Veterans Day is a special time at Ecumen communities. Many residents are veterans with rich and deeply moving stories about their military experience and how profoundly it influenced their lives.

On this blog we try to capture those stories as a way to thank our veterans and memorialize their service. 

Below are links to some of our favorite stories over the past few years.  We thank all our veterans for their service.  We are honored to know them and share their contributions.  

Dr. John Sanford, Duluth

John, who died recently, was just out of medical school when he was assigned to the 8063 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in Korea, where his first job was receiving and resuscitating wounded soldiers. “The experience was so gripping,” he recalled.  In 1991, John got an invitation to a reunion of the surgeons in his MASH unit who came from all over the country to see one another for the first time since the Korean War. For two days, they shared stories and talked about old times. Then they finally dealt with the horror they had witnessed.

Ken Thompson, Worthington

Ken, now deceased, was a legendary coach and athletic director in Worthington.  During World War II, he commanded landing crafts from the USS Missoula that took the Marines on shore at Iwo Jima.  He proudly remembered watching the dozen Marines hoist the flag from his ship on Mount Suribachi in what would become probably the most famous photo from World War II. Shortly afterward, he helped land troops on Okinawa, where the Japanese kamikaze pilots were “flying so low I thought they were going to take the top of our heads off.”

Doris Brand, Chisago City

When World War II started, school teacher Doris Brand was eager to do her part. “I joined the Navy mostly for adventure,” Doris recalls.  “It was one of the most exciting times of my life.  It opened up a whole new world.” As a Navy WAVE with proven teaching ability, she was selected to instruct pilots in the basics of flying, even though she was not a pilot herself. 

Ray Kratzke, Pelican Rapids

Ray, an Army staff sergeant in World War II, spent 193 days in combat trudging through Europe. He landed on Utah Beach in Normandy soon after the first troops of the D-Day invasion and started on a freezing and exhausting march that would end in Berlin.  Along the way, he encountered a series close calls and horrors, including a concentration camp.