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'We did what we had to do': Minnesota veterans honored by governor

“We all knew that it was more important than just us," said one 99-year-old veteran. "And we all knew that we were just part of it."

INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. — Hundreds turned out for Minnesota's official Veterans Day program in Inver Grove Heights.    

Governor Tim Walz gave the keynote address at the Veterans Memorial Community Center, thanking those who served our nation and fought to preserve freedoms Americans enjoy.

Walz, a National Guard veteran himself, noted we're approaching the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, where 20,000 American troops lost their lives in snow-covered battlefields.

"As that light of liberty's torch was dimmed and we were on the precipice of darkness across Europe and Asia and the world, it was those in this room amongst us who stood up and held that flame high and kept it lit," Walz said.

The veterans in attendance included 99-year-old James Jay Murphy, who was in the Army Air Force from December 1941 to December 1945. Murphy said he comes to these events for the camaraderie.

"The fact you get to meet some of the men that came after you, and damn few that was with me," he said. "So we try to see as many with me as possible. And I didn’t see any here today."

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Credit: KARE
Jay Murphy, 99, is an Army Air Force veteran. He served from 1941-1945.

Murphy said there was a greater sense of purpose that kept them going back then.

“We all knew that it was more important than just us," he said. "And we all knew that we were just part of it, and a good part of it. We did what we had to do and we didn’t complain at all."

Murphy was stationed in Alaska and then just off the coast of Japan.

"Even the meals weren’t too bad," he added with a laugh.

Also speaking Monday were Senator Tina Smith and three members of Congress: Betty McCollum, Dean Phillips and Angie Craig.

Rep. Phillips's birth father, Artie Pfefer, was killed in action in Vietnam in 1969 when Phillips was still a toddler.

"We’re all aware of the fact that we’re a nation that has historically always found the resources to go to war, and some how lacks them when it comes time to take care of you when you come home," Phillips told the veterans. 

"And that will not stand."

They all pledged continued support for veterans' health care, and expanded mental health services.

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