Special surprise highlights Veterans Day program

Rep. Dettmer presents WWII vet El Ewert with House Resolution


State Rep. Bob Dettmer presents World War II veteran El Ewert with a House Resolution during Sunday’s Veterans Day program at the VFW Post 4210. American Legion Commander Krista Goodyear and VFW Commander Brian Faanes cheer on. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Clint Riese
News Editor

Sunday’s Veterans Day program at the Forest Lake VFW served to honor all veterans. One in particular had a night to remember.

World War II veteran and longtime Forest Lake resident El Ewert was the surprise recipient of a House Resolution acknowledging his service presented by Rep. Bob Dettmer, also a veteran from Forest Lake.

“My wife and I came to Forest Lake in 1973 and there’s one individual who has made a real impression on our family’s life over the years,” said Dettmer, the third-term state representative, in his opening comments. “Getting to know this young man, he has made an impression on a lot of  people in Forest Lake.”

After Dettmer read the resolution, which detailed Ewert’s storied background, the man of the hour offered emotional words of thanks.

“Well, my goodness, this is unreal,” said Ewert. “…I love this town. I just want you to know that.”

Ewert’s Story

Ewert, who was born in 1925 on the Cottonwood County homestead founded by his grandparents, grew up Mennonite and learned German in a one-room schoolhouse.

He was drafted after high school and served as a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) gunner in the 25th Infantry Division of the Army in World War II.

His assignment included grueling combat in the South Pacific. Once, he was hit by mortar shrapnel in an ambush and survived by playing dead and waiting hours for medical attention.

Ewert earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service.

He has been a fixture in the Forest Lake community, giving back through roles with the VFW, American Legion and the Lions Club. He also teaches flag etiquette and drug awareness to students and is known for singing at funerals and sporting events.

The audience sings ‘God Bless America” at the Forest Lake Veterans Day program Sunday at the VFW. (Photo by Clint Riese)

For All Veterans

Dettmer took a historical perspective while saluting all veterans in his keynote speech.

“Our veterans crouched in the muddy trenches of Europe, confronted the enemy in the rocky crags of the Italian Alps, struggled through the sandy beaches of Normandy,” he said. “They froze in the bitter winters and mountains of South Korea and the steaming jungles of Vietnam. They chased terrorists over 10,000-foot mountaintops in eastern Afghanistan and squinted against the dusty winds and bleak emptiness of the land of Iraq.”

The Forest Lake resident encouraged his listeners to spend time at the state’s five veterans homes, as he did earlier that day.

“Those who say we’re in a time with no great heroes, they just don’t know where to look,” said Dettmer, quoting former President Ronald Reagan.