know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.  During most of the wars of the past almost everyone knew someone directly affected…either the dead soldier or his family and friends. For example, during World War II more than one out of every ten people were in the military.  Now less than one percent serve.  That is less than one out of every hundred people.  Instead, of three kids in your class going in the military, now there would be three kids in your whole school.

We are a nation of over 320 million people, yet only 1.3 million actively serve in the military. Another 1 million are in the military reserves. The low number of people serving insulates the general public from the human costs of war.  That is why your grandma thinks that if a family does not have a member serving in the military when our nation is at war….they should be paying a hefty war tax. Not only would this unify the country behind the war effort, but would raise awareness of the human loss and cost of war.  It would also pay for war.

Ours is not the only family to have lost young men or women to war.  The total number of American’s who have lost their lives fighting for our nation in uniform is over 1.1 million.

During the Civil War, from 1861-1865, over 625,000 military deaths were recorded.
That’s more Americans than died in both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam combined.  The military death toll amounted to two percent of the total population at the time.  Today that would be equal to six million Americans dying in a war.

In World War II over 407,300 military deaths occurred which was .3 percent of the total population.  That would equal about  1,012,976 soldier deaths today.

So you see, there are lots and lots of families who will be honoring their war dead over Memorial Day….including your own.

Just what kind of people put their lives on the line for others? Well, they are the ones who are self-reliant, selfless, and self-sacrificing.  They think of others welfare before their own. They are not selfish, self-absorbed or self-serving.  They serve, because they love.

John 15:12-13 

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

So what type of people serve in the military…. the best!

When you kids are out and about on Memorial Day weekend, should you pass by a cemetery and see lots of small American flags fluttering in the wind, you will know that there are small flags on your family’s fallen soldier boys graves, and they, like all of the other men and women buried beneath those flags are our nation’s true heroes.

Have a great week!

Sending Lots of Hugs and Kiss!

Grandma Pat

What Is On My Mind Today? Buying a Bomb at a Garage Sale


This story from Foxnews about a live World War II shell in an Oregon’s women’s shed  reminds me of when I bought the bomb at the garage sale.

Yup, I bought a 90 mm solid brass artillery shell at a garage sale in Shoreview for $3.25 to use as an umbrella holder in my entry way.

It looked like a huge solid brass 22 shell. The fellow had brought it home from WWII. The shell had been in his living room for over 60 years.

When I got it home, transported of course in my red Corolla with my daughter in the car, a neighbor boy looked in it and said, “Pat, there is shit in there!.”

So, we got a flash light and sure enough, the detonator was still in there and when I flipped it over the percussion cap was still intact on the bottom.

My neighbor, the one who has the brain tumor now who is a veteran, happened to be outside and hollered to keep that thing away from his house.

That was when I realized, I was $3.25 and a bang away from paradise.

I went indoors and called an army surplus store to see if it was dangerous. The nice fellow that answered the phone gently and calmly explained that explosives explode. Large explosives explode largely.

So I called the police, who called the bomb squad. It’s just how things go some days.

They told us it was safe as long as it was laying on its side. We all took a step back.

A discussion commenced. It was pointed out that I had no fear of the thing when I was driving all over with it in the trunk of my car.

Reality changes perspectives.

I tend not to lose arguments, if I decide to take one on. As former Secretary Mark Ritchie once complimented me after I learned that I was too short to be a Civil War soldier, without missing a beat and with a big smile on his face, he responded, “Oh, they’d take you, you’re a fighter.”

Recognizing when a cause is truly lost is a gift. The gifted officer, a true credit to his department, demonstrated an exemplary commitment to public service and bravely, and as soft as a feather, laid it on its side. He put it into the trunk of his car and hauled it away.

I arrived back in the house just in time to hear a television news station announce that a woman in Centerville had bought a bomb at a garage sale. My ever dignified and quiet husband said he was going to his room as the phone rang. It was his grandmother from Pine City who just said, “It was you, wasn’t it!”

The bomb squad had to blow it up and I never got back a single piece of brass. A shame! It was a nice piece of brass. It had 3-5 dynamite blasting caps worth of powder still in it.

After that I did see more bombs for sale at garage sales in Shoreview,. People had stolen them from the Arden Hills arsenal. I never purchased any more, not even the homemade dumb bells made with large live artillery shells, much like the one pictured below, duct taped to each end. A situation that clearly illustrated the difference between a dumb bell and a dumb ass.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but DAMN!



Grandma Pat Letters: Cat Warfare….The Battle of the Bulge

A short history of the World War II December Battle of the Bulge.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter


Dear Kids,

Well, it is cold outside.  Our yard is like a muddy pig sty and my dogs have become the pigs.  Oliver is just loving digging in the mud.  Truman digs right alongside of Oliver and yet stays perfectly white, when Oliver the pup comes in looking like a filthy black bear.   He’s still always so cute…just like you.

Your grandma has started baking Christmas cookies for the holiday festivities.  Well, that and I give lots of cookies away to folks who otherwise wouldn’t get their favorites.  Many of my friends who are World War II veterans have already put in their requests.  Their favorites are my old-fashioned gingersnaps and Grandma Esther’s Spritz Cookies.  I will start the baking this week and fill my freezer with treats to be delivered before Christmas.  Don’t worry I will save plenty for you and your folks.

Of course, with a house filled…

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Letters to My Grandchildren: Cat Warfare….Pearl Harbor Sneak Attack Cats!

Grandma Pat loves sharing history with youngsters. This letter to her grandchildren is about, “A day the will live in infamy,” December 7, 1941, the day Japan surprise attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the United States entered World War II.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

Dear Grandson,

Well there is finally a thin layer of ice on the pond behind our house.  It is much too soon to go on any ice…so STAY OFF THE ICE…until your dad says it’s safe.

Well I have decided to eat healthy this holiday season.  So every morning I have been eating cottage cheese with pineapple.  I love pineapple.  It is sweet and sour all at the same time.  Its yellow color reminds me of sunshine and the tropical island of Hawaii where it is grown.  I have never been there, but I am told it is just beautiful.

I do have a cousin who grew up in Hawaii. He lives out in California now.  He never could get used to the cold, snow and ice of Minnesota.  He is about the same age as your Great-Grandpa Larson.  This guy was amazing at Judo and was once a coach…

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What Is On My Mind Today? The Passing of Stan Kowalski, Professional Athlete, World War II Veteran, Life-long Veteran Advocate and Great Friend.

Stan Kowalski (on the left) during a World War II Honor Flight to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC in 2009. 

On Friday, October 20 this world said goodbye and heaven joyously welcomed a great man….Stanley Kowalski.

Stan was born with a larger than life personality.  There was no forgetting Stan once you met him.  If he knew you, you were his friend. A more loyal and loving friend a soul on this earth could not have than Stan.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by local television station KARE-11 about Stan.  Their interview does a great job telling the story of this wonderful man.  Here is a link to their story about Stan.


Throughout his life Stan was always one hundred percent devoted to the people and causes he cared about.   He will be greatly missed!

God rest his soul and bring the peace that passes all understanding to his family as they mourn his loss and celebrate a life well-lived.

What is On My Mind Today: El, Elvis and A Prison Break


I have this friend, of many years, whose name is El.

El is a 93-year-old World War II veteran, who still carries the bullets in his body from a surprise attack during the battle for Luzon. One of our first conversations was about this very battle and how he’d been a Japanese prisoner of war for four hours.

I thought he was jesting with me, as nobody was a Japanese prisoner of war for just four hours.  The Japanese just did not operate that way during World War II….except in cases like his.

Not yet twenty years old with bullets in his back and legs, he spent over four hours laying on a jungle battlefield, as Japanese soldiers poked him and his fellow American soldiers with bayonets, to make sure they were all dead.  As he laid there, every once in a while he would hear a gunshot, and know that another boy would not being going home. El will tell you the only reason he survived was that he fell face down when he was hit and how hard it was not to flutter his eyelids when poked with a bayonet.

He and his fellow survivors, made it off the island and were given medical aid. Unfortunately, there was only one small plane to evacuate the boys and it seated four. So, El and one of his buddies were put into body bags, used for the dead, with only their heads sticking out and tied to the wing of the plane.  His only request was to be tied face down so that he could see where he was going.

As they flew over the Pacific ocean, at about 1000 feet, he could see the whole Pacific naval fleet, whirling around in the ocean waters beneath him.  He says he often wonders what their plane looked like on radar and is amazed that they were not shot down.

By the time he reached medical care, just a day or so after being hit, his leg was already black from infection.  He did not lose the leg, but he has scars the entire length of that leg that tell the story about how hard it was for him to keep it.

El is a very well known, popular, active member of the City of Forest Lake, MN.  He has been a fixture on their city streets for many years as he cruises town in his “scooter”, with a big American Flag flying behind him.

Winter, spring, summer and fall, regardless of rain, sleet, snow, fog, heat or cold, not much could stop El from getting where he wanted to go on that “scooter.” He was even given a special permit, by the city,  so he could legally drive on city streets.

El’s health had been more of a challenge as of late and he was recently moved into a nursing home. Today when I arrived for a visit, and to deliver several dozen of his favorite cookies, homemade gingersnaps,  I found him sound asleep, with his ever present”scooter” parked right beside his bed.

I always enjoy El, and again today we had a great chat.  I announced to him that I have decided that Elvis was murdered with codeine by Ginger Alden, and that Lyndon B. Johnson was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  He gave me a broad smile, and I got the look I always get for my foolishness. Then, I was told to write a book.

I then asked him if he was still cruising around town on his “scooter.”  “No!”he fairly shouted. “They won’t let me out of this place without someone with me!”  His response surprised me some, knowing the man as well as I do.  And, I told him so.  I went on to explain that find it hard to believe he could not evade capture by mere nursing home staff.  After all, he has, under dire circumstances, escaped capture many times before. Then, I remembered that he was incarcerated…once.

During World War II, after El recovered from his wounds, he was sent back into service. By this time, the war in the Pacific had ended and El was sent to Japan.  He and his unit were on guard duty near one of the towns that had been blasted off of the face of this earth by atom bombs.

El and his buddies had a pretty great time in Japan. They were young, had survived the war and had money in their pockets.

In those days, when in a United States military uniform in Japan and you had too much fun, you would end up in a military prison.   The commander of this prison was a proud, obnoxious, arrogant, peacock-strutting of a man, who continually boasted that no one had or ever would escape his fenced stronghold of character development and repentance.

So, one night, after having enjoyed a goodly portion of fun, frivolity, frolic and fermentation, El and a buddy decided to break into the prison.  The success of their venture was made known to the hilarity of all the very next morning when there were two extra soldiers during roll call.

Well, the prison commander became positively apoplectic!  Both El and his commanding officer received their due portion of this man’s verbal wrath.  When the prison commander finished his tirade, El’s commander turned on El  threatening all sorts of dire consequences.  El was then marched to his commanding officer’s  jeep.  When they got into the jeep, the officer turned to El and said, “Ewert, you are such a dumb ass!” Then, burst out in laughter.

El and his commanding officer returned to their camp, went into the officer’s quarters and proceeded to spend the remainder of day consuming more than their share of beer toasting the success of El’s prison break-in.

And, yes, El has met Elvis

El and I with matching hair-dos, during my cancer battle.