“There was a line of people two blocks long with American flags, saying good luck and thank you … I was amazed at it,” Kriese said of the Wyoming sendoff. “It’s nice to be recognized.”
Kriese flew from Wyoming’s capital city to the nation’s capital last week, where the 88-year-old veteran received another warm reception. The free, two-day trip was through Honor Flight Wyoming, a nonprofit foundation that sponsors trips for Wyoming veterans to visit the World War II Memorial in D.C. This was the sixth and final Honor Flight Wyoming.
Kriese, Powell’s only WWII veteran on last week’s trip, joined more than 160 veterans, guardians and staff on the final flight. Three other veterans from Park County — Robert Scott and Bert Hyder Jr., of Cody, and Lloyd Barling of Meeteetse — also were slated to make the flight.
As for his military service in the early 1940s, at the height of World War II, Kriese offers a simple explanation: “I never thought I shouldn’t do it … to me, it was an honor to do it, no matter what the worries were.”
Kriese tried to enlist in the military two times in 1941, but they wouldn’t accept him because of his partial color blindness.
“Then Pearl Harbor happened, and when I went back to enlist, it took them about 10 seconds to sign me up,” he said.
After completing the Navy’s boot camp in 1942, Kriese was assigned to the South Pacific on a destroyer escort ship, the U.S.S. Harold C. Thomas DE21. He worked as a radioman on the ship from 1943-44. He then was selected to go back to the U.S. and train with the wartime ROTC to become a Navy deck officer. That afforded him the chance to attend college in Valley City, N.D. — not too far from his hometown.
By the time he finished training in October 1945, “the war was over.”
Kriese ended up in the Navy Reserve, and he was called back to service as a radioman in the Korean War.
From 1951-’52 Kriese served on the U.S.S. Titania AKA13, an ammunition ship. The name’s similarity to “Titanic” worried Kriese a little, but he made it through without harm. But there were times he was in danger.
“I got up one morning, and shells were landing on both sides of the ship,” he said. “And it was an ammunition ship …”
Kriese then served on a small refrigerator ship, the U.S.S. Karen AF33, which supplied food to the fleet.
During his years of military service in two wars, Kriese said nothing “outstanding” happened to him, but he served America with unwavering dedication and quiet service.
“I personally have the feeling that most people today don’t know what it was like to live in the Great Depression and then World War II — they were tough times,” Kriese said.
Even in hardships, though, “people had a quiet appreciation for life.”
Following his college graduation, Kriese pursued a career in education, working as a teacher and then a principal.
Kriese moved to Powell two years ago to be closer to his daughter, Diane DeLozier, and he resides at the Rocky Mountain Manor.
Living in the northern part of Wyoming meant more traveling for the Honor Flight — traveling through Sheridan with the VA transportation, then to Casper and finally Cheyenne. Kriese suffered a stroke a couple years ago, and all the road travel through Wyoming each way, plus the air travel and busy days in D.C., took a toll on him physically.
“With all the traveling, I don’t know if I could have made it much more,” he said.
What made a lasting impression on Kriese were the good spirits and hospitality from the volunteers who traveled along with the WWII veterans on the Honor Flight. He called it “outstanding treatment.”
“They were so overwhelmingly congenial to us,” he said.