The Pillars of White Bear Lake honors vets with free breakfast

While the pandemic has changed many of this year’s Veterans Day ceremonies, people are finding alternate ways to support those who have served our country.

The Pillars of White Bear Lake honored veterans with a free Veterans Day breakfast drive-through on Wednesday.

Howard Schilling and 27 other veterans live at the assisted living facility. Schilling, a World War II veteran, shared his story and what the holiday means to him.

"I enlisted at 17. I went overseas at 18. I got wounded at 19. I got back at 20 and still wasn’t able to vote or buy a drink," Schilling said.

From that young age, Schilling felt a responsibility to fight and protect his country. He remembers his time in World War II with feelings of gratitude and loss among other things.

The 95-year-old Schilling almost didn’t live to tell his story.

"I was out in Guam for six of those nine months. I went to Omiya Jima and was wounded with a hand grenade, and it literally hit me in the back and I just laid on the ground, and if you stand up, you are probably a dead man … I was four months in rehab coming back and little by little got back to active duty again and came out in February of ’46," he said.

Now, more than five decades later, he spends his days at the Pillars of White Bear Lake. The vet says it’s a blessing every year he gets to celebrate Veterans Day.

"It’s a great holiday to be thankful for what we have and enjoy life and take your good and bad times together and just make it work period," Schilling said.

This year, The Pillars of White Bear Lake found a creative, safe way to say thank you to Schilling and his fellow veterans by holding a free breakfast drive-through.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to the generation that paved the way for everything we have, so we are very proud to honor those veterans," Kevin Johnson, the Pillars of White Bear Lake executive director, said. "For us, it’s about giving back. It’s about serving those who helped serve us."

It’s a simple gesture on a holiday that Schilling and other veterans look forward to each year.

"I just thank God for the good life I have had," Schilling said.

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