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World War II veteran honored at school’s program

December 1, 2018

LEOLA, S.D. (AP) — The presentation started with a recap of World War II.

The Leola school student council read a 2016 speech titled “Pearl Harbor: 75 years later.”

“For those heroes of 75 years ago, we will always be grateful,” read Cadin Kallenberger. “God bless you. God bless our World War II veterans. And God bless America.”

Sitting in the crowd inside the gymnasium at the Veterans Day program was 94-year-old Don Zetterlund and his wife Hazel.

Zetterlund is believed to be the last WWII veteran in Leola, and he was honored during the school’s program this year, the Aberdeen American News reported.

It was a bit awkward to be recognized, Zetterlund admitted later in a phone interview. He had a lot of friends and some family members who served during WWII, but once they got back to the U.S., they didn’t talk about it.

“There was nothing that I did that anyone else didn’t do,” he said.

Zetterlund was a U.S. Army medical technician, serving in France and Germany during WWII. He was in France during the Battle of the Bulge, when the German army launched a counteroffensive in the wake of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France.

Zetterlund was drafted at 18, and said the military took everyone they could at that time.

Zetterlund and Hazel were engaged the night before he went into the service. Every time he went to mail call, he had a letter waiting for him. He can’t remember what his fiance-at-the-time wrote in those letters, but it made life easier.

“That meant the most to me,” he said.

Similarly, one thing from the Veterans Day program that Zetterlund said he appreciated quite a bit was the giant thank you card signed by the Leola school students. He plans to give it back to the school so the students can come back some day and see their signatures. He added he’s not sure how long he’s even going to be around to appreciate it.

There are some secrets that have helped him to reach 94 years old, he said. One of the big ones?

“You have to have a wife who loves you and takes care of you,” he said with a laugh.

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Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com

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