WAHPETON, N.D. — Sit down at the Vets Club in downtown Wahpeton with World War II veteran Bud Leinen, and you quickly learn he remembers everything.
He remembers the day he was drafted into the army as an 18-year-old boy from Breckenridge, Minn. He didn't graduate from high school and was shipped off to the South Pacific in 1944. As part of the 1778 Combat Engineers in Okinawa, Japan, he helped build roads and airports.
When he returned home from the war, he and more than 160 other World War II veterans from Wahpeton-Breckenridge formed a club and made a pact.
The group of men had fought in Europe and the islands in the South Pacific. And their agreement? The last one standing gets a bottle of Virginia Dare red wine.
Now, the honor of last man falls to Leinen. From that crowd of more than 160, he is it.
His "Last Man Standing Club" had about $400 left in the bank, so he donated it to the veterans home in Fergus Falls.
"I had to close it down in 2018 because our last three passed away — all together — and I was all alone. No more members," Leinen said.
When Leinen's friend Doyle Gyltin heard about the agreement, he decided to surprise him with a special gift: An oak case to showcase the wine now in the hands of Leinen, the final face in the club.
"I thought it's a story that needs to be told," Gyltin said.
Leinen has aged better than the wine. He now plans to donate the wine and its new case to a museum in Breckenridge to give it a chance to educate others — especially young people — about sacrifices made, friendships cherished and service to the country in World War II.