This year’s Warrens Memorial Day program will reflect on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the local men and women who served in that conflict. The service is scheduled for Monday, May 25, at 11 a.m., at the Warren Mills Cemetery.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, this year’s program will be a drive-in service similar to what some area churches have been doing. The service will also be shorter than in past years said event organizer Sara Moseley.
“This is the first time we’ve tried to do the program this way, so we ask for everyone’s patience as we’re getting cars parked in the cemetery so that everyone can see and hear the program,” Moseley said.
Three grandsons of the late Vernon Oftedahl – Brian Zingler, Greg Zingler and Scott Wilcox – are participating in this year’s program. Oftedahl, who died in 2008 at age 96, served in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he received a Purple Heart.
Oftedahl was sent to Europe in 1944 and was in the Battle of the Bulge. Lasting six weeks – from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945 – the assault proved to be the costliest ever fought by the U.S. Army, which suffered over 100,000 casualties. Oftedahl and other POWs captured by the Nazis were sent on the “Death March” across Germany. He spent the rest of the war in a prison camp.
After returning home, Oftedahl first worked on his father-in-law’s farm near Hillsboro and in 1948 he and his family moved to Tomah.
Oftedahl was a member of the VFW, American Legion and 40 and 8. He supported the veterans organizations for 50 years by playing his trumpet for all of the Memorial Day events and funeral services in the Tomah area.
“I can remember going to the Memorial Day program in Warrens when I was a little girl and Vern would be there playing Taps,” Moseley said.
Brian Zingler is this year’s Master of Ceremonies. Greg Zingler will give the keynote address. Scott Wilcox will be performing a song he wrote, “Germany in 1943.”
Moseley said the names of the World War II veterans buried in the Warren Mills Cemetery will also be read, including the names of two Warrens area men who lost their lives in the conflict: Sgt. Evar Anderson and Pvt. Lonnie Doers.
Anderson enlisted in the Army in October 1940 and served in North Africa and Sicily. Later he was sent to England and was with the units landing in France during the invasion of Normandy. He died in battle on July 16, 1944. Anderson, 33, was survived by his father, Carl, two brothers and four sisters. His mother Sophia had died earlier in 1944.
Doers was just 19 when he lost his life in the Pacific Ocean theater in 1945. His parents were Rose and Archie Doers. Rose Doers was a sister of Evar Anderson.
Doers’ remains were among 3,257 bodies returned to the United States in March 1948 aboard the SS Walter. W. Schwenk, a U.S. Army transport ship.
Families had the choice of leaving loved ones buried in the country where they died or having their body brought back by ship. Starting in 1948, ships came into the New York or San Francisco ports carrying thousands of war dead for families who had made that decision.
PHOTO CAPTION: In the photo above from the 2016 Warren Mills Cemetery Memorial Day program, area service members raising the flag (left to right) are Bridget Brummet, Sam Moseley, David Moseley and Rebecca Moseley. Rebecca Moseley and Leslie Moseley will be performing that duty this year. Tomah VFW Post 1382 will provide the 21-gun salute.
NOTE: The Warrens Lions Club is not holding their Memorial Day Chicken BBQ this year.