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Kenmare honors World War II veterans...

More than 70 people turned out Thursday night at Beer Bob’s in downtown Kenmare to witness three men who came together to toast their fallen World War II comrades.

11/12/19 (Tue)

More than 70 people turned out Thursday night at Beer Bob’s in downtown Kenmare to witness three men who came together to toast their fallen World War II comrades.

Jim Hillestad, 99, Walter Christensen, 93 and Leland Schweyen, 91, members of the Last Man’s Club, are three of four remaining from a club that began in 1980 with 90.

Jim Caroline, 94, is the fourth living member of the club and was unable to make it to Kenmare Thursday night.

Organizer Larry Nore said it wasn’t because he didn’t want to, but because his health didn’t allow him to attend.

According to the charter of the Last Man’s Club, the three remaining service members were instructed to open a 1971 bottle of Chevas Regal scotch whiskey, pour shots and toast the fallen who fought against Hitler’s war machine and Imperial Japan in the 1940s.

Three of the men; Hillestad, Caroline and Christensen, were members of the Army and Army Air Corps, while Schweyen was in the Navy.

All four of them were involved against the Japanese. They either fought against Japan, held Japanese prisoners, or were part of the occupation of Japan after the atomic bomb stopped the war.

“It’s about time,” Nore said as the meeting opened, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Jerry Mickelson, who along with Nore put the event together, had a short program.

Mickelson said the crowd of family and friends who gathered, were there to honor and recognize the three men in attendance, as well as Mr. Caroline, who he officially recognized.

“These men are just a few who fought for this nation and I am humbled to be up here with them,” he said. “There is a reason why they are called the Greatest Generation.”

Mickelson said they were called upon to defend the United States during a very uncertain and dangerous time in our nation’s history. And they fought gallantly.

As a result, of the more than 16 million who served, approximately 417,000 died during the war, or from injuries following the war.

“Despite the horrors of war, you stayed optimistic,” Mickelson said. “And 74 years after the war, your legacy lives on.”

He continued, “You captivated the American public. You are models of the American Soldier and on behalf of American Legion Post 64 and all veterans, I’m humbled to be here with you.”

Following Mickelson’s introduction, Nore read the roll of the 86 members of the Last Man’s Club who have since died.

After roll call, Hillestad was given the honor of opening the bottle of scotch, presumably because he is the oldest.

After a round of applause, Nore asked everyone to go to the front, select a shot of whiskey, soda or water, go back to their seats and a grand toast would take place.

As people moved forward, many of them shook hands with the veterans while claiming a shot.

To nobody’s surprise, most everyone chose whiskey as a symbolic way to be part of history and to forever be indirectly connected to these four brave warriors who went overseas not knowing if they were coming back.

By the time the line was gone, so was the scotch with Hillestad, Schweyen and Christensen getting the first three pours.

Mickelson followed with the grand toast. “To our departed comrades, may we always revere them, may we never forget them to the last man and may they rest in peace.”

After the toast, “Proud to be an American,” by Lee Greenwood played on the tavern’s stereo system. Everyone, including the three honorees, stood, and other than the song, you could have heard a pin drop.

A hot, buffet style meal followed the recognition, more people went forward to greet Christensen, Schweyen and Hillestad and many others lingered to look at memorabilia from the war... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!