2nd Qtr Operation Veteran Recognition Honorees

2nd Quarter Operation Veteran Recognition Honorees, Ralph Gunderson, Allan Gerlach and Raymond Wille.  For the next three months the three veterans will be honored on a billboard along Highway 29 South, across from Viking Plaza next to the Alexandria Clinic. The billboard is sponsored by Lind Family Funeral Home.

(Alexandria, MN)  With a combination of honor, tradition, and service, the three new veterans being recognized through the Operation Veteran Recognition program, embody those characteristics.

Throughout 2021 Lind Family Funeral has offered to use their billboard along Highway 29 South, across from the Viking Plaza (next to Alexandria Clinic), to honor three new veterans each quarter.

Sometime in the month of April the 2nd quarter Operation Veteran Recognition Honorees will go up on the billboard.  They are Ralph Gunderson, Allan Gerlach and Raymond Wille.  

Watch the video story on these three veterans: (BELOW)

Veterans Ralph Gunderson, Allen Gerlach and Raymond Wille are the next three veterans to be recognized as part of Operation Veteran Recognition, thanks to the Douglas County Veterans Service office and Lind Family Funeral Home. VoiceofAlexandria.com's Joe Korkowski has this story on the honorees.

Ralph Gunderson grew up in Kensington.  He volunteered for the draft on August 10th, 1954 and served for three years, almost to the date.  He spent time in the Army in the communications area.  He learned Morse code and was at time a part of the unit in charge of guarding the B36 bombers.  

After getting out of the service Ralph spent about 20 years as the director of purchasing at a company in New Brighton, MN.  He then moved to the Twins Cities for a couple of years before returning to him hometown of Kensington.  Once there he began to get active with the Legion, and started focusing on the American flags hung around town.  In addition to that he got involved with a group out of Alexandria called the Veteran's Council.  Some of those interests collided when he saw a problem with the flag ceremonies taking place during the Douglas County fairs.  Although visible for a long ways, when raising and lowering the colors he noticed the difficulty in doing so.  The flag pole was located on top of the NE corner of the grandstands.  One night when lowering the flag, the P.A. announcer at the race track announced, "Gentlemen start your engines" as the flag lowering ceremony was about to begin and Ralph thought we need to move this.  Ralph contacted a few people in the organizations he belonged in and they got busy finding a better spot to have a permanent flag pole on the fairground property.  Eventually in August of 2007 the new site just east of the RCC was landscaped and built.  Ralph takes care of the American flag at the site, along with the Minnesota and POW flags that fly in union with it.

Allan Gerlach was also in the U.S. Army.  He was born in Austin, MN.  He was one of nine children (7 boys, 2 girls).  Remarkably in addition to his father's service, fighting in the trenches of France in WWI.  Six of the boys, including Allan, served in the Army.  Luckily all six returned home.  Allan's road to the Army was a little different.  He was in the National Guard as a teenager.  He says he was discharged from the Guard with a back injury and then began working for a local contractor.   Eventually Allan signed on with MnDOT and thought because of his back he would not be of any interest to the Army, so he made plans to get married in 1960.  Two weeks after beginning his new job at MnDOT, he got his draft notice and he started his three year stint serving our country from 1961-1963.  

During this time in history the world was in the middle of the Berlin Crisis and the U.S. Army drafted Allan and he began basic training at Fort Carson in Colorado.  He was then transferred to Fort Hood, Texas where, at that time, the 1st Armored Division was reactivated.  Allan says that takes about 15,000 troops to do that.  He was part of that build-up.  After a year the Cuban Missile Crisis came about and his division was alerted to ship out.  He admits that the troops had no idea what was going on or where they were going.  Some thought because of the unrest in China that they were headed there.  Instead, the troops left for Georgia.  Allan says he had never seen so many flatbeds rail cars in his life.  The 1st Armored Division packed up every piece of equipment, basically closed up camp and headed out.  At the Georgia post, near dock in Savannah, he was part of the troops assigned to guard the nuclear war heads.  Allan says after the fact they realized how close the US had come to nuclear war. 

After his service Allan was able to continue his employment at MnDOT.  He spent plenty of time out on the road, but his last 20 years were spent in Management.  He says he was out on the road most of the time around the 11-county area he was responsible.

He and wife had two boys and two girls and they settled into family life.  He says his work required him to be pretty much married to the DOT and didn't have much time to join any veterans organizations.  However; the Gerlachs moved up to Alexandria about 20 years ago he started looking.  He ended up joining the American Legion and eventually got into some leadership roles, now serving as the Post Commander for the past five+ years.  One of the first things he got active with the Legion was through its Honor Guard and he is still a part of it to this day.

Raymond Wille spent a good portion of his adult life serving our country.  He also comes from a family filled with veterans.  His father Richard W. Wille served from 1943-45 in the Army Air Force and spent some time in North Africa and Europe.  Ray's older brother Richard P. Wille graduated and joined the Air Force in 1966.  Then Ray graduated from Jefferson High School and went into the Air Force himself in 1968.  Younger brother Robert joined them in 1971.  From 1971-1973 all three were in the service at the same time.  Ray spent some time in Vietnam during the war, but stayed in the service until 1992; a 24 year career.  During that time Ray got married in 1971 and left to go back to Vietnam in 1971.  He has been transferred many times.  He next was stationed in Nakom Phanom, Thailand.  With the exception of some time in Germany, much of the remainder of Ray's service was on U.S. soil.  He was stationed in Texas, Illinois, Hawaii and Florida.  Two of his assignments found him at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City where he retired as an international instructor for students.  In total he served on 14 bases and made 15 moves. 

Ray and his wife now live in Douglas County once again and he has found a place with the Inspiration Peak Legion Post 527 in Millerville and member of the Vietnam Veterans in Alexandria.  One of the things that the Legion club does each that he's proud of is their Memorial Day tradition.  He and several other veterans go around to seven different cemeteries (Millerville, Trinity, Eagle Lake, Leaf Mountain, Urbank, St. James and Ebenezer) to do military honors.  He feels it's important because in those little rural cemeteries most people don't necessarily think of the veterans in them at those times.  He admits that often times they are the only ones in those cemeteries, but says "that's okay."  He also spends time as part of the many veterans events and activities in the Alexandria area as well.

Lind Family Funeral Billboard

Lind Family Funeral will honor these three veterans for the next three months and plan to honor another three veterans each of the next two quarters in 2021 on their Highway 29 South billboard.  Curt Lind says he was asked by Douglas County Veterans Service Officer Jake Turner if they would consider using their billboard space to honor veterans.  Curt says he talked with his family about the decision and it was a quick "YES."

The first quarter honorees were Richard Schlosser, Russ Oorlog and Larry Osborne.