“Just a way of life throughout both families and I went in because that was the thing to do,” Retired Army Colonel and Bottineau native Al Wondrasek said.
Like his father Stephen Wondrasek and his father-in-law, Wondrasek joined the Army. He started out as a private in 1971, and ended his career 27 years later on what he says was a high note.
“I’ve served I don’t know probably fifteen or twenty different places around the world — the very last assignment was we went into Bosnia which turned out to be and I’m proud to say it it’s the best peacekeeping mission the United States has ever had,” Wondrasek said.
His biggest project post-service came to be after he was approached by community members a decade ago, hoping to create a gathering space for vets and community events in Bottineau after the former building was closed down.
And with help from local businesses and countless volunteer hours, the Bottineau County Veterans Memorial Hall stands today.
“There’s nothing left here original except the breakrooms — everything was gutted and we redid the whole inside as as you see it today and it was all done by veterans,” Wondrasek explained.
And he is still finding new ways to help fellow veterans in North Dakota, like providing transportation to medical appointments.
“Their families are gone they’ve moved somewhere else we have families of one — it’s the veteran and — it’s a real blessing to be able to get veterans to their appointments that way because we do have now some that can’t drive anymore,” Wondrasek said.
Wondrasek and his comrades also make sure to honor fallen service members and their families, with a special flag program.
“We now have 500-plus storm flags so come Veteran’s Day regardless of the wind regardless of the weather we put em up,” Wondrasek added.
Even after all of the things Wondrasek has done, and all of the places he has been, there is one piece of his story that he will remain forever thankful for.
“We have the people behind us and I’ll tell ya from being all over the world there’s no place like coming back to North Dakota — you’re surrounded with Montana South Dakota Minnesota with military-minded support people,” Wondrasek said.
And in this North Dakota town is where he will continue to serve his fellow service members.