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World War II veterans dedicate new war memorial

Red Wing resident Alex Huppert was injured during combat in Germany eight days before World War II ended. Huppert received a concussion and a flight to a hospital in France. Later he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

"I wasn't a hero," Huppert said, "I did what I had to do."

Huppert said when he returned from the war it took him a

while to adjust and he didn't receive the response from civilians

that he had expected he would.

"When I came home, I wasn't treated the way I thought people would treat me," Huppert said. "I went to a school one time (to talk about the war) and the kids didn't really understand it."

More than 60 years later, Huppert finally received public

appreciation when he and 20 other WWII veterans from the area rode to St. Paul in a coach bus Saturday to see the new WWII veterans memorial at the state Capitol. It was the first WWII memorial Huppert had ever visited.

"The whole thing was just wonderful," Huppert said.

Doug Wendlandt, Vietnam veteran and organizer of the trip, said he was happy to see the memorial built, but he added it was long overdue.

"Us Vietnam guys got our wall up there at the Capitol, but they (WWII veterans) came back and went right back to work, more or less forgotten about," Wetland said. "We needed to show them some respect."

The memorial ceremony was centered around a monument

constructed on the lawn in front of the Capitol. The monument is a concrete incline dug into the ground that ascends back up toward the Capitol. The end of the incline stands a few feet above ground and is covered with flowers. The monument is meant to symbolize troops rising from the depths of battle into the light of peace.

Surrounding the monument are narrative panels that tell

stories about the war and how both Minnesota soldiers and civilians and were involved.

"Some of those stories really brought me back," Huppert said.

WWII veteran Charles Schnieder said that for him, the most meaningful event of the day was the fly-over.

"Because I was in the Air Core (now Air Force), the fly-over was an addition that I really enjoyed," he said.

Schnieder spent three and a half years in the Air Force

during WWII and more time serving during the Korean War.

"I really appreciated the fact that it (the memorial) was

done and how it was handled," Schnieder said.

On Saturday, the sidewalk up the Capitol lawn was hedged by American flags, one flag for every Minnesotan killed in the war.

Also, there was a roll call for all the Minnesota casualties.

Another important part of the memorial ceremony was the large amount of WWII vehicles, weapons and equipment on display. People dressed in WWII uniforms and set up Army camps using the same equipment U.S. troops had during the war.

Many civilians visited the memorial to show their support and witness the day's events. Reports indicated about 22,000 people attended.

"It was interesting that there were so many young people

there," Schnieder said, "it was nice to see."

Huppert said he was happy to see all the people attend the ceremony, but he wasn't sure that civilians could understand what soldiers go through.

His point was highlighted by a man at the ceremony dressed in a World War II U.S. paratrooper uniform showing

a group of young boys how to use an M-1 carbine. When the youngest boy got to hold of the rifle he pointed it at his companions and said smiling, "Say hello to my little friend."

"It's hard for people to believe what you've been through," Wendlandt said.

"I'm not even sure my kids would believe it."