In FD, Albert Habhab is Veteran of the Year

Those who perished, and those who survived, are honored in Memorial Day service at Veterans Park

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Albert Habhab, left, is given a plaque designating him as Veteran of the Year by retired Col. Richard Lennon, with the VFW. Habhab, a World War II veteran, is a former Fort Dodge mayor and also served on the Iowa Court of Appeals.

A retired judge who served in World War II was honored Monday during Fort Dodge’s Memorial Day service at Veterans Memorial Park.

Albert Habhab, of Fort Dodge, was recognized as the Veteran of the Year from the VFW Post 1856, also of Fort Dodge.

Habhab, a former Fort Dodge mayor who also served as the chief justice on the Iowa Court of Appeals, was recognized for his service in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army, where he served in the 87th Infantry Division’s 346th Infantry Regimen.

During his service, he saved the life of another soldier who was lying injured on the battlefield during the Battle of Metz.

According to retired Army Lt. Col. Richard Lennon, who introduced Habhab, he had his fellow soldiers concentrate their machine gun fire on the Germans while he went out and dragged the injured soldier to safety.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Clair Nerem, left, director of the Harmony Brigade Barbershop Chorus, leads the men of the group in song during the Fort Dodge Memorial Day Service.

Habhab talked about how, in 1986, he was able to track down that soldier, who by then was living in Baltimore, Maryland.

“He says, ‘Oh my gosh, Habhab. I thought you were dead,'” Habhab recalled. “And I said, ‘No, I’m very much alive and I’ve been looking for you for some time.'”

The two kept in touch, talking and writing for years until the veteran’s death.

He’s proud that he was able to track down the soldier.

“Those were the incidents that I remember,” Habhab said. “Not so much crawling on my belly to get Art, but the fact we were able to reunite after all those years.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Dan Lewandowski, director of Webster County Veterans Affairs, reads the names of the veterans from Webster County who died over the past year.

He reflected on World War II and the impact that had on not only America, but the world as a whole.

Habhab said that era was a “grim reminder to what the United States of America stands for.”

At that point in history, Great Britain was under attack from the Germans, while France had been taken and several Balkan countries were being taken over as well.

“And this was the way it was going to be,” Habhab said. “All of a sudden, the Japanese, on Dec. 7, 1941, bombed Pearl Harbor and it gave new life to the British.”

He believes the tide of the war turned once the United States entered it.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Members of the Fort Dodge VFW fire a 21-gun salute during the Memorial Day service at Veterans Memorial Park Monday.

“We suffered immense casualties from the day of D-Day on,” he said. “And for those that fought on the German soil and French soil, you know how tough it was day after day after day. But we advanced. We continued to advance and victory was ours. Victory was in sight.”

“Why?” Habhab asked. “Because the United States of America’s military came into that war and brought it to a successful conclusion. Believe me, my young friends, without the intervention of this country — and historians have documented it — without the intervention of this country, there would not be a France or a Balkan country.”

Habhab added that England likely would have fallen, too, had the U.S. not entered the war.

But while the U.S. helped end World War II, it wasn’t without loss.

Habhab’s own family was impacted by tragedy when his brother, Oscar Habhab, was killed during the war.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Members of the VFW Honor Guard present the flags during the Fort Dodge Memorial Day Service at Veterans Memorial Park Monday.

His parents received the letter saying their son had died, but Habhab said his parents — who immigrated to America from Lebanon in the early 1900s — could not read or write English. Because of this, Habhab said his parents knew one of their sons had died, but didn’t know which one.

It wasn’t until another of Habhab’s brothers came home and read the letter that his family knew it was Oscar Habhab that had died.

“That is one of the penalties of war,” Albert Habhab said. “We’ve all seen it. We’ve all been through it. God bless America, and all that she stands for. Those that have given their life so that our country might live stand in that unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die so that freedom might live and grow and increase in its blessings.”

He concluded by saying the United States of America is a great country that has stood up to its enemies and fought for freedom.

“And I hope you join me in saying God bless America,” Habhab said. “The world must know. The world population has to know. Only through the survival and greatness of this country can civilization be protected from a kook who thinks he can annihilate a race by putting them in ovens and what have you.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
The Karl L. King Band performs at the Fort Dodge Memorial Day Service Monday at Veterans Memorial Park.

The ceremony also featured the Karl L. King Band performing patriotic songs, performances from the Harmony Brigade Barbershop Chorus and the reading of the names of the 83 Webster County veterans who have died over the past year.