Midwest Honor Flight: WWII vet working to honor others, honored as a hero

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 10:11 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Representing the “Greatest Generation,” 95-year-old Gerry Lange was the only World War Two veteran on Mission 15. But you wouldn’t know it by seeing him walking around with energy.

The North Dakota native currently lives in Madison, South Dakota, and enjoyed being honored, despite his own humbleness.

Lange served in the army during the tail end of WWII, with the occupation of Japan in 1946 and 1947. Behind his smile, you’ll find a humble man who honors the others he served beside.

Like so many other veterans, Lange downplays the significance of his service and emphasizes honoring other veterans.

“I grew up with a tough life in blizzardy North Dakota on a farm where we had a pretty tough go. The military to me was a relative relief believe it or not. My service was comparatively easy. It was no bloodshed. Our company was pampered. Much better than back on the farm pitching manure in North Dakota,” Lange explained.

However, he did play an important role. Lange was in the Army security agency before it became part of the CIA. The ASA spied on Soviet Russia while he was in Japan.

“It’s been so long ago, like 70- some years ago, that you don’t think about it that much. But reflecting back on it, I can see it was formative in a very positive way to be in the service and a part of this elite group,” Lange asked.

To himself, he is no hero. Despite what Lange thinks about his time in the service, the Honor Flight gave him the chance to be honored alongside 82 others, which he believes is a positive thing.

“I think this sort of thing adds to the morale of the country and we should honor it more,” expressed Lange. “The country grows stronger if we’re united and there’s been so much division in the last few years.”

To his family, he’s an inspiration. They made sure to show him love and support as the hero they see him as, both in DC and back home.

“A grandson even came by and surprised us because we didn’t expect him to be here but he just got a job in Arlington. So it’s really been just one blessing after another,” said Lange.

Lange’s guardian for the trip was his son Roberto, who was actually born in Spain. Lange actually studied in Spain while earning a Ph.D. in history at the University of Navarra at Pamplona in 1964.

After his service, he worked in Washington DC for a while and then became a historian and a teacher at Dakota State University back when it was called General Beadle State College.

Gerry’s doing pretty well for 95 years old and, as if his story couldn’t get any better, he’s a colon cancer survivor. When asked how he’s stayed so mentally and physically fit, he said, “It runs in the genes,” as he’s had many ancestors live long lives and has a brother still alive at 101.