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Remember: In honoring the nation's veterans, residents of St. Benedict's Health Center honor their own

St. Benedict's Health Center activities assistant Lilly Kiemele, standing, urges the residents to join in and sing during Thursday morning's Veterans Day sing-along at the center, where several residents were recognized for their service in the military.

Before several dozen residents of St. Benedict's Health Center could sing Thursday in honor of the nation's veterans, activities assistant Lilly Kiemele handed out miniature American flags. Then she passed around red and blue beaded necklaces.

Soon the room was full of patriotic-themed residents ready for a Veterans Day sing-along. While some residents were simply remembering and honoring veterans, others were the veterans receiving the honor.

A different story

"I had one odd military career," Leo Zeren, 92, said of his 2-1/2 year career in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve during World War II.

The New England native, who has been a resident of St. Benedict's for about a year and who has lived in southwest North Dakota his whole life except for his time in the Air Corps, said he was one of 40 men who took a bus to Minot, where they underwent physical tests and other exams for entrance into the service.

"Only three of the guys on the bus even made it out, and I was one of them," Zeren said. "When I went to train with the other guys, my instructor for night flights was a woman, which was really something back in those days."

But Zeren said he lucked out when it came to actually serving during World War II.

"I really wanted to get into the Air Corps and learn to fly, and since the war was going on, I thought it would be a good place for me to start," he said. "I was starting B-24 instructor training to pick up crews when the war ended though. By the time I had made up my mind about what it was that I wanted to do, they had already ended the war, so I never had to serve any real active duty for the nation."

Instead, Zeren, who reached the rank of second lieutenant and was a flight sergeant, said he returned home to New England after the war and ran the farm next to town that his father had homesteaded in 1904. He lived with his wife of 50 years and their five children, including one son and four daughters.

The year was 1943

Ed Loughspeich, 87, was 18 years old, just a young whippersnapper, he said, when he was drafted into the U.S. Navy following his graduation from high school in 1943.

"I was drafted into World War II, so I didn't have much of a choice but to go to war," he said.

Loughspeich, a native of Wales who in 1979 followed his brother to Dickinson during the first oil boom, received training as a machinist while in the Navy and spent his three years of service to the nation making parts and balancing propellers in the repair shop.

Even as Loughspeich's three years in the Navy came to an end, his working days were far from over, he said.

"After I left the Navy, I did some accounting work for a while, then I worked in the stockroom and did maintenance work at J.C. Penney," he said. "I worked all the way up until I was 70 years old, and I probably would have worked longer but my back started to bother me. I'm just a worker."