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House thanks Lieder, other World War II vets

ST. PAUL - Rep. Bernie Lieder is a member of the "Greatest Generation," but he never would use such a term about himself.

So it was with reluctance that he accepted recognition Thursday when the Minnesota House honored the Crookston Democrat and his fellow World War II veterans.

"I'm only one of the whole group, and I hate to be singled out," said Lieder, who told fellow lawmakers he appreciated that the veterans were acknowledged.

The House adopted a resolution commending veterans and other Minnesotans for their contributions during the war. Lieder and other World War II veterans watched the Minnesota House as it commemorated the 63rd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

Representatives introduced other World War II veterans, who were seated with relatives in the gallery above the House chamber and stood when applauded by lawmakers.

Among those recognized was Elizabeth Gersey, Duluth's first woman to enlist in the military during the war.

Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said Gersey was at the forefront of female radio operators in the Navy. During her service, Gersey also wrote a newspaper column, which the Navy felt encouraged other women to enlist, Murphy said.

At one point during her service, Gersey was granted a brief leave to christen a Navy ship built in the Duluth shipyards and used near Japan, Murphy said.

Lieder, the Legislature's only World War II veteran, received two standing ovations from fellow representatives and at one point looked up to see his three daughters and other relatives looking on from the gallery.

"I've never had them all together for a long time," Lieder said afterward. "Boy, this is something."

Relatives of the soft-spoken Lieder said it was important to attend the event.

"He very much downplays himself, so that was part of the reason we came," said Heidi Rahe of Indiana, one of Lieder's daughters.

Lieder served as a combat infantryman from 1943 to 1946, but because he knew German he also interpreted for his Army company.

"It would have been nicer to be an official interpreter, then I wouldn't have had to be on the front lines," Lieder said.

Sen. Rod Skoe, a Clearbrook DFLer and friend of Lieder's, said the military and legislative veteran is fascinating, but avoids the spotlight.

"He isn't a flamboyant guy, but he sure has had a hell of a life," Skoe said.