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Kandiyohi County, Minn., honors more than 150 World War II vets on anniversary of D-Day

Arthur Fredick, of Willmar, left, and Elmond Ekblad, right, sit Wednesday among fellow World War II veterans gathered at the Willmar Armory for a ceremony recognizing their service to their country. More than 150 veterans who currently reside in Kandiyohi County were honored with a certificate of appreciation during the event. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- More than one hundred people attended a ceremony to honor World War II veterans on Wednesday, the 68th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy, France, by Allied Forces.

The event at the Willmar Armory honored more than 150 World War II veterans of Kandiyohi County with certificates of appreciation.

Capt. James Elieff, Minnesota National Guard, and Trisha Appeldorn, Kandiyohi County Veterans Service Officer, presented the certificates to each veteran thanking him for his service.

"WWII veterans don't ask a lot of anyone," Appeldorn said. "This is a good way to honor them."

Appeldorn started organizing the event and contacting veterans after receiving a call from Darlene Larson of New London.

Larson had learned about the certificates, a project of the Kiwanis Club, from her brother and had requested three certificates, one for each of her uncles who had served. She surprised them with the certificates at a family reunion.

Shortly afterward, Larson met Delbert Bridge, a World War II veteran of Kandiyohi County, and requested an award for him as well. Bridge and Larson began putting together a list of other veterans in the county and contacted Appeldorn for help.

Appeldorn and Larson said they thought they would find a handful of veterans in the county, but they found 157.

"We keep finding more and more every day," Bridge said.

The veterans who were able to attend Wednesday's event were more than thankful for the awards.

Sherwood Mellom, a World War II veteran from the 4th Marine Division, said it was "wonderful, just wonderful."

"I'm lucky to be alive," he said. "I was in three major battles against the Japanese."

Mellom, who joined the military when he was 18 years old, said he will never forget the war. Bridge echoed that.

"The war they fought was so different and what they gave has followed them their entire life," Larson said. "They still need to be thanked because it'll remain with them until they die."

Appeldorn and Elieff will be visiting Willmar nursing homes and also conducting home visits to present the remaining certificates to the veterans who were unable to attend.