Remembering the service of a humble guardsman

The family of Duane Schertler watches as two National Guard Honor Guard members start to fold the American flag at the site of Duane's burial. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Two National Guard members worked to meticulously honor the life of Minnesota National Guardsmen Duane Schertler who was laid to rest Thursday, Sept. 3 in Wadena's Calvary Cemetery.

The two guardsmen, who asked to remain unnamed, were joined by the Elmer Goche VFW Post 3922 Color Guard, who offered full military honors with the playing of “Taps” and a 21-gun salute, the highest honor rendered. In many cases, the local Color Guard provides the full service for veteran funerals.

Schertler touched many lives in his 85 years of life in and around Wadena. He was well known for working with his hands and fixing vehicles that rolled through Ken Stuntebeck Ford in Wadena, during his 45 years working there. His service to the country was largely focused to those seven years with the Guard and he kept that service rather quiet during his life.

“He was proud of his service, he didn’t talk about it to many people, that’s the glorious part of all this,” Duane’s son Maj. Patrick Schertler said after the service on a cloudy and windswept afternoon. It was his father’s quiet service that made him confident in his desire to serve after uncovering his father’s footlocker and starting a conversation with his dad at age 12. When he opened it to find uniforms, medals and badges, his father also opened up about his service.

“I knew from that day that I was going to join the Army,” Patrick said. Patrick retired in 2007 as a major with 24 years of active duty. “It was his service that moved me to serve my country.”


Patrick was not the only one to be moved by his service, another one of Duane’s sons Tim, niece Tonya and grandchildren also served.

“His service not only made a difference to those that came before him but those that came after him,” Patrick said. “It’s just nice to see that chain go unbroken.”

Patrick Schertler (right) salutes the National Guard Honor Guard member after accepting the American flag at his father's graveside in Wadena's Calvary Cemetery. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Patrick, who resides in Nokesville, Va., is still looking to get his father’s full record of service. Duane enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard on Aug. 29, 1957, where he attended Basic Training at Ft. Chaffee, Ark., and served as a Senior Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic until his honorable discharge on Aug. 28, 1964, at the rank of Specialist 5 (E-5).

He worked on vehicles for the Guard for those seven years, while working on vehicles for the civilians of Wadena.

Normally these ceremonies would be much more robust with six National Guard members performing various duties. The ceremony included just two Guard members with face masks and the full Wadena Color Guard. The Guard members noted that while they have changed some of the protocols, they still travel to five or six of these ceremonies each week. Their bugle blast is perhaps the loudest mention of the sacrifice that each service member provided.

Family say Duane never considered himself to be a veteran because he didn't serve on active duty or see combat action. But his family says Duane was a veteran, a father, a friend, and to many a hero.


John Rebischke.jpg
Elmer Goche Post 3922 Color Guard member John Rebischke stands over the flag and burial site of Duane Schertler, Thursday, Sept. 3. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Duane is survived by his children Wayne (Kelly) Schertler of Savage, Patrick (Renee) Schertler of Nokesville, Va. and Timothy Schertler of Farmington Hills, Mich.; sister JoAnne (Tony) Kuefler of Brooklyn Park; nine grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; sister-in-law Barb Schertler of Wadena; along with numerous family members and friends. His wife of 57 years, Dot (Conn), died in 2019.

To view Duane’s full obituary go to the Schuller Family Funeral Home’s website.

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