By SRO Kjell Michelsen

Growing up in Norway, especially in the northern part during the 1970s and 1980s was special for many reasons. Norway is one of only two NATO countries that have a border with Russia.

During the Cold War, we often saw military planes buzzing overhead and navy ships from both Norway and other NATO countries visiting our town.

This previous Sunday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, also marked the 100th anniversary for the end of World War I. It was said that it would be the war to end all wars, but sadly and as history has told us too many times, it did not hold true.

On April 9, 1940, Norway was invaded by Nazi-Germany where they stayed as occupiers for five years. When the war ended, Germany still had more than 300,000 troops in Norway. Even in Båtsfjord, the fishing village I was born in, the Germans built fortresses and bunkers to guard the harbor; mostly using Soviet captured soldiers for the job.

Growing up as kids we used to play in those bunkers and we would, still years after the war ended, find ammunition, weapon parts, helmets and what not laying around. As curious, and yes sometimes stupid kids, we would set fire to the ammo and sit and watch as it burned and rounds cooking off. It was a wonder none of us got hurt or killed.

When the German forces withdrew from Northern Norway in early 1945, they used what became known as the Scorched Earth policy. This meant that they set fire to all houses, killed livestock and forced the occupants to come with them on their way south. They did this so nothing would be left behind to the Soviet army who at that time had crossed the border into Norway in their pursuit after the Germans.

Both my grandparents with their eight kids were forced to leave after their home was burned down, and in a journal that my grandfather wrote, one can day-by-day follow them on their struggling and at times dangerous journey south.

As I am writing this, I am reflecting over the selfless sacrifices and the willingness for young men and women to seek a higher calling, a valiant purpose with their lives to voluntarily serve in the Armed Forces defending freedom and liberty.

Although I never served in the U.S. Military, I did nine tours overseas with the Norwegian Army and had on several occasions the privilege to work closely with U.S. service members on missions ranging from Africa, the Middle East and The Balkans.

Some of them I am still staying in touch with. When you serve in a war zone one tends to make lifelong friends.

Until next time, be safe and pray for our nation and those who serve and have served.