One of the joys I get from my job as a journalist is learning many things about various aspects of life. I regularly find that everyone has a story to share, sometimes good and other times not so good.
For me, the beauty of being a writer is finding interesting and informative ways of sharing the different stories I come across.
Over the past few weeks, I have received a history lesson involving veterans and prisoners of war. The German POW Camp in Owatonna came up in more than one conversation.
Last week Gege Abraham of the Owatonna VFW Ladies Auxiliary gave an informative presentation on the White POW/MIA Table. As she points out, most of us have not been deeply touched by the loss or the unknown whereabouts of a loved one who served in the military. I’m included in that group.
We go about our daily life with little thought of those who died in combat, those still listed as missing in action or even those who may possibly still be held as prisoners of war. It’s up to each of us not to forget the sacrifices made by our military men and women and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice —their life.
I learned how the White Table and its symbolism remind us to periodically remember those who have given so much for us to continue to enjoy the lifestyles we often take for granted.
Besides the White Table lesson, a veteran from Owatonna shared with me in recent weeks some recollections he has of German prisoners of war in 1944. Hank Stange served in the U.S. Army from 1948 to 1952 during World War II.
Stange, 92, recalls a POW Camp in Owatonna, which sparked a memory of his as a teenager.
In the spring of 1944, Stange responded to an ad for seasonal help needed on a Steele County farm near Owatonna. The Lloyd Broady family became Stange’s new home for several months. He remembers walking four miles from town on country roads where big farm dogs ran down the long driveways and sometimes barked in a threatening manner.
The Broadys were parents of three children at the time. Stange described the family as “very kind and caring.” He said they made him a part of their family for the season. “I’m thankful for having known them and for the memories of that short span of my life,” Stange said.
In the late summer of 1944, weather conditions required additional help through the haying season. So Broady arranged for three German prisoners of war to help for about two weeks. The prisoners were young men who shared how they were homesick, Stange said.
One of the prisoners volunteered to be “stack man” on the horse-drawn hayrack stating he had done the same back home in Germany. Another worked on the left side of the wagon, pitching loose hay. Stange enjoyed sharing in conversations with the prisoners.
Stange recalls how the three prisoners bowed their heads at breaks and meals and joined in asking God to bless the food and provide guidance and direction in everyone’s lives.
“Through the ensuing 77 years, I often wondered what had become of these young men,” Stange said. “I wondered what they shared as their stories and experiences while prisoners of war in the U.S.”
Let’s not only remember the sacrifices of POWs and MIAs but also all veterans as we celebrate Veterans Day this week. We owe all of them our deepest gratitude for the freedoms we cherish in the greatest country on earth.
As we go in hot pursuit of enjoying freedom, it’s important to note those freedoms are not free by any stretch of the imagination.