World War II survivor celebrates 40 years with memorial rifle squad

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The American flag.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This year, marks a special anniversary for the last World War II survivor of the Memorial Rifle Squad.

WCCO found out what Friday’s mean for Charlie Korlath and the poignant role he’s played for decades. It’s the way he’s started every Friday for 40 years.

“1981. I started when I retired,” said Korlath. “My cup of coffee is in there when I get in there. They take care of me.”

A milestone, Korlath marks with his comrades who all built their lives believing in something bigger than themselves.

“I had three brothers in the service when I went in,” he said.

Korlath grew up on St. Paul’s West Seventh Street and at 17-years-old he joined the Navy where he served on a troop transport ship in 1944. Where there was once 16 Rifle Squad members, Korlath is the last survivor at 94-years-old.

“I don’t have any more friends from World War II, all of my friends that I hung around with are all gone. I’m the only one left,” Korlath said.

Tom Mullon also serves on the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad every Friday.

“He performs a very important service, one of the most important services for the family,” Mullon says of Korlath.

Korlath has presented the flag to more than 20,000 families in his time at the cemetery.

“The flag is a symbol of our great republic. It’s a symbol of what’s important to all of us as citizens of this country,” Mullon said.

“I fought for that. I went to war for it,” Korlath added. “Sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes it ain’t bad but sometimes it really gets to you.”

On another Friday, Korlath presents to the Dohman family, who said a final goodbye to one of five brothers to serve in the Navy.

“It makes you glad to see these guys are still here and helping and giving me the flag makes me feel like I’m still part of this country and their still looking out for us,” said Greg Dohman.

Charlie Korlath spent 30 years also serving as a St. Paul firefighter. He lives by himself and has only missed a couple dozen Fridays in 40 years as a volunteer for the Squad.