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October 12, 2016
Between the Lines
The Best of the Best!
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Wow, it was an exciting day, last Thursday, for the area, as two Medal of Honor recipients were on hand to visit our schools and towns. I felt very fortunate to be involved in covering the event. Of course I could not be at both place at once so I enlisted the aid of Carolyn Van Loh to cover the event at Westbrook, of which I am very thankful for her help.
I started my day meeting the airplane at the Tracy Airport. There was a delegation of area law enforcement along with several members of the press, and members of the veterans’ clubs of Walnut Grove and Westbrook to escort the Medal of Honor persons and their families.
I was very impressed with Leo Thorsness, who has been fighting cancer. Thorsness along with his wife, Gaylee, and Gordon Roberts took time to greet and shake hands of the area law enforcement and veterans there to meet them. Thorsness looked well and quite robust after flying from the Twin Cities.
After arriving at the Walnut Grove School he was greeted by members of the Walnut Grove American Legion and Auxiliary along with several of his childhood friends and classmates. When he got out of the car there was a golf cart there to take him up to the school. I had to laugh a bit when he asked what door they would be entering, and when they told him the door to the gym he said, “oh . . . I can walk that far.”
After he got inside the school he and the rest of the contingency, went into the History Center, where there were refreshments, and several of his childhood friends were able to visit for a few minutes before meeting with the school kids.
He sat while the kids asked him questions and he answered all of the questions and gave the kids some very good words of advice. I hope that most of the kids will remember that they listened to Leo who flew fighter jets.
I was so impressed how humble and candid he was with people. He said he never was all that good in academics and that is why he decided to join the Air Force and eventually go to Flight School.
When he was talking with the adults, he gave more details about his captivity in the North Vietnam Prison Camp. Some of the things he and his fellow prisoners endured are nothing less than Heroic.
I have never read his book, but I vow to read it cover to cover, because I know from listening to Leo it has to be good.
I think one of the most important things he said was he lives his life by four words, Faith, Family, Friends and Fun. It was fun to watch his eyes light up when he greeted friends and family he had not seen for many years.
One thing I identified with was his reference to ejecting from his aircraft after getting hit by a missile.
I was in the Air Force as a weapons mechanic, and part of my job was to arm and secure ejection seats. I told Leo that I was one of the guys that armed those ejection seats, and he commented, thank you, it worked!
Have a great week and do good!
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