Bernie

Before I wrote tonight's column, I decided to call Rep. Bernie Lieder, who recently won another term as the Crookston area's representative in the Minnesota House. Bernie was in the Battle of the Bulge, so I had some questions for him.

Bernie's a wonderful story-teller, so he got going and we had a good time visiting. He's 83 years old, but hasn't lost any of his competitive spark. He loves to win elections! He had a very able opponent, Doug Oman, former mayor of Crookston. Oman ran a positive, clean campaign, but it just wasn't the year for Republicans to unseat incumbent Democrats.

Bernie said that during the Battle of the Bulge, they had two men in his unit who would just dissolve when anything happened. One would disappear into the basements of houses when they got to a new town. The other would curl up and sob uncontrollably. They had combat fatigue, and although there was some understanding that it was mental illness, there was nothing the unit could do but carry the men onward. The higher command refused to take them back, citing evidence that when men in shock get removed from battle, they only get worse.

Although Bernie doesn't feel truly traumatized by the war, he did say that he thinks about it for hours each day. Whenever he isn't busy, he said, his mind goes right back to his buddies that he lost in the war. He had a busy career as an engineer and a busy career in the House, and he credits that busyness with keeping him from being overwhelmed by war memories.

Bernie also said that a book is coming out from the Minnesota Historical Society which includes his story. In that book are some of Bernie's childhood memories, memories which he said he isn't particularly eager for people to hear. Until I see the book, I will leave the issue by saying that Bernie's childhood was anything but typical, and truly rough. I urged Bernie to not worry--it is history now, and nobody is going to judge him by his family's struggles during the Depression. In fact, I hope someday to sit down with him and get his stories on tape. But he's too busy for that now!