Last survivor of original Fort Snelling Rifle Squad laid to rest

By Reg Chapman

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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The last survivor of the original Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling was laid to rest on Friday.

World War II Navy veteran Charles Korlath recently received the Presidential Citizens Award for more than 40 years of service as a member of the rifle squad.

WCCO’s Reg Chapman was at Fort Snelling as his life and service to comrades was honored.

This is how Korlath started every Friday for 40 years: Honoring a comrade with a proper burial at Fort Snelling’s National Cemetery as an original member of the Friday Rifle Squad.

But this Friday’s honor went to Korlath, a military and fire service veteran.

Members of St. Paul’s Fire Department stood watch as family and friends gathered to celebrate Korlath’s life — all with incredible memories of the man, his mission and his love for country and community.

Charles Korlath grew up on West Seventh Street in St. Paul and enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17.

He served on a troop transport ship in 1944, during WWII in support of the Pacific Theater.

After an honorable discharge in 1948, Korlath returned home to serve as a member of the St. Paul Fire Department for 30 years.

We were with him just one month ago when he received the Presidential Citizens Award.

A 21-gun salute to the man who helped start the Friday Rifle Squad, because he saw too many veterans being buried without a proper send off.

Korlath and his fellow World War II veterans built their lives believing in something bigger than themselves.

On his last Friday, it’s the honor guard’s chance to give back to the man who dedicated his life to honoring his comrades.

One by one they saluted him…acknowledging a mission completed, job well done.

Korlath gave the U.S. flag to more than 22,000 families during his 40 years of rifle guard service.

If you include his memorial, the Ft. Snelling Honor Rifle Guard have been of service to 83,400 military families.

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