Veteran’s Day was a day of thankfulness as St. Cloud community members gathered in the Alumni Room in Atwood Memorial Center to honor those who have served. Various veterans were in attendance, along with a few acting military members. The program included speeches from active militants, cake, and a video honoring a special veteran who served during World War II.
The veteran being honored was 95-year old Clint Fladland, who had been a combat pilot in the South Pacific during the war. He talked about his experiences of being a pilot and what it was like coming back after the war was over. The video shown was a documentary about his life and work in the military.
Fladland was born in Fore Lake, Minn., but he enlisted out of school and ended up going to Pasadena Junior College in California, where he worked at an aircraft factory. He soon joined the Navy’s V-5 program, which was for pilots. While in the program, Fladland learned how to fly different kinds of planes. Soon, he was shipped out to war with the Navy as a pilot.
While in the South Pacific, Fladland experienced everything from tight camaraderie to devastating losses. Despite what Fladland had gone through in the war, he is thankful that he got out alive.
“There are times when I felt like I had a guardian angel because it went so good for me,” he said. “I tried to find ways to help other people so I can return some of those favors.”
When Fladland got back from the war, he went back to college at the University of Minnesota on the G.I. Bill. At this time in his life, he found a place to live and a girlfriend named Lorraine, whom he later married. During the video, Fladland admitted to having depression for a time, which was a combination of having PTSD from the war and his wife being sick in a nursing home.
“I’m no different than thousands of other people that serve their country,” he said.
Many veterans experience these same symptoms of sleep deprivation and depression. It’s a combination of the trauma of war and the loss of the camaraderie that stems from close combat. Director of Veterans Resources Zac Mangas says that the transition from being overseas to being home can be difficult for many and that most people won’t see these symptoms right away.
“It’s different for everyone,” Mangas said. “It comes from what they’ve seen or done.”
Despite what Fladland has done for the country, he’s still humble about his service, like many others who serve.
“We were lucky to get out,” he said. “The heroes are the ones that are still out there.”
Mangas says that many who come home are uncomfortable with being thanked because they see their service as a duty to their country that they fulfilled. Instead, he says most appreciate a sincere “welcome home” because it encompasses more than just “thank you.”
“We don’t need to be thanked, but recognition is nice,” he said.
Fladland and Mangas were then joined by many others who have served the country through the military. At the end of the program, Fladland was shown appreciation with an award from the school in recognition of his service. He plans on continuing to serve by raising awareness of veterans and POWs who are still out there.