One Bowman resident and Slope County native said it is “just a must” to celebrate Memorial Day each year. She has a long line of family members who have served.
By COLE BENZ
It would be a tall task to find someone more patriotic than Bowman resident Mae Ione Hande. She has a long family lineage of military service that includes her father, husband, and brother-in-law, said it is “just a must” to celebrate Memorial Day each year. Her brother-in-law was killed in the Korean War, while her husband and father passed away later in life.
Hande’s late father, Frank Willis, served in World War I. Before he was deployed, he came to North Dakota from Wisconsin and homesteaded on a piece of land north of Rhame in Slope County. Her family still works the land of the original homestead purchased nearly 100 years ago.
Hande was born in 1926, and before too long she met the late Norman “Bud” Hande. The two dated at the time of Bud’s enlistment into the nation’s military during World War II. , France,
Bud became a member of the 101st Airborne Paratroopers Division and spent nine months in a prison camp after being captured by the German Army.
Prior to his jump on that fateful June day, Bud had the privilege of shaking hands with Dwight D. Eisenhower, the then-Supreme Allied Forces commander, as he went from soldier to soldier offering words of encouragement ahead of the bloody battle.
An early command for the paratroopers to deploy led to the capture of American soldiers behind enemy lines, including Bud.
“They let the paratroops out too soon,” Hande recalled. She learned much of went on since Bud wasn’t shy about discussing events from during his service.
When the soldiers were captured, the German army made the prisoners march the distance from France to Germany.
“When they marched, if they lagged behind, they had mad dogs that would bite them,” Hande said.
Bud was held for nine months before a rogue Russian woman in a tank demolished the walls of the prison, freeing thousands of POWs who ran in all different directions for freedom.
“They scattered and they had no idea where they were,” Hande said. “Some went one way, some went the other.”
Some, according to Hande, had the unfortunate chance of walking back into enemy territory and landed in another prison camp.
The freed prisoners were well on their way through Poland to the Black Sea when a band of American soldiers came upon Bud and the others. The soldiers opened fire not knowing who they were. Bud had a fellow POW die in his arms from the gunshots.
The soldiers carried on and eventually reached their destination where they phoned the U.S. Army.
To recuperate from his nine-month stay in the prison camp (he came back with worms in his liver), the military sent him to a hospital in Minneapolis before returning to finish his military service. The rest of his time would be spent in Fort Benning, Ga.
He returned home in November 1945 — for good.
On Oct. 19, 1946, in a little church in Rhame, Hande and Bud were married. At a special request from Bud, Hande’s dress was fashioned from an Army parachute.
She said a woman from Bowman charged her $15 for the work.
Bud passed away in 1976 after carrying the U.S. Mail for 23 years, but Hande’s patriotic duty didn’t end.
She has been involved in the RHAME? American Legion Auxiliary for over 70 years. She has held many positions in the auxiliary at local, state and national levels. She was state president and national music chairman and has attended numerous conventions around the country. Not to mention the years she has spent selling the special Memorial Day flowers.
“I’ve been selling poppies ever since,” Hande said.
Today she is serving as president of the Rhame auxiliary unit.
When she’s able she goes to the same place for the same Memorial Day service each year. The Mound Church, 15 miles north of Rhame in Slope County, has held services during the special day since World War I.
When asked if she had any words of encouragement for today’s soldiers, she kept her comment simple, but the words she had should resonate with all who serve.
“We’re really proud of them,” Hande said.