BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) -- A Minnesota man is one of those honored in a new Medal of Honor Park at South Dakota State University.
Gov. Bill Janklow and other officials gathered Friday to honor two South Dakota war heroes: the late 1st Lt. Willibald Bianchi and Vietnam Medal of Honor winner Leo Thorsness. Two monuments were unveiled in the new park to honor the men.
Thorsness, of Tucson, Ariz., spent six years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi.
Bianchi, of New Ulm, Minn., had received a World War II Medal of Honor.
Rain moved Friday's ceremony indoors, but the 4-foot-high granite monuments were unveiled afterward in the park. A likeness of each recipient, both of whom have ties to SDSU, is etched into the stone, and their Medal of Honor citations are in bronze.
Also in the park are other plaques and memorials honoring SDSU students and alumni who served in major conflicts since World War I.
Bianchi was an SDSU football player and a 1940 graduate with a degree in animal science. Thorsness attended SDSU in 1950 before enlisting in the Air Force.
Janklow and others are building similar Medal of Honor monuments at other sites in the state to preserve the memory of those earning the nation's highest award for bravery.
Thorsness said he was "humbled by being a Medal of Honor recipient." He told more than 1,000 people at the event that hundreds of thousands of other Americans are equally deserving.
"So I wear this medal on behalf of all of the men and women who have served their country. It belongs to all of them," he said.
He told of a fellow prisoner who crafted an American flag from an old handkerchief he had found in a ditch. Some blue medicine and a piece of red tile completed the effort by aviator Mike Christian.
"One morning Mike called us all -- 30 or 40 of us in that section -- and held up that flag, such as it was, with a big smile on his face. We all stood at attention, and many of us saluted, and I think many of us had a tear in our eye."
Guards tortured Christian after finding the flag, but the prisoner survived, Thorsness said in a wavering voice.
Because of Thorsness' "uncooperative attitude," he was denied medical attention.
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