By Representative Michele Bachmann
Wally Grotz, one of my constituents from the great Sixth District of Minnesota, will never forget Nov. 26, 1944. On that fateful day during World War II, Wally, a flight engineer in the same squadron as movie star Jimmy Stewart, was shot down over Germany.
Upon realizing that their B-24J bomber was hit, Grotz and his fellow crewmates from the 445th Bomb Group bailed out at nearly 22,000 feet only to be captured by the Nazis and taken to Poland. Wally was then incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp for six months.
The camp, Stalag Luft 4, was one of the Nazis' two notorious holding areas for captive American airmen in World War II. For months, Wally and his fellow prisoners endured the worst of conditions. Between 1943 and 1945, the camp became overcrowded; men slept on tables, floors and in tents. All were underfed receiving only tea, dehydrated cabbage soup and bread as their sole meal throughout the day. Many were so starved they were too weak to even get out of bed for the morning roll call. Those airmen who didn't die were beaten, stabbed by bayonets, whipped and shot.
Finally, after months of torture, the Allied Forces freed Wally and his fellow prisoners in May 1945. Wally came home to America with a renewed passion to serve his country, which he did for 34 years as a postal worker in Delano, Minnesota.
Stories like Wally's remind me that on this Veterans Day, we are not just honoring former service members when we honor our veterans. We are also honoring men and women whom, in their service in the U.S. Armed Forces, are our country's ambassadors, heroes and the guardians of our God-given "unalienable rights."
As ambassadors, they took a stand against some of the worst tyrannical governments men have ever seen. They let the world know that the free republic they represent is a government worthy of both their devotion and their lives.
As heroes, they kept countless numbers of their fellow American citizens safe from harm in time of war. Time and time again, they fearlessly guarded their spouses, children and neighbors on battlefields abroad. Even in the most intense of battles, they persevered to stand against unimaginable foes without complaint.
As guardians, of our God-given rights, they preserved the freedom of our nation. By doing so, they kept our liberties intact for future generations of Americans. Our veterans willingly made a pledge to this country and its citizens that they would "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," and they bravely did so.
I consider myself blessed to represent 50,000 such veterans living in the Sixth District of Minnesota. If you are a veteran, please know how grateful all your neighbors and I are for your service. We will never forget your sacrifices to our country. You are an inspiration to us all, including the troops currently serving our country overseas in the War on Terror. They, like you, understand what it means to serve our country with selfless courage. Our thoughts and prayers are with them while we await their safe return.
Our nation's veterans are also an inspiration to a younger generation. As you read this, my office is working with over two dozen high school students who applied for scholarships to our nation's military academies. These individuals are answering the call of service to their country. They will be our future ambassadors, heroes and guardians of freedom.
I ask you to thank a veteran today. Please honor their memory by remembering their sacrifices. It is because of them we continue to be "the last best hope on earth."
Originally published by the Stillwater Gazette.