RIVER FALLS – Arnold “Arnie” Roen, the River Falls American Legion’s oldest member, died Nov. 12, the day after Veterans Day and less than three months from what would have been his 102nd birthday. He had been a member of the local Legion Post 121 for 67 years. In Veterans Day remarks to River Falls School students the prior day, Post 121 Commander Missy Hildebrandt had used the World War II veteran as an example of the “Greatest Generation.”
“I want to introduce you to one of our members by telling you his story,” she told students during Honor Guard visits to local schools.
Hildebrandt told how Roen had been drafted into the Army in August 1942, leaving the family dairy farm and later finding himself in the South Pacific as a combination combat engineer, first gunner and infantryman.
While there he served in the Battle of Bataan in February 1945. She shared several of his observations from his time in service, including his thankfulness that he survived unharmed and his pride in having been present when General McArthur arrived in the Philippines in April to utter his famous words, “I have returned.”
Hildebrandt stressed to the students the importance of what Roen — who returned to the family farm after the war — and others like him had accomplished.
“Arnie is one of those we call the Greatest Generation,” she said. “Born before or shortly after WWI, the war that was to end all wars, he and others grew up during the Great Depression. As young men and women they went to war to save the world from tyranny. They fought in the skies, on land and at sea to secure the greatest military victory in the history of humankind. The lucky ones came home, where they shook off the horrors of war as best they could and then continued to serve – now as fathers and mothers, farmers, teachers, and bosses, as presidents and senators and countless other pursuits. But most important, they served – like Arnie – as proud citizens of the United States of America – Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
“Arnie Roen is only one of thousands of the Greatest Generation,” the Post Commander continued. “It is our responsibility to never let his and the others’ legacy die. Those GIs who came home 76 years ago built a new America, a better and freer nation. They served, they sacrificed, and they fought for the freedoms you and I enjoy today!”
Roen’s funeral was held on Nov. 19 at Rush River Lutheran Church, River Falls, with full Military honors. River Falls Post 121 has seven remaining World War II veteran members.
Submitted by River Falls American Legion Post 121