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Finland Homeland of Hero Antero "Andy" Aakkula

Retired American Colonel Andy Aakkula was one of Finnish Colonel Alpo Marttinen's men, a group of Finnish heroes who hid weapons from the advancing Soviet Army in World War II. They also participated in still little discussed acts of heroic sabotage for Finland against the Soviet Navy.

After escaping Soviet controlled Finland with his wife and young baby, Antero "Andy" Aakkula immigrated to the U.S. and joined the U.S. Army, rising to rank of Colonel.

U.S. Army Colonel Andy Aakkula trained American Army soldiers in winter warfare strategies while stationed in Alaska. Aakkula also served in Korea and Viet Nam.

In 2005 retired American Col. Antero "Andy" Aakkula was awarded one of the highest honors the Finnish government bestows upon its citizens during a small ceremony at Sunrise Senior Living June 29.

Col. Hannu Hansen-Haug, Finland's Defense Attaché in Washington, D.C., presented Aakkula with the Military Medal of Finnish Defense Forces.

It's the highest honor the Finnish Chief of Defense can award a Finnish citizen, said Hansen-Haug.

"Thanks to you, and the other soldiers, airmen and sailors of the Finnish Defense Forces of your generation, Finland has freedom and its independence" Hansen-Haug told Aakkula before he presented him with the medal.

"You were ready to fight back when the Soviet Union attacked our country in the fall of 1939."

During World War II, Aakkula was an officer in the Finnish Army, rising to the rank of major.

In 1945, the Soviet Embassy asked him to come to the Embassy in Belgium for questioning concerning his part in defending Finland, said Hansen-Haug.

"In July of 1945, I received a call from the Russia Embassy in Finland that I should go and talk to them," said Aakkula. "I said right away, 'Hell, no.' "

Aakkula was considered a war criminal by the Soviet government at the time but not by Finland, said Pekka Aalto, a friend of the family. The Soviet government wanted the Finnish government to prosecute certain soldiers and that is why Aakkula left the country.

Finland Land of a Thousand Lakes

Finland Land of the Midnight Sun