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’Band of Brothers’ veteran to headline Memorial Day events

The Minnesota State Fire Service Memorial Pipe Band will perform Monday, May 26, at the Woodbury Memorial Day service at the Woodbury Lions Veterans Memorial. World War II veteran and member of the famed Easy Company unit Herbert Suerth Jr. will be the event’s keynote speaker. (Submitted photo by Minnesota Department of Public Safety)

Members of the famed World War II “Band of Brothers” once numbered more than 160 men.

That number is now 18 and Minnesotan Herbert Suerth Jr. is among them. The Wayzata resident, now 89 years old, will be speaking Monday, May 26, at the Woodbury Memorial Day service at the Woodbury Lions Veterans Memorial.

The gravity of having someone like Suerth – who, as a member of the 101st Airborne Division’s Easy Company, languished in the cold and artillery fire while American forces held a critical battle line in a Belgian forest – is not lost on Darrin Ewing, quartermaster of Woodbury VFW Post 9024.

“We’re talking about living history,” Ewing said.

In addition to Suerth’s appearance, the event will feature the Minnesota State Fire Service Memorial Pipe Band.

“Every year, we try to raise the bar,” Ewing said. “It’s great public awareness. It’s a great tribute to the fallen.”

Suerth’s presence at Woodbury’s Memorial Day service came about after a meeting with Woodbury VFW Community Service Officer and Vietnam War veteran Ron Kane. Both men had attended a 101st Airborne event earlier this year and got to talking, Ewing explained.

It occurred to Kane that Suerth might make for a special guest on Memorial Day in Woodbury, so he asked him.

“Thankfully, Herbert was receptive to that idea,” Ewing said.

Originally assigned as an engineer after enlisting in the army, Suerth was called up for infantry service through the 101st and joined up as a replacement with Easy Company in France after its troops fought a hard battle in Holland after first parachuting into Normandy.

With Suerth in tow, Easy Company continued on to a forest outside the Belgian town of Bastogne, a setting portrayed in a vivid pair of episodes in the 2001 HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” based on the Stephen Ambrose book.

Suerth’s experience, chronicled in an online interview posted on the website, was marked by heavy German shelling while he and other Easy Company soldiers battled extreme cold and hunger while holding the line.

He was wounded by German artillery fire during the experience and spent nine months recovering through excruciating skeletal traction.

Suerth recovered from the ordeal and later raised nine children with his wife Monna. The family moved to Minnesota after Suerth took a job here with Lief Brothers.

Ewing called Suerth’s presence at the local ceremonies an honor.

“I think it’s one of the most notable that we’ve ever had,” he said, “by the sheer fact of his military accomplishment and his service to the country.”

Ewing expects Suerth to speak about what Memorial Day means to him.

“I think it’s going to be a powerful message,” he said.

The event will also include the state fire service’s bagpipe band, which will perform music, including “Amazing Grace,” in Woodbury.

The highly in-demand band required the reservation to be booked in January, Ewing said.

He said the fire service band’s presence will be an appropriate tribute to the Woodbury Lions Veterans Memorial’s addition, which recognizes the service of police, firefighters and EMTs.

“It’s kind of a nice segue for that band to be there in representation of their service,” he said.

The rain-or-shine event begins at 11 a.m. May 26. The Lions memorial is located on City Hall grounds on Valley Creek Road.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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