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Behind the scenes of “Our Heroes”

By Staff | Nov 9, 2014

Included in this week’s issue of the Faribault County Register you will find a copy of this year’s edition of the popular “Our Heroes” magazine.

It is both our gift to you, our readers, as well as our way to salute veterans during the week of Veterans Day. Especially the veterans of Faribault County.

The staff at the Register has been publishing this magazine for 12 years. It takes a lot of work to get it done, with the entire staff involved in the project. It has become a labor of love even though we know we will be putting in extra hours to get it all done by deadline time.

It also would be impossible to publish without the strong support of our advertisers, who are proud to help us salute all of the area veterans.

I am often asked how we choose the men and women whom we feature in the magazine each year. That is a very good question.

The answer is, sometimes we feel as though the veterans somehow choose us.

We do research through old copies of the Register and the Blue Earth Post. We look for names with the help of the Faribault County Historical Society and the American Legion Posts.

Many of our readers make suggestions of possible names.

And, there are times we simply stumble across some possible good heroes ideas.

We try and do a variety of stories each year. We would like to have stories of veterans from around the county, not just all from Blue Earth, for instance. We would like to feature vets who served in various wars and conflicts, not just all from, say, World War II. Sometimes that is possible, sometimes not.

And, to be honest, we look for veterans who have interesting stories to tell or ones we can find interesting stories about, if the person is deceased. It is difficult in many cases to write a story about a veteran if all we know are the years he or she served, where they were on duty, and when they died.

In order to write a full feature story, we need as much information about the person as we can possibly get. That often takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes the story just doesn’t pan out.

This year we have six stories and they are about veterans from Elmore, Delavan, Bricelyn, Winnebago, Blue Earth and even Brush Creek. These vets served in World War I and II, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Some were killed in action. A few were wounded. All are heroes in one way or another.

Register writer Jill Roesler found out information about a World War I veteran from Elmore, Joseph Thompson, while she was attending class at Minnesota State University, Mankato. A professor there had many of Thompson’s possessions.

Jill had also talked with Matt Bakken in the past about being wounded in Afghanistan. She wanted to hear more about it.

Her two stories are about veterans who served nearly a century apart.

Writer Lacey Sawatzky’s two stories came about from information from family members. One family had a journal which gave her the opportunity to write a story with quotes from the veteran, Harold Allen, even though he had died a number of years ago.

The other one came from interviews with family members of McRea Willmert and information and family stories they had about his service.

As for me, I met Gary Rome at the Blue Earth High School class of 1964 reunion last September and found out he was a highly decorated Vietnam veteran.

Although he, like so many others, downplayed his being a hero, his actual story proves otherwise.

As for the saga of Mark Iverson, it was a combination of doing research on the three Iversons of Bricelyn who were killed in World War II and then learning about Mark’s amazing 26-year military career in three different branches of the Armed Forces.

He also denied being a hero, pointing to the deaths of his uncles as being examples of true heroism.

But, just like the last line of John Milton’s poem On His Blindness, “They also serve who only stand and wait,” Iverson was prepared to give his all for his country.

Put it all together and this year’s “Our Heroes” is a very different mix of some rather fascinating and sometimes different stories.

We hope you enjoy them.

Thanks for reading us.