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Four area WWII vets to board Honor Flight

Four area World War II veterans will take a trip of a lifetime--in the twilight of their lives. A campaign to raise funds was conducted all summer, with the goal of giving area veterans a ride on the "Honor Flight" to visit the World War II memor...

Four area World War II veterans will take a trip of a lifetime--in the twilight of their lives.

A campaign to raise funds was conducted all summer, with the goal of giving area veterans a ride on the "Honor Flight" to visit the World War II memorial in Washington D.C.

We received word that four of our area WWII veterans earned a seat on the third--and final--Honor Flight.

Al Bretz, Al Winkels, Herb Lubitz and John Knight are the four chosen from the East Otter Tail County. Serving as "chaperones for the four are Len Johnson, Gary Menz and Jim Bretz. The flight is November 2 and they return November 3.

"It's 50 years too late for these guys...thank God they have the health to take the trip," said Johnson, who was active in local fundraising activities--which included three parking lot barbeque events at United Community Bank. Nearly $13,000 was raised locally for the Honor Flight. The chartered plane itself costs $80,000, noted Johnson.

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The Honor Flights have provided a last chance opportunity for WWII vets to visit Washington D.C. memorial that opened in 2005. The generation that saved the world from tyranny are leaving us at a rate of 1,000 or more each day.

Interestingly, the Enterprise Bulletin published a special edition in 1995, which saluted dozens of area World War II veterans. Paging through the special section, it appears that more than half of the profiled veterans have since died.

A quick profile of the four that will board the Honor Flight:

Herb Lubitz: Served in the Navy 1945-46, spending his entire tour of duty on the water--from Pearl Harbor to China to Okinawa, Guam and others.

Al Winkels: An Army soldier from 1941 to 1945, Winkels landed on Omaha Beach the third day after D Day; served at the Battle of the Bulge and drove all the way to Germany with the allied forces.

Al Bretz: He stood honor guard for General Douglas MacArthur in Australia, after his escape from the Philippines in 1942. The sergeant later supervised an engineering squad building bridges and roads in New Guinea, and wound down his Army service In Las Alamos, New Mexico--where the atomic bomb was created.

John Knight: Was attached to an Army Grave Registration Company, burying the dead from France to Germany. Knight has the distinction of serving as Chaplain for the Honor Flight.

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