Unique honor for vet

JEWELL – A former Jewell resident is the first veteran to be honored by a Ladora, Iowa brewery with its Big Gun Lager. A picture of the late Bob Ahrens is featured on the can of Old Legion Beer, developed by the Old Legion Brewing Company to honor Iowa veterans and to raise awareness of veteran’s issues.

Ahrens, a Jewell native and a 1940 graduate of high school there, enlisted in the Army in January 1943, as World War II was raging on several fronts. Trained as a pilot for the Army Air Force, 2nd Lt. Ahrens flew 19 missions before the B-24 where he was co-pilot was shot down over Austria on June 26, 1944. He suffered severe burns as he bailed out through the bomb bay doors of the bomber and was treated for six weeks in a German hospital before being held in Stalag Luft 1, a German prison camp on the Baltic Sea, for ten months until the war ended.

With his discharge, Ahrens returned to Iowa, enrolled at ISU and graduated from the veterinary college there before becoming a partner with Dr. Nelson in a large animal practice in his hometown. He and his wife, Marie, whom he met while she taught at the Jewell school, settled in Jewell and raised their family of nine children. Ahrens retired from the practice in 1984 and passed away in 1994. His widow, Marie, lives in Iowa City.

Six of the Ahrens children attended the unveiling of Big Gun Lager at Anderson Meat and Grocery in Jewell last week. “It’s really nice to have my dad remembered this way,” commented Marcia Hove of Stanhope, the oldest of the Ahrens siblings.

Like many WW II veterans, Ahrens shared very little of his experiences with his family. Instead, he simply returned home at the end of the war and got on with living his life. “Dad never talked about the bad stuff-being afraid, losing some of his crew, things like that,” Hove said.

In addition to profiling Iowa veterans, Legion Brewing Company is focused on raising awareness of veterans’ issues. They have partnered with Paws and Effect, an Iowa-based non-profit that trains service /therapy dogs for veterans with disabilities. Learn more about the company at www.oldlegionbrewing.com