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Veterans gather in Grand Forks to tell the stories of their service

Max Zurcher, U.S. Army, 1967 reads his essay at the Warrior Words presentation at the Firehall Theatre Thursday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Jim Walker, a WWII-US Navy veteran, reads his essay from the Warrior Words project Thursday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

Veterans traveled from across North Dakota to Grand Forks Thursday to publicly share war memories both painful and proud.

While each veteran who spoke at “Warrior Words” at the Fire Hall Theatre had a different story, parts of all of their unforgettable experiences were the same.

“Part of all of us will always be there,” said Orlan Hall, of Minot, while describing his service in the Vietnam War.

Sixteen veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War told their stories to an audience of about 60 people. The veterans had help writing for the event through a series of workshops in Grand Forks, Minot, Bismarck and Dickinson, but Thursday’s event was the first time all of them came together to speak.

War stories

The veterans’ stories included getting lost in the jungles of Vietnam, finding and losing friends and trying to avoid inevitably being drafted to the military.

Myron Senechal, of Bismarck, described deciding to attend college in Bottineau, N.D.,  hoping he could avoid being drafted if he “kept his nose clean” like his dad told him to.

“I knew deferring the Army wouldn’t last,” he said. “(There was) the inevitable sinking into my head that I was war destined.”

After receiving “the dreaded letter” in 1966, Senechal was stationed in Vietnam.

He referenced other veterans in the audience, saying they would all be familiar with “the sound of incoming rounds that were ‘Welcome to Vietnam.’”

Hall also told stories of Vietnam, being lost in the jungle, unsure of when an enemy soldier would approach.

“Stress, fear and anxiety are constant,” Hall said while describing his experience.

He and his fellow soldiers relied on each other, he said, and wondered when they would be able to go “back in the world.”

“’Back in the world’ was our phrase for home,” he said.


Although the veterans had sad stories to share, there was an atmosphere of camaraderie. As speakers left the stage, they’d shake hands with the other veterans, despite being from separate wars.

At the end of telling his story, Senechal encouraged everyone in the audience to thank all veterans for their service to the U.S.

“We know that freedom is not free,” he said.

The North Dakota Humanities Council, which sponsored the “Warrior Words” workshops, is releasing a book of the veterans’ stories Aug. 30, said Kathy Coudle-King, an organizer of Thursday’s event. Copies of the book can be ordered at the Fire Hall Theatre box office for $23.

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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