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Minnesota National Guard
Norwegian Exchange brings relatives together

OLSO, Norway " For two distant relatives living over 4,000 miles apart, it was a chance to finally meet  The 38th Annual Norwegian Exchange program provided the opportunity for Senior Airman Ali Sonsteby, 133rd Airlift Wing Maintenance Squadron, to meet Gunnar Fridtjof Thurmann Sonsteby for the first time

"I am very thankful for this opportunity to meet Gunnar," said Ali "It was an amazing experience"

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Gunnar Sonsteby is the currently the most highly decorated person in Norway He was recognized for his work as a Norwegian resistance fighter during World War II His list of awards includes, but is not limited to the War Cross with three Swords, Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav, Norwegian Defense Medal with laurel branch, Norwegian Police Cross of Honour, Distinguished Service Order, Presidential Medal of Freedom, the American-Scandinavian Foundation's Culture Award and he was the first non-American awarded the United States Special Operations Command Medal in 2008

"I was hunted by the Gestapo for five years and after five years they didn't find me," said Gunnar  "I guess they didn't win; I won," he added

While Ali was deployed with the 133rd Airlift Wing to Afghanistan in 2010, Gunnar came to United States for the signing of his book "Report From 24" While in the US, Gunnar made contact with Ali's aunt and met the Sonsteby family  Because of her deployment, Ali missed the chance to meet Gunnar

"I was disappointed that I did not get to see Gunnar when he came to the US in 2010, but I knew I had an obligation, he would have the patience to understand, to fulfill my military duty as an Airman," said Sonsteby

"Gunnar made a big impact in a war and here I am in a different one," said Alicia "Knowing his success makes me proud to be in the military and a part of my family"

Gunnar ended the meeting by autographing a copy of his book for Ali

Story and photos by Pfc Trisha Betz
1/34th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
18 Feb 2011

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