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Van Der Brink: 'Every military person has a story'

Memorial Day guest speaker shares 'memories of life' at Hardwick event
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Mavis Fodness

Monday’s rain showers forced Hardwick’s annual Memorial Day program indoors to the town’s community hall.
About 90 people gathered for Hardwick’s annual event to remember those who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Commander of the Arthur Moeller American Legion Post 478 Kyle Oldre encouraged audience members to visit the veterans memorial in Luverne where “every serviceman down there has a story.”
For Luverne’s Greta Van Der Brink, guest speaker at the Hardwick program, one of the servicemen listed on the county memorial 18-foot obelisk is her brother, Everett Bosch, who was killed in action during World War II.
“She is here today reluctantly,” Oldre said. “But I can’t think of someone’s message that is more important this Memorial Day.”
Van Der Brink said she decided to share her story because she realized how few people have the honor of living with memories of someone who has served in World War II, which ended in 1945.
Van Der Brink recounted she was 7 years old, growing up on a farm south of Steen. Her brother, Johnny Bosch, was then age 11, and he accompanied Van Der Brink Monday for the program in Hardwick.
Bosch performed the song, “Rugged Old Flag,” after Van Der Brink’s speech, which has been edited for length:
“Every military person has their own story.
Our story begins when our brother, Everett Bosch, was born on January 10, 1917, to John and Jennie Bosch. He was the second-born son in the family. He grew up on our farm about 2.5 miles southeast of Steen near the Iowa state line.
He loved farm life, and hunting pheasants, jackrabbits and fox in our local neighborhood, and as I recall, he especially enjoyed working with workhorse teams. …
Another brother and sister joined the family. Jennie died at a young age, leaving my dad to raise four very young children on the farm. As was the custom in that era, Jennie’s sisters helped with the children and housework. Dad married Jennie’s sister, Alice, 18 years old, in 1926, and three more siblings were born into the family.
Johnny and I were the youngest, born in 1933 and 1936. …
I remember Everett as kind, responsible and soft-spoken. The hardships he had helped him become a strong young man physically, in character, and as a Christian.
As I recall, the draft letter came in the mail, and they were instructed that one of the two boys, Everett or Gerrit, had to be drafted into the military while one could remain at home with Dad to help farm.
Everett decided that he was the older of the two so he should go. This had to be a difficult decision for all of them to make as World War II had been declared about two months before when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Everett was 25 at that time.
Everett left by Greyhound bus on Feb. 12, 1942, along with three other young men from the Steen area: Jay Aykens, John Top and Henry Schouwenberg.
Everett’s basic training in the 131st infantry before being sent overseas was in Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi, Fort Brady, Michigan, Camp Forrest, Tennessee, Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Ord, California, and intense training in the Panama Canal Zone.
He wrote about the long 22-mile hikes they endured in very hot, humid days with full gear, and how it made such a difference who their training officer was.
He sent pictures of training with gas masks on and bayonet training. They were being trained for hand-to-hand combat.
After his 18 months of training in the U.S., Everett became a part of the 158th infantry and had orders to go to the South Pacific to help fight the Japanese.
He was sent overseas out of San Francisco. Uncle Ed planned to see Everett out but his ship had already departed so Uncle Ed had another board take him out to sea where he got to visit with Everett on his ship out in the Pacific. He was the last of our family to see him alive. …
We received letters from Everett sporadically, and often it would be a couple of letters at one time.
Mail was very slow — like months, and one reason was that every letter was censored.
Photographs were sent of this original letter and there were many sentences that were totally blacked out. I recall my dad reading aloud one of his letters, which said it was really hot there but it wasn’t because of the sun.
My 7-year-old mind could not figure out how it could be “hot” if it wasn’t because of the sun. He also wrote that he didn’t think that he’d ever come home again, but if he did he would do the work of two men.
He assured his family that he would go to heaven. He was fighting for what he loved — freedom. …
His last stop was the invasion of the island of Luzon, the Philippines.
On a bloody Sunday, Jan. 15, 1945, four days after his 28th birthday, Everett was killed by a hand grenade during the invasion of Luzon. He was No. 21 of the 57 Rock County young men who lost their lives in World War II. …
After the war was over, my parents requested that Everett’s body be sent home to rest in the Steen cemetery. The memory is stamped in my mind of the train carrying his body slowly creeping around the corner coming into Luverne from the east.
The train whistle blew mournfully the entire way as it came into the depot. A soldier accompanied the flag-draped casket carrying his body. The casket was taken off the train and the accompanying soldier stayed with him until after the funeral. …
Everyone stateside was also invested to help win this war, beginning with us kids in school.
We would collect all the tin we could, and we as students would go on a ‘field trip,’ which was a walk through the ditches with mesh bags to collect milkweed pods. We’d also take the bags along home to walk our own country ditches to find milkweed pods. They were used for making parachutes, life jackets, clothing and other military supplies.
At home we lived with rationing of rubber, gas, sugar, coffee, meat, nylons (ladies stockings were scarce!), and other products. …
The iron, steel, rubber and gasoline were necessary to manufacture equipment and provide supplies for the military. Tanks, Army jeeps and trucks, airplanes, ships, guns and ammunition were the necessity of that time and getting by with less was our way of helping win this war. ….
We all worked together for one common purpose — to win this war, live in peace, and bring our troops home again.
My wish is that our younger generations could realize and appreciate our history and the value of living in a free nation. I’d like to encourage them to research the wars fought and still being fought.
A price was paid and is still being paid to purchase and preserve the freedoms we enjoy in the USA.
Some have come home with broken bodies and spirits. ALL GAVE SOME AND SOME GAVE ALL! …
On this Memorial Day, as we focus on the sacrifices made over the years, from the heart we want to thank and salute our veterans, past and present for the sacrifices made. …
Four members of the Arthur Moeller American Legion Post have died in the past year and were honored during Monday’s program: Bill DeBates, Don Etrheim, Mark Coney and Wallace Schmuck

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