Combined event scheduled for Nov. 13
War veterans Al Jaeger and Chuck Burin both are humble about their service to the country.
The Apple Valley residents will be honored at the Eagan Rotary and Kick Start Rotary Veterans Recognition luncheon at noon Nov. 13 at the Lost Spur Golf and Event Center, 2750 Sibley Memorial Highway.
Both often give credit to other service members.
Al Jaeger, a World War II veteran, said “the real heroes are the ones that went before us.”
“Yeah, I got air medals, but the guys that worked on the airplanes put in a lot of hours, they didn’t get a lot of recognition,” said Burin, who did two tours in Vietnam. “Without them, I couldn’t do a dang thing. We broke things and they fixed them.”
Both will receive a plaque and the Rotary will donate money to a charity of their choice.
Jaeger served as a corporal in Italy from 1944-46 with the Army’s 245th Combat Engineers during World War II.
“Our duty was to fix things that the Nazis wrecked like bridges, so we could get supplies across the rivers,” Jaeger said. “One time some had the bright idea to line up 50 to 100 of these large balloon filled boats like pontoons. Believe it or not, they would drive tanks and Army trucks across them. We needed to get supplies to other side whether it was ammunition, weapons or food.”
The most nerve-wracking part of his service is when he and 12,000 other service members took a boat from Virginia to Italy.
“When we got underway, they started swerving, going back and forth,” Jaeger said. “We wondered why? It was pretty obvious after a while. They were trying to dodge the (U-boats). Instead of taking five days to get across, it took us five weeks. That was a little scary for us. We were trying to imagine what would happen if they found us.”
Jaeger worked in the aviation field after World War II.
Burin was a captain in Vietnam during his service in the Marine Corps from 1963-74.
After joining the ROTC and graduating from the University of Kansas, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1963 and received Navy Wings in 1964.
“Our job was to support the people on the ground and to have people on the ground when they were having problems,” Burin said. “If someone is attacking then we were able to come in and bring a sixth wing in and save them.”
He said his first mission was dropping leaflets in Laos.
“I was told to fly straight up, and they didn’t care if the things landed in one pile,” Burin said. “Just drop them and get out of there. The leaflets said something like ‘the Americans are you great friends, please surrender’ or some other propaganda. I always wanted to get one and see if someone could interpret them for me.”
He flew 88 missions in the A-4E Skyhawks as well as missions in the O-1C Birddog and UH-1E and served as a ground forward air controller and platoon commander during his first tour from 1966-67.
He returned to Vietnam in 1969 after serving as a flight instructor and flew 315 combat missions and 660 hours in the OV-10 Bronco.
His awards include 33 Air Medals, a single mission Air Medal and a Navy Achievement medal.
Burin still looks to the sky.
He’s been a volunteer with the American Wings Air Museum in Blaine since 1992 and a founding member OV-10 Bronco Association.
He’s been a chairman on the board of directors for the Fort Worth Aviation Museum 2005-2014.
“That keeps me busy since I retired,” he said.
In 2003, he retired after 40 years in the Federal Service working for both the IRS and then OSHA.
Rotary of Eagan was founded in 1987 and is affiliated with Rotary International. Meetings are Wednesdays at noon at the Lost Spur Golf Club in Eagan. See eaganrotary.org.
Eagan Kick-Start Rotary was chartered in 2014 as the second Rotary club in Eagan. It meets for breakfast at 7 a.m. each Thursday morning at Granite City. For more information, see www.eagankick-startrotary.org.