homepage logo

We all have our own special hero

By Staff | Nov 11, 2012

It is with some sense of pride that we present our 10th edition of the ‘Our Heroes’ magazine, which comes out this week, just in time for Veterans Day.

The entire staff at the Faribault County Register puts in some extra hours and effort into this project each year.

From the comments we generally hear from readers, it is worth it.

Many people have saved a copy from every year. They tell us the read it cover to cover.

And, each year, some of our readers will say, “This is the best one yet!”

This year they might be right. Each of the stories has some special meaning to not only those who are featured, but for family members as well.

I would hazard a guess that each and every one of us has that “hero” in our family or circle of friends.

Someone who served in the military in a combat zone, under incomprehensible circumstances, was wounded or who gave their life, the ultimate sacrifice for their country and for us.

I have such a hero. He would make a great story for our next edition of ‘Our Heroes,’ except that he was not from Faribault County.

His name was Herbert Mueller, and he was from the tiny town of Witoka, in Winona County.

You have probably never heard of Witoka. It is not much of a town. It’s so small it is unincorporated and the population isn’t even listed.

Witoka is right by Ridgeway, another town you never heard of. Both are actually located right near I-90, just like Blue Earth is.

But, if you blink, you’ll miss them.

Mueller served in World War II, in the Pacific Theater, in the war against Japan.

He was killed in action in New Guinea on June 28, 1944. He was shot in the head.

Herbert A. Mueller was one of three young men from Witoka who joined the military to fight in World War II.

The other two were John M. Kiefer and Roger K. Aldinger. All three were good buddies. Mueller and Aldinger were cousins.

Just all-American young Midwest farm boys. Eager to join up and serve their country.

They were the only three from Witoka to do so. After all, it was a small town, without many young men around.

All three Witoka boys never made it back. Mueller, Kiefer and Aldinger were all killed in action in various parts of the war.

And, none of the three were returned home.

There is a memorial grave stone in honor of the three in the Witoka cemetery, but their bodies are not there. In fact, Aldinger’s body was never found, lost in a ship sinking at sea.

Mueller is buried in a U.S. military cemetery in the Phillipines.

He was my uncle.

He was one of 11 children born to Adolph and Kate Mueller, my grandparents, on a farm just outside Witoka. My mother is his younger sister.

She still remembers the day the family got the news of his death.

An officer came down the road to tell the family, she recalls. They actually knew he was coming, because he had stopped at my mother’s cousin’s house to ask directions to the Mueller farm place.

Her cousin called and alerted the family he was coming.

It was a sad day, my mother says. A very, very, sad day. Even now, 60 years later, she and her remaining siblings still mourn his loss and tear up at hearing his name.

Herbert had been everyone’s favorite.

My grandparents were given thechoice of bringing him home or leaving him buried in a military cemetery with his comrades. They opted to leave him there.

My mother says she thinks her mother could not stand the thought of his grave being disturbed and his body being dug up.

One of Herbert’s siblings had a baby just after his death, and my cousin carries the name Richard Herbert Mueller.

It’s hard for me to do all the research and writing for the stories which I write for each ‘Our Heroes’ issue without thinking of my Uncle Herbert. In fact, it is impossible.

One of the three heroes of tiny Witoka, Minnesota.