“We knew we had a job to do and we did it–luckily we made it back home.”–Bob Phillipps–Combat Vet–WWII

“I was a young man right off the farm called to serve my country and I was proud to do so.”–Arnold Roen–Combat-- Vet–WWII

“My brother, Tom, and I both served in Korea.....I know first hand the tremendous sacrifices that are made by our servicemen.”–Chuck O’Connell–Combat Vet–Korean War

“This memorial belongs to everyone who believes in the unconditional commitment that has been given by the servicemen and women in this extended community.”–Neil Anderson–Combat Vet

“There were many tears shed and unimaginable anxiety over a wounded son and another son also serving in Vietnam.  I am hopeful that future missions will be missions of peace.”–Ethel Johnson, mother of two Vietnam Combat Vets.

“I am very, very proud of our Guard Troops and of what we accomplished.”–Karl Schotter–Combat Vet–Iraq War

Arnold Roen - WWII Combat VeteranArnold Roen

How long were you in the service and where did you serve?

Arnold was born and raised in the River Falls area and is a combat veteran of WWII.  He served his country from August 1942 to November 1945 serving in the Pacific Theater of War as a member of the 113th Engineers Combat Battalion, 38th Infantry Division.  He was stationed mainly in New Guinea and The Philippines.

What was the mission of the Engineers Combat Battalion?

Our main job was to build roads, bridges, and airstrips.  When these responsibilities were completed we fought along with the Infantry members of our unit.

What was combat life like?

It was something different every day. It was always hot and humid—we were always in danger.  The Japs were holed up in caves a lot of the time so we would have to throw TNT into those holes to try and chase them out.  For meals we ate a lot of “K” rations.  We spent most of our nights in foxholes and when things got rough during the day we were in there also.  Because danger was always nearby we had to carry our rifles with us at all times, even when doing our engineer work.  Every time we made one of our many landings we never knew what to expect.  Often times the resistance was much stronger than what we expected and often times the reverse was true also.  For example, on one island, preparing for the worst, much to our surprise we were met by friendly natives who brought us fruit and other good things to eat.  The enemy, seeing our numbers had escaped into the hills.

How did you cope with combat life?

We never knew what the next day would bring and even though it may have turned out to be a relatively calm day, the worry of what could happen was almost as trying as the real thing.

The time from Thanksgiving to Christmas was the hardest time to cope with.  The year we were on Corregidor I remember our Christmas mail and goodies coming in February or March.  But overall I thought we coped with what we had to put up with because we were always on the go.  Often times we didn’t have time to think about how dangerous our situations were.

The day we were all looking forward to finally happened—we heard the war was over and, of course, we all wanted to know when are we going home.

What effect did your combat experience have on you?

After two years of training and in battles overseas for so long it was quite an adjustment for me afterwards.  The transition from combat life to coming home to the quiet life of farming was a big, big change for me but I did get used to it.  I was very glad to have all of it behind me.

What other comments would you have about your military service?

It was a good experience to have behind me.  I felt good about what we had accomplished and very fortunate to get home in good shape.  I felt good about both—what we got done but also about getting back here to my farm where I knew I belonged.


Charles "Chuck" O'Conell - Korean War Combat Veteran

Describe where you were in the service and what was your mission:

I was sent to Korea at the beginning of 1953 and wound up in the 3rd Infantry Division Signal Company as a telephone and radio officer. I was in command of about 90 United States military personnel and 21 ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers.

We were located in the Chorwon Valley in central Korea above the 38th parallel. We were in a separate location from our company command post, which was located at division headquarters. We were pretty self-sufficient having our own communications command post, mess hall, motor pool, etc. "We did have to travel back to Division Quartermaster for "field showers" once in a while-they sure felt good.

Our mission was to provide telephone landline communications between the division and the regiments, including the forward observers for the artillery who were located very close to the front lines.We also had a radio section-small, basic system. Telephone was our primary function No cell phones in that day.

What was your combat life like?

For the most part of 1953 the front was pretty stable not mulch movement North or South along the front lines-(although we could hear the artillery now and then.) We did live in bunkers since we were within artillery range. There were no civilians above the 38th parallel but now and then we would find one wandering around-didn't know if they were friend or foe. We did have 24 hour guard duty around our compound. I felt a little more secure since I had a ROK sergeant for a jeep driver, who was really trustworthy. It really helped, especially to communicate with the ROK soldiers. Some of them had been involved since 1950 and could speak and/or understand English pretty well. A point of interest: my jeep driver's pay was equivalent to $2.85 a month. His wife was a school teacher back in Seoul making about $15 a month. Economically, that country has come a long ways since then.

How did your expertise change your view of life?

Before I went in service I hardly got east of Eau Claire or west of the Twin Cities, so a lot was opened up before my eyes right here in the U.S. Example: Myself and another Midwesterner were stationed at Camp Lee,Va. One Sat.eve we got a pass to go to Richmond. A city bus was at the Post gate. We got on and went to the back of the bus and sat down. The bus driver wouldn't go until we got up and moved to the front of the bus. That was in 1949, nearly 60 years ago. Richmond, of course was below the Mason-Dixon line. Although it was wartime, Korea was a primitive culture; plowing with oxen, carrying hay, straw, or most anything, on "A" frames slung on their backs. Sometimes civilians would come north of the 38th and cut a few dozen feet of our field wire to tie loads on their "A" frames. Whenever we had a line that tested "open", it was a safe bet a few rods of wire were missing.

That culture was such a contrast from what we were used to here that it really made one Thank God we live in America. We don't know how good we have it. Seeing what they lived with and for the most part seemed content with as the way of life it really makes one wonder if all these "material goods" we want and have are really necessary. Oh well, I guess that's what keeps the economy going.
I hadn't forgotten what it was like when I got back in civilian life, but one does reality appreciate what we have and take for granted.

The local guard unit probably will be deploy in January or February 2009, if they asked you to address them before they left, what would you tell them?

It's been such long time since I prepared(mentally) for overseas duty, I'm sure they've been briefed professionally, but going into the unknown one can get a rather apprehensive feeling. Just carry your rosary and wear your St. Christopher Medal and you'll be OK. In other words, "Keep the Faith."

Like before, the military was a wonderful experience and I don't regret it. It makes one conscious of what's really going on around us and Why we fight. The freedom we have here and take for granted is priceless.

Our worldly supply of resources is being used up and you know what happens when there are 4 hungary young boys and only 3 hotdogs. Right here in the U. S.: $4/gal for gas. $4 for a box of cereal, yet we buy the gas and eat the cereal. Airlines is a good example of how spoiled we are. $5-7 for a blanket or pillow, pay for food, gate agents are given a hard time if flight is late(as if they had any control over it). BUT, no one tells we can't fly where we want to, right? FREEDOM!!!!