Rockford IceHogs

World War II Veterans to be Recognized at IceHogs Military Appreciation Night

February 20, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Rockford IceHogs News Release

The Rockford IceHogs will honor four World War II veterans as part of Military Appreciation Night this Friday, Feb. 23.

Sverre Vinge will perform God Bless America as part of the pregame festivities prior to the National Anthem. Vinge is a 99-year-old veteran of World War II who served in the U.S. Navy aboard the destroyer escort ship U.S.S. Donaldson. Vinge and his shipmates covered 280-thousand miles and served during major battles including Iwa Jima and the Battle of Okinawa.

Dropping the ceremonial first puck will be Frank Kohnke, who served as part of the legendary 101st Airborne Division when he was only 16 years old. He made three combat jumps, including in Holland as part of Operation Market Garden, in Germany when his group stormed Hitler's "Eagle's Nest," and in the Battle of the Bulge, for which he received a Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered there.

Finally, two local World War II veterans, Gene Kleindl and Sam Caruana, will be recognized during Friday night's game as "Hometown Heroes." Kleindl graduated from Rockford's East High School in 1940 and then served as a medic in the legendary 90th Infantry under General Patton. He was involved in every major battle in France during World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of the Hedgerows, specifically, Hill 122 where the 90th Infantry lost 7,000 soldiers in seven days. While serving in Germany, Kleindl was injured while liberating the Flossenbürg Jewish Concentration Camp and received a Purple Heart.

Caruana, also a Rockford native, is a 102-year-old World War II veteran who, between the ages of 21 and 24, served as a forward observer in the artillery unit of the 104th Infantry Division. He was involved in several major battles during World War II, including the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, Operation Grenade, Operation Queen, and the Battle of the Bulge. Caruana's unit also liberated the Nordhausen Jewish Concentration Camp in Germany.

On the BMO Center concourse for Friday's Military Appreciation Night, fans will find recruitment tables for the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Air Force, as well as representatives from the Winnebago County Veterans Assistance Commission and Veterans of Foreign Wars providing information and resources for veterans.

The IceHogs are offering a free ticket for Friday night's game to active and veteran military personnel along with a discounted ticket rate for any additional tickets needed by going to:

Military Appreciation Night is proudly presented by Benchmark Exteriors with media partner 95.3 The Bull.

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