When John F. Thorson was killed by an enemy grenade in 1944, little did he know of the full impact he would make on a small town on the other side of the world.
Thorson threw himself on a Japanese grenade Oct. 28, 1944, to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, dying the next day from his wounds. For his actions, Thorson posthumously received the Medal of Honor. He was buried in Keokuk.
That could be the end of the story.
But it isn't.
Veterans Day was quietly observed throughout Emmet County Monday, except for one town - Armstrong, where Thorson was a stellar athlete and a hardworking farm kid who joined the Army to fight - and die - for his country. At the conclusion of ceremonies Monday, high-school students went up to veterans and thanked them for their service.
You just don't see that sort of thing anywhere anymore.
So why was Veterans Day observed more in Armstrong than in the rest of Emmet County?
Well, probably John Thorson. That's why.
Receiving the Medal of Honor is a big deal. It's the nation's highest award for valor. It's the best thing our country can say about a soldier's act of heroism. Streets, colleges and even towns are named after Medal of Honor recipients. It's that big.
Would Armstrong make such a big deal out of Veterans Day if a kid named John Thorson hadn't gone to school there? Maybe not.
One thing's for certain, though. When you have a person who is so dedicated to his country and his fellow soldiers as to lay down his life for them, people are going to remember that person. And probably forever.
Armstrong is rightfully proud to have been the hometown to John Thorson. We at the Daily News would be very interested in speaking to anyone who went to school with him, played on the same team that he did, worked with him, and if possible, who served in the Army with him. His is a story that should be told and preserved, because it's an important part of history for not just Armstrong and Emmet County but also for Iowa and our country.
Please call us at the Daily News 712-362-2622 and tell us if you remember John Thorson or where any surviving relatives may reside.