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Lake Nebagamon-area heroes honored in upcoming book

Lt. Col. Jim Bong Jr. stands by his F-15 before flying a combat mission over Iraq. Nephew of America's Ace of Aces, Maj. Richard I. Bong, is among the Lake Nebagamon men and women whose stories are being told in a new book, "The Heroes Among Us." Sales of the book, expected to be published by the end of the year, will be used to help establish the Lake Nebagamon Armed Services Tribute. (Submitted photo)

Jim Bong Jr. grew up hearing stories about his famous uncle, World War II hero and America's Ace of Aces, Maj. Richard I. Bong. It is natural that young Jim would join the U.S. Air Force.

Lt. Col. Bong served for more than 23 years, including eight deployments to Iraq.

His experiences and those of other local men and women are chronicled in "The Heroes Among Us," a book now being written to honor men and women from the Lake Nebagamon area who served in the armed forces.

The book is part of the Lake Nebagamon Armed Services Tribute to be established in this community, said Rick Baga, chairman of the Tribute Committee. Baga quoted the prologue of the new book: "There is no glory in war." As Arthur Blackwood's song by the same name reminds us, it asks us to recall Christ's command to "love one another."

"Nevertheless, we must honor those who go to war with courage and devotion to home and country and that is what we are doing with this book and the Tribute itself," Baga said.

The publication is the first to be presented by the Lake Nebagamon Armed Services Tribute Committee, an adjunct of the Nebagamon Community Association. Proceeds of the book's sale go to establish the Lake Nebagamon Armed Services Tribute.

"We have gathered information and anecdotes from many local veterans and their families," said Kay Coletta, author of the new book. "We have attempted to include their stories from the time of the Civil War to the present, including the men and women who are serving now."

It is hoped, Coletta said, the book will be ready for sale by the end of the year.

Lt. Col. Bong, retired commander of an Alert Mission in Hawaii, kept a diary of his military experiences, which will be shared in the new Lake Nebagamon book. His father, Jim Bong Sr., is a resident of the community and brother of the late Maj. Bong.

Lt. Col. Bong tells of flying combat missions in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which toppled the Saddam Hussein regime. He and fellow airmen were puzzled when they were unable to locate Iraqi aircraft used to attack U.S. troops.

"Where are the Iraqi fighters and why aren't they flying, we asked ourselves many times," Lt. Col. Bong recalled. After U.S. ground troops took over the Iraqi airfields, they found the answer. The enemy planes were hidden beneath the desert sand.

Many of the local "heroes" profiled in the book are buried in Lake Nebagamon Cemetery, including some who fought in the Civil War, said Sexton Dan Hildebrandt. Members of Hildebrandt's family were natives of Lake Nebagamon and six of them served at the same time in World War II. Three other families, the Edgettes, Moyers and Larsons also had multiple family members serving.

Information and photos of several who served is still being sought: Wayne Arnold; Roger, Fred and Russell Johnson; Arthur, Waldemar; Willis Anderson; Frank Bunnell; Gottfred Carlson; Ole Cleveland; John Allen DeLeo; Marfred Gustafson; Harold, Lawrence, Rubin Hanson, William and Douglas Hunn; Russell, Daniel, Enoch, Fred, Leonard, Roger and Sigfried Johnson; Hans Knoll Sr.; Orland Knowles; Douglas Knudson; Albert Lee; and Hans Mattson.

"We know there are people who might have been overlooked. We invite everyone to submit information and photos of their friends and families to include in the book or subsequent publications," Coletta said. She can be contacted by writing Kay Coletta, 11507 E. Waterfront Drive, Lake Nebagamon, WI 54849 or