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Former Brooklyn Center mayor served as one of few women in 1950s-era Navy BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Myrna Kragness Kauth never thinks this is a man’s world. Ever since she opted to pursue a military career instead of marriage after high school, the Brooklyn Center resident has tried to redefine the role of women and worked to leave the world better than she found it. “All my friends were getting married. I wasn’t ready to do that,” she said. “When I got laid off from Honeywell, I decided to go into the military. I picked the Navy because it had the cutest uniform.” Although both of her brothers were in the service, Kragness Kauth said her parents weren’t thrilled at her decision. However, she went through with her plans and was assigned as a teletype operator. “In my class there were three women and 30 men,” she said. “The ratio is a lot higher now, but back then there weren’t a lot of us.” Kragness Kauth was stationed at Naval Air Station North Island near San Diego in 1954. When she returned home in 1957, she began a different life in service. She raised two sons and a daughter, all of whom have served in the military. She joined the American Legion, where she has volunteered for the past 35 years, the last two as Commander. She fostered more than 50 children, mostly teenage girls, and served as Brook-

lyn Center’s first female mayor. Kragness Kauth said she never dreamed she’d be involved in politics. After she lost her first husband, the doctor suggested she get involved in the community. She volunteered with a local festival, and came to know a number of former city dignitaries through that. “They suggested I run for the city council. I kept putting it off thinking, ‘What do I know?’” she said. “Finally they convinced me and said, ‘Why don’t you run for mayor?’” To her surprise, she won the election. During her time as mayor (1995 to 2006), Brooklyn Center saw its first all-female city council. “Since my experience as mayor, I want to encourage women to step up,” she said. Kragness Kauth continues to stay involved in her community in a number of ways. One is an initiative to fund construction of the Civic and Veterans Memorial Amphitheater in honor of Brooklyn Center’s centennial. The Buy A Brick Paver program allows residents to purchase a personalized, engraved brick paver laid as part of the Plaza of Honor, located in an area around the amphitheater. For more information, go to the city website at “It’s a permanent record left behind for generations to see the names of people important to this community,” she said. Contact Emily Hedges at Emily.hedges@

Above: Two special ceremonies were conducted at the start of the 30th annual Dudley Budweiser Classic men’s major softball tournament last June at Centennial Park in Brooklyn Center. Prior to the first pitch thrown by Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Willson, veterans of different wars were honored by the team called 4 The Fallen. Pictured behind Willson in front row from left are former Brooklyn Center Mayor Myrna Kragness Kauth (representing World War II veteran Ray Kramer, who was ill), Leonard Jacobs from the Korean War, Mike Pratt from the Vietnam war and Mike Bloom from the Persian Gulf War. The empty chair was for Scott Modeen, who was killed in the current conflict. The 4 The Fallen softball team assists with the transition for wounded or killed service members and their families. Proceeds from the tournament are donated to the Brooklyn Center Crime Prevention Program, Lions and Lioness clubs and the American Little League. Left: Kragness Kauth while serving in the U.S. Navy.

Page 2 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday May 16, 2013

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Vietnam helicopter pilot flew iconic ‘Huey’ chopper BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER The sight of a UH-1 “Huey” transport helicopter picking up wounded soldiers and carrying them to safety is the quintessential image of the American experience in Vietnam. For Mike Guilday, a semi-retired sales manager for Fridley’s Kapstone corrugator plant, this was a daily reality during his tour of duty. Out of high school, Guilday had no plans for college. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and he knew service was inevitable. After a year working construction, he decided to pursue flight school for helicopters. “I thought if I’m going to go in, I might as well do something I’d like,” he said. “Flying helicopters sounded like something fun to do.” He graduated from flight school in 1968 as a warrant officer and was sent to Vietnam at the age of 20. He began flying observation helicopters, but soon moved to the Huey. As the pilot, he was the aircraft commander in charge of the copilot and all the onboard troops. “Anything you see in Vietnam, you always see the Huey transport helicopter,” he said. “As pilot, you were the guy to keep them safe. It’s up to you to get them there in one piece.” There were 17 pilots in Guilday’s unit. Five died during his tour. “One is not much aware of your own mortality. I don’t ever recall thinking,

‘Geez, this is dangerous,’” said Guilday. “Sitting around drinking beer, you’d think, ‘Well, this guy might die, or that guy might die, but I’m not going to die.’” Guilday says that you don’t know how long a year is until you’ve been in a war. “We had a short-timer’s calendar. You’d look at it and know exactly how many days you had left. A year counted down day by day,” he said. His year finally ended and he returned to the states to finish out his active duty training other pilots at Fort Walters in Texas. Once discharged, he used the GI Bill to earn a degree in animal science from the University of Minnesota. He spent 21 years flying with the Minn nesota Army Reserves w where he taught young p pilots. However, he p points out that you ccan only get so good flying one weekend a month. “In Vietnam, we were damn good pilots because we flew every day, no weekends or holidays off. Those controls became extensions of our arms, hands, and feet. We could make it do anything we wanted,” he said. For Guilday, his year in Vietnam wasn’t all bad. He reflects on the camaraderie he experienced and the feeling of being good at what you do with fondness. “I saw a lot of death and destruction, but overall, Vietnam was a positive experience,” he said. Contact Emily Hedges at

A helicopter similar to the one Guilday flew in Vietnam is on display in front of the Bloomington VFW Post 1296.

This August 1969 photo ran with an article in Guilday’s hometown newspaper in Delavan, Wis. Mike Guilday, left, and his brother Jon meet in Vietnam.

Page 4 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday May 16, 2013

Remembering a sister who never came home from the Pacific

BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Richfield resident Francis Schmolke (Smokey) learned firsthand about the sacrifices of war as a child. His sister, Cecelia, was one of 30 women killed in a plane crash in the South Pacific while serving as a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. “I was only about seven years old when they brought her remains back in 1946,” recalls Smokey. “I’ve got her diary, her scrapbook and an old Star Journal article about her.” The loss made an indelible impression on the young boy, the youngest of a military family. Two brothers served in the Army and Marines during World War II, and another brother tried to enlist in the Navy after Korea, but was denied due to asthma. Smokey joined the Navy in 1957. After boot camp, he reported to his ship in Norfolk, Va, where he served in Information and Education, working closely with the captain in a clerical capacity. He was later transferred to the

Information and Education chaplain. During this time he worked with John O’Connor, who became a well-known Cardinal from New York. These days, Smokey attends military reunions and works with the Navy League. Recently he’s found another kind of war: beating lymphoma into remission. “It’s an honor to serve like my brothers and sisters did ahead of me,” Smokey said. “Seeing some of the country and the world, meeting nice people. There were good and bad memories.” Smoky recently returned to Washington D.C., where he had spent time at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling during his service. The highlight of his trip was a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. “The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is something I’d always go back to see,” said Smokey. “Listening to Taps; hearing the guns go off and the names read; I can’t help but cry.”

Above: Francis Schmolke’s sister, Lt. Cecelia A. Schmolke, was killed while serving as an Army nurse in the Pacific Theater.

Contact Emily Hedges at

Above left: Francis Schmolke joined the Navy in 1957 and served until right before the start of the Cuban blockade.

Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, May 16, 2013 Page 5

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Patriotism and family at the center of Navy vet’s life BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Patriotism and family could be found at the center of Jim Dare’s life. He was proud to have served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, although the experience would end his life decades after returning home to Eagan, Minnesota. It was while seeking help for post-traumatic stress after 9/11 that the retired Minneapolis firefighter realized the extent of his sacrifice in Vietnam. When his doctors realized he had served on a ship cruising up and down the Mekong River, referred to the “Brown Water Navy,” his doctors immediately ordered tests for prostate cancer, a common result of exposure to Agent Orange. The results were grim. After his diagnosis, Jim recalled that several shipmates from the USS Whitfield County, a 384-foot-long landing ship, had also had died from prostate cancer. Although he fought his cancer with the same determination with which he served,

Dare passed away last October at the age of 66. One of his final requests was to have his picture taken with the American flag. “This Memorial Day will be a little harder on our family. It is important for us to bring awareness about the soldiers who served long ago and are suffering now from their service,” said his wife, Karen Dare. She is passionate about raising awareness about the effects of exposure to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, which is known to cause several cancers c and other diseases. e “The awareness piece is that so many veterans a that are in their late 60s and 70s are discovering that they have medical conditions, and some of them do not have the medical coverage to cover some of the costs and care,” said Karen. “Many qualify for help from the Veteran’s Administration, but they are unaware or do not understand that it is OK to ask for help.” Contact Emily Hedges at Emily.hedges@

Jim Dare as a young man serving in the U.S. Navy.

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Jim asked to have his picture taken in front of the American flag on the day he went home from the VA. He died three days later at home with the same blanket wrapped around him. Photo submitted by Karen Dare.

Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, May 16, 2013 Page 7

Poems from Iwo Jima recall human cost of war BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER New Brighton resident Sharon Olson is proud of her uncle, William Vsetecka, and his service during World War II. He participated in the battle for Okinawa and the invasion of Iwo Jima, two of the most dramatic episodes of the war in the Pacific. Vsetecka served on the USS Bladen, a 426-foot-long attack transport. However, it was only after reading two poems written by an 18-year-old Vsetecka that described the events firsthand that Olson and her entire family truly realized the profound depth of his experience. “When our grandfather died, another uncle came across these and sent them to me,” recalls Olson. “I’m in constant contact with my uncle who wrote these, and I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you pursue a writing career?’ He said he thought they weren’t good enough.” Olson said that she and their entire family were impressed by the way he captured what he saw at such a young age. “I thought, ‘Wow, my uncle is such a fantastic writer,” she said. Vsetecka, a Minnesota native who now resides in Great Bend, Kansas, was serving as a seaman in 1945 when he wrote the following, published with his permission. Invasion of Iwo Jima A murky morning, weary men Battle-scarred and grim Raising Old Glory on a barren rock Singing our national hymn The battle for Iwo Jima Is over with and won. And the bulletin reads next morning Thank you, men, well done. But I’d like to tell folks back home If it isn’t against the law Some of the things that happened Some of the things I saw. I saw faces taut with anxious strain And some with an empty stare. I remember that horrible morning Because, Brother, I was there.

There were bodies strewn on that barren rock And on the beaches, too. Yes! I remember it, Brother And you’d better remember it too. If I live to be a thousand I’ll never forget that day. For we carried these kids over And we carried the wounded away. Yes, we carried those kids over Kids as healthy as any you’d find. And we brought a lot of them back again Broken in body and mind. I saw a lad with an arm shot off It was lying by his side. And he placed that arm between his knees There was a tear he tried to hide. And he plucked a ring ffrom his lifeless hand And he looked up with a plea w And he asked, ““Would you place this wedding band On my other hand for me?” There was another lad and his mind was gone. They said it was gone from shock. That was his meager donation For the price of barren rock. I saw officers and men on the Bladen (That was the ship I was on) Doing everything in their power For the wounded we carried on. They offered their clothes, their smokes and their bunks, They even offered blood. They did everything humanly possible Everything that they could. And I saw the doctors and the corpsmen Working with all their might. Trying to save the human life That we brought aboard that night. Yes, we out here will remember Come fire, brimstone or flood, That every inch of the barren rock Was bought in American Blood. William H. Vsetecka, February 25, 1945

Minnesota native William H. Vsetecka is now 87 years old. At 18, he served as a seaman on the USS Bladen in the Pacific theater of war, witnessing firsthand the battle for Okinawa and invasion of Iwo Jima. His niece Sharon Olson lives in New Brighton.



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Dick Kaminski stands with a painting of two B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers: McGuire’s Chophouse, his plane, and Stormy Weather, flown by his brother, 1st Lt. Vincent Kaminski, who was shot and killed flying his 27th mission in May 1944.

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BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER One of the annual highlights for Richard Kaminski is riding in Edina’s Fourth of July parade. From an Army truck, he smiles, waves and hopes efforts like these will ensure that the experience of World War II veterans is never forgotten. “It’s quite an experience and thrill riding in the parade,” the Richfield resident said. “It gets to you as you go by and everyone is clapping.” At age 19, Kaminski was drafted into the Army’s armored forces, but later transferred into what was known then as the U.S. Army Air Corps (it later became the U.S. Air Force in 1947). He completed gunnery school and was sent to England to join the 457th Bomb Group. During his time in Europe, he flew 15 missions as a waist gunner on a B-17, manning two .50-caliber machine guns in the middle section of the bomber. “You sure get religion in a hurry when someone is shooting at you,” he said. “The crew would do anything for each other. I’m

glad I went through it, but I wouldn’t do it again.” Kaminski said he went into the Army weighing 169 pounds and came out at 215. “Being in the military straightened me out. I went in as a kid and came out a man,” he said. Kaminski used his military experience and maturity to thrive in a position as facilities manager with the Munsingwear company, based in the T Twin Cities He is a past p president of the Eighth A Air Force Association aand continues to serve o on the board. “It’s quite an organization. Our members do lots of things, like speaking to kids in schools about their military experience,” Kaminski said. “Of course, there are air shows. We’re always involved in those.” He feels that keeping alive the memory of sacrifices made for freedom is the most important mission of the organization. “I’d hate to see everything lost that we went through,” he said. “That’s our biggest mission.” Contact Emily Hedges at Emily.hedges@

Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, May 16, 2013 Page 9

Mullenbach could see airplanes flying below from this mountain north of Seoul, South Korea.

Mullenbach, standing, pictured April 3, 1954, with Bill Koski, who played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

A thanks for service in Korea, many years later BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Don and Delores Mullenbach of Shorewood will never forget one special afternoon on the Duluth Lakewalk. While pausing at the Korean Veteran’s Memorial during their bike ride, they were approached by a young Korean couple pushing a toddler in a stroller. The young man asked Don about his service in Korea. Delores recalls watching the two men discuss and point at the large map hanging in the memorial while his wife stood by smiling, unable to speak English. “After the visit the young man thanked Don for his sacrifice for being in Korea during the war. He said if it hadn’t been for people like Don he would not be going to school in North Dakota to advance his education,” said Delores. “It was very

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meaningful, and I think everyone should know how the young people of South Korea feel about America’s involvement in the Korean War.” Don was drafted out of high school in 1952 and served as a military policeman in Korea. His company had policing responsibility of civilian and military installations in and around the Han River. R “It surprised me a little li bit that a young man m who wasn’t even born b when we were at war would realize how lucky he was that the United Nations, with the U. S. as a big player, saved their country,” said Don. “It kind of made me feel it was a worthwhile endeavor for the United Nations to do. It touched my heart.”

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Vietnam corpsman seeks to inspire, teach others BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Family and friends of William “Doc” Wenmark refer to him as, “the myth, the man, the legend.” When you hear his harrowing account of serving as a corpsman in Vietnam, you think that’s why, but that’s only part of what makes the Minnetonka resident unforgettable. Petty Officer Wenmark served for six years (1966-1972) with the U.S. Navy, four in active duty and two in the reserves. “I had a rich experience as a 20-year-old man during the troubling 1960s in America,” he said. Shortly after joining in 1966, the young corpsman stationed in Washington D.C. had a unique assignment. Vice President Hubert Humphrey asked if there was a corpsman from Minnesota available to attend him. Wenmark fit the bill. During his time serving Humphrey, Wenmark spent many an evening watching “Bonanza” and “The Untouchables” with the VP. He also flew on Air Force Two to Minnesota, where he was able to introduce his family. Wenmark recalls that his mother saw Humphrey at a campaign event two years later and he still remembered her name. “When she told him I had just volunteered to go to Vietnam, he told her to let him know if he could help me in any way,” said Wenmark. His last year of active duty was spent in Vietnam serving with the First Marine Division. A combat corpsman faced an average life expectancy of three months. Wenmark later earned the Navy Achievement Medal for exemplary service.

“I was able to use all my medical education to save many lives, but I also lost many others,” he said. “I live with their dying conversations as they pleaded with me to save them. I held them while they died, while doing everything I could.” The fact that he survived Vietnam and 58,000 others didn’t is something Wenmark doesn’t take lightly. He uses this knowledge to fuel his desire to make a difference in the world. “That means God choose not to take me and therefore I am here to do something every day with my life. My service set me up for who and what I have done with the 40-plus years since Vietnam,” he said. Wenmark returned home to Minnesota and immediately began to distinguish himself within tthe medical industry. H He spent many years a as a successful hospital a administrator, policy w writer and government advisor. In 1983, he started the state’s first urgent care facility, which grew into 28 medical practices. He says the minute he sold the business to Wells Fargo, he took off his watch and hasn’t worn one since. He has participated in more than 100 marathons and trained an estimated 4,000 students to conquer the 26.2 mile challenge. One of his students was his own mother, who ran the first of many marathons at 73 years of age. “I want to inspire people to keep living life and doing good things; to push and challenge themselves; to see the glass as half-full,” he said. Contact Emily Hedges at

Doc Wenmark completes 26.2 miles this past March in the Bataan Memorial Death March held each year in White Sands, N.M. The event commemorates the Bataan Death March during World War II. Inset: Wenmark in Vietnam.

Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, May 16, 2013 Page 11


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