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That was the last time I got to talk to him.

That's the day for which I got the Medal of Honor

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Ehlers served in Company L and Company C of the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He enlisted in October 1940. His brother was going to enlist to avoid being drafted and he went with him to enlist at Fort Riley. He was told that he was too young to sign up on his own. He had to have his parent’s signature. He returned home to get his parent’s signature. His father said yes but his mother would only sign if he promised her that he would be a Christian soldier. Ehlers told her he would do his best. He did do his best not to dishonor her or God.Ehlers found it hard to be a Christian soldier. He was 19 years old and away from home but he still couldn't get into the bars until he turned 21. He tried smoking cigarettes but after a few he gave them away to his brother. He didn't drink while he was in the service either. He lived a clean life in the military.He stayed with his grandfather on his farm near his high school in Junction City, Kansas. His grandfather listened to the radio and got letters from cousins living back in Germany. He told Ehlers what was going on over there with the book burnings and conscripting children into government schools. After the invasion of Poland in 1939 they knew that there would soon be another war with Germany. Even after that, the US resisted going to war even though the Germans were sinking our shipping with their submarines.Ehlers had signed up to be in a mechanized outfit. He was sent to the 7th Infantry Division. When they got to the 7th they found out that it hadn't been mechanized yet. They did a lot of walking and training. There was a big flu epidemic on the coast [Annotator's Note: the west coast of California] at that time. Ehlers’ brother got sick and had to go into the hospital. When he got out he had lost 30 pounds. Ehlers got the flu but he just stuck it out and finally came through it. He remembers being on the rifle range and not being able to see the target but still being able to put 8 out of 10 rounds inside the bull's eye at 500 yards.Ehlers thought about being a conscientious objector but then thought back to the promise he made to his mother and decided to carry on and do the best he could. When he was finally issued his M1 rifle he considered it his rod and staff and it comforted him. It comforted him many times in combat.Ehlers was fighting for freedom. The United States Army has fought for freedom since the Revolutionary War. The Civil War caused more deaths than any other war we have fought in and that was for freedom. World War I and World War II were fought for freedom. All 3 nations [Annotator's Note: Germany, Japan, and Italy] became democracies after the war.Ehlers was accepted into the service and took his basic training at the Presidio in San Francisco. They were then assigned to the mechanized outfit and stayed there for about one and a half months before learning that the 7th Division had been redesignated as a training division for the selective service men [Annotator's Note: draftees] coming in. A cadre of enlisted men and officers was kept and the remaining regular army men were sent to the 3rd Infantry Division. He was regular army since he had enlisted during peace time.Ehlers went from Company K, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division to Company K, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division which was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco.At the Presidio, Ehlers they had beautiful barracks and it was a beautiful place to serve. The food was good, it was really nice, and they were living it up, but that didn't last long and they were soon back to training.

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The 3rd Infantry Division assimilated all of its regiments into the 3rd Division's headquarters at Fort Lewis, Washington. That's where they trained in Jiu jitsu/Jujutsu and amphibious operations. They trained with the Higgins boats with the round noses [Annotator's Note: the LCP(L), Landing Craft Personnel, Large] that did not have ramps for them to run out. They had to jump from the top over the sides.They trained up and down the coast and had amphibious training at Camp Pendleton. With all of their jungle training they assumed that they would be going to fight in the Pacific. They went from Camp Pendleton up to Fort Ord where they were put on a train and sent across the United States to Camp Pickett, Virginia. There they did some more training and got new equipment, new rifles, and new clothing. The new clothing was impregnated OD's [Annotator's Note: olive drab colored combat uniform].They were loaded onto troop ships and headed out to sea. After they were out a week or so they were issued French translation books. They assumed that they were going to France. When they neared Africa they were told that they were going to French Morocco.They had gone out to sea in October [Annotator’s Note: 1942]. Ehlers got very seasick. A sergeant told him that he was assigned to KP [Annotator's Note: kitchen police]. Ehlers went into the kitchen and saw a pot of navy bean soup and got even sicker. He left the kitchen and they didn't see him again until he went over the side of the ship into the Higgins boat.The landing at Fedala for the assault on Casablanca took part on 8 November 1942. As they approached the beach the French were shelling them. Ehlers was so seasick that he hoped for the French gun to fire lower and put him out of his misery. When they hit the beach the first person Ehlers saw had been hit by artillery. The man was a horrible looking mess. Ehlers’ unit suffered a few casualties but enemy resistance was light.After the capture of Casablanca, Ehlers company was given the job of being the honor guard for the Casablanca Conference. At the conference President Roosevelt came down to meet with Churchill, de Gaulle, Montgomery, Eisenhower, and some other generals. His company was lining both sides of the street. As Roosevelt passed he commented that they were fine looking troops and would make good replacements for the 1st Infantry Division. Two weeks later Ehlers was in the 1st Infantry Division.His outfit was put on 40 and 8's [Annotator's Note: French railroad cars meant to transport 40 men or 8 horses] and sent across Africa to Algiers where they joined the 1st Division.He went from Company K of the 30th Infantry Regiment to Company K or the 18th Infantry Regiment. At the time the 18th Infantry Regiment was under British control. Soon after he arrived the 18th was returned to the 1st Division's control.There were a number of hill fights but the biggest fight was the Battle of El Guettar. There his unit fought for 8 hours straight against the Germans who were attacking with half tracks trying to break through the lines. The American artillery was set up on the opposite side of the valley facing the direction they expected the Germans to come from. They had 105 guns and 155 Long Toms. The 155s were from the 32nd Field Artillery and the 105s were from the 5th Field Artillery. When the Germans came toward them, the artillery fired at them. The Germans got so close that the howitzers were firing at the point blank. The Germans had a lot of tanks there and they kept coming. They kept assaulting the hill his unit was defending.Late in the afternoon Ehlers' unit was out of ammunition and quietly pulled back off of the hill. That night they could see the Germans attacking the hill. They were popping flares and looking for the Americans. When his outfit had been resupplied with ammunition they attacked over the hill the following day and counted the bodies of over 200 Germans who had been killed there during the battle. For holding the line and keeping the Germans from breaking through, his outfit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. He believes that it was the first one awarded in Africa.After El Guettar there were a number of smaller hill fights that went on until the end of the fighting in Africa.

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After the war ended in Africa they continued training in the desert. The men were given passes to go into Tunisia but Ehlers couldn't go because he had gotten malaria. He didn't tell the doctors or medics because he didn't want to go to the hospital. That was the first attack.In the beginning of July [Annotator's Note: July 1943] they were put aboard a ship and taken out into the Mediterranean. After a time they were told that they would be landing in Italy but they weren't told what part. They ended up landing in Sicily.Ehlers landed at Gela. They jumped over the side of the boats and made their way up over the rocks on the beach. For some reason the Germans had evacuated the town so his unit experienced very little opposition.As they moved inland they ran into a lot of land mines and Germans resistance. They pushed the Germans back and got up into the hills inland. That night the Germans flew over and bombed the American ships in the harbor. Right after the German bombers left, a flight of transports with American paratroopers came in. Someone in the navy opened fire and 17 transports were shot down before the shooting was stopped [Annotator's Note: actually 23 of the transports were shot down].On the next day the Germans counterattacked with tanks. The navy opened fire on the German tanks and stopped them.Ehlers outfit continued to push the Germans back across Sicily and ended up in Troina. During the fighting on Sicily, Patton [Annotator's Note: US Army General George S. Patton] went to the left and Montgomery [Annotator's Note: British Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery] went to the right. They were racing to Palermo. Patton got to Palermo first which made Montgomery mad.Ehlers heard Patton's speech in Sicily. He recalls that Patton didn't use many bad words in it. He liked Patton and a lot of other guys did too. There were some guys who didn't like him and believed all of the press that he shouldn't have slapped some soldiers. Some people get scared and won't fight and he feels that Patton slapped them in order to assure that it didn't get out of control. To Ehlers the most important thing about Patton was that whenever Eisenhower gave him orders he followed them and completed the mission.Ehlers’ brother had been wounded. The Germans had mortars that the GIs called Screaming Mimi's. These mortars had 8 barrels and were fired electronically and fired 8 rounds at a time. Ehlers got caught out in a field and had to take cover where the were. His brother was covered up with shell fragments and debris. They had to dig him out and when they did they say that he had shrapnel in his back. He was evacuated back to Africa and that was the last time Ehlers saw him in Sicily.After the fighting in Sicily they boarded ships for England. They landed in Glasgow where they boarded trains for Dorchester and stayed for the next 6 months. They did a lot of amphibious training there and got a lot of new troops to replace the large number of casualties they had suffered in Africa and Sicily.Ehlers’ brother rejoined the unit there. The division had arrived in late November [Annotator's Note: November 1943]. In December, he and his brother were given passes to go to London together. They weren't prepared for the chaos they saw there. The destruction was massive with block after block after block destroyed. The night they got to London there was a raid. When the air raid alarms went off the English would head down into their underground shelters and herded the GIs down there with them. Ehlers could hear the motors of the bombs until they shut off. Then the bombs fell straight down and he could hear the booms from the explosions.

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Ehlers, the interviewer, and a third party are talking during a brief break they took when the interviewer’s cell phone rang.After getting down into the shelters the bombs started going off [Annotator’s Note: while on leave in London with his brother]. The English people were acting like nothing was going on but Ehlers and his brother were shaking. It was then that he realized that the English people had been doing this for 3 and a half years. He gained a lot of respect for the English people When he left there he knew that they were going to have trouble when they got into Germany.In March [Annotator’s Note: 1944] the company commander called the Ehlers brothers into his office and informed them that they should increase their GI insurance coverage. They were also told that one of them had to be transferred to another unit. Even though he outranked his brother, he was younger, so he was transferred out and his brother stayed.Ehlers was transferred to L Company which was close enoug for them to visit each other in the evenings. That's how it went until they got to Weymouth where they saw each other for the last time. He said goodbye to his brother before they boarded their respective ships. [Annotator's Note: Ehlers' brother was killed during the invasion] His brother went over on K company's LCI [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Infantry]. Each LCI had a company aboard, over 200 men. His company had too many men so his squad was sent on the headquarters company's LCI.When they got out into the water, airplanes started passing over them. They had never seen that many planes in their lives. There were C-47s towing gliders, there were bombers and fighters.The first wave got pinned down on the beach and calls for reinforcements went out. Since his squad was excess baggage on the headquarters LCI, the 12 of them were put into a Higgins boat [Annotator's Note: an LCVP, Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel] and he was given orders to recon the town of Trevieres, France, about 6 miles inland.Ehlers wasn't sure what to do. His company was scheduled to go in later but he didn't even know where they were to land.When they got close to the beach, Ehlers saw people bailing out of Higgins boats. He saw 2 and a half ton DUKWs [Annotator's Note: amphibious trucks] that were carrying supplies into the beach sinking. Towards the beach they could see the smoke and could hear the bombing going on inland. He could see the ships firing inland and thought he wouldn't have any trouble when he got to the beach.The landing craft Ehlers was aboard hit a sandbar about 100 yards offshore and he had to wade in. When they got to the beach the Germans were still shelling it. His group was taking fire but none of them were hit.He found a beach master and asked him how they could get off of the beach. The beach master pointed them in the right direction and told them not to stray off of the path or they would step on land mines.When he got to the top, there was no one out in front of him except two men carrying Bangalore torpedoes [Annotator's Note: an explosive charge in the end of an extendable pole] who were pinned down by a sniper.Ehlers’ group fired in the direction of the sniper and at the tops of the trenches. One of the Bangalore guys was killed but the other guy was able to blow a hole in the wire and Ehlers led his squad through it.

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Ehlers moved his squad up the hill to the trenches [Annotator’s Note: during D-Day Normandy 6 June 1944]. They fought the Germans from there. They captured four Germans and sent them back down for interrogation because they wanted prisoners to interrogate. The ones they didn't capture were killed or ran away from them. Ehlers captured the pill box from the rear.His squad continued on. They moved into the hedgerows where they got stopped again.The interview is interrupted by background noise.They had to stop in the hedgerows because they ran into too many Germans. They waited for their company to land. This was still in the morning. He had landed about two hours after the first wave had started to land. He was supposed to land at 10:00 o'clock but had gone in at 8:00 and joined the first wave. When he got to the top of the hill he waited there for the second wave to land. When the second wave landed they took a lot of fire.The second wave started moving inland and got into the hedgerows. Ehlers’ outfit had to wait for other units to catch up.The Germans flew over and strafed the beach. When the navy lowered its guns and fired on the enemy planes the shells were landing in the field right next to him. He thought he was going to get hit.On the next day they got into some firefights. They moved inland and were joined by a tank battalion that had landed. It was the 745th Tank Battalion.The tanks helped out a lot but couldn't go on the roads and had to have blades put on the front of them to bulldoze through the hedgerows. If they went down a road they would run into teller mines and there weren’t many minesweepers there yet.On the night of the 7th [Annotator's Note: 7 June 1944] a German patrol went into Ehlers’ perimeter. They were waiting for the English to catch up on their left flank and for the 2nd Division to move up on the right and were holding a small bulge in the line. When the Germans came into their position they were fired on but they had to stop shooting at them once they were inside the perimeter.The company commander ordered Ehlers to take a patrol and follow the Germans. It was very dark and he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. He was scared because he didn't know when he was going to run into anyone. He didn't run into anyone and apparently the Germans didn't either because Ehlers didn't hear anyone shooting at them.He found a briefcase that one of the Germans dropped. Since he didn't have a map he brought his men back the way they had come. He brought the briefcase to the men in the CP [Annotator's Note: command post]. Inside of it were maps showing the German's second and third lines of defense inland from the beaches. These were the positions the Germans would fall back to when the infantry moved inland.On the 8th they continued fighting and were getting close to where the second and third lines of defense were.

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On the 9th of June [Annotator's Note: 9 June 1944, during the Normandy invasion] they sent out platoons into a couple of fields to Ehlers’ left and front. When they got fired on, he didn't want to get caught out in the open so he rushed his men up to the hedgerow in front of them. He was the only man in his group who had combat experience. He could smell the Germans before he could see them.Ehlers started moving down the hedgerow. He heard some rattling and looked up to see a 4 man German patrol. The Germans all had their guns pointed at him, but before they could get him he pulled the trigger on his rifle 4 times and got all 4 of them.Ehlers had his men fix bayonets [Annotator's Note: attach a bayonet to the barrel of a rifle] and he reloaded his M1. They continued on forward and came across a German machine gun nest. He knocked the guy off of the gun. He was still alive so he shot him. He wasn't going to stab anyone if he didn't have to.They came across a mound and when Ehlers got to the top of it he saw 2 heavy 81 millimeter mortar positions. He yelled for the mortar men to surrender but they didn't. Knowing that they would only have to fight them again later, he had his men shoot the retreating Germans. They continued on and knocked out another machine gun position.The next morning they faced a similar situation. Ehlers’ squad moved up and got almost to the hedgerow they were moving toward when they started taking fire from the front and sides. His company commande ordered him to fall back but he knew if he did he and his men would have been shot in the back. Ehlers ran up to the top of a mound and started firing. He was joined by an automatic rifleman. They fired until his squad was able to fall back to the hedgerow behind them.As he and the automatic rifleman were about to fall back he saw 3 Germans setting up a machine gun. Right after he opened fire on them he was shot in the back. The round went into his back and bounced off of a rib then exited his body and entered his pack where it hit a bar of soap, went through his mother's picture and finally exited through his trench shovel.Ehlers picked up the wounded automatic rifleman and helped him back even though he was wounded himself. After helping him get behind a hedgerow, Ehlers ran back to where they had been and retrieved the man's automatic rifle even though the area was still under enemy fire. When he got back he helped load the wounded man onto an ambulance then asked for a medic for himself. Word got out that he had been shot and later in that day he bumped into people who told him that they had heard he was dead.Rumors were rampant. It had been that way in Africa and was like that all the way through his time in the service.Ehlers was awarded the Medal of Honor for this day.He refused to be medevaced. He had bandages on his back so he couldn't carry a pack. He carried bandoliers [Annotator's Note: of ammunition] and his rifle over his shoulders.The next action he took part in was the breakout from Saint Lo where Patton wanted the 1st Infantry Division to join him in the breakthrough.They went through Saint Lo. The town was a mess. The town had been bombed. Germans came out who were deaf from the bombings. Some of the Germans they captured were not much more than kids.They chased the Germans out of there. One night in the first part of August, Ehlers was wounded again. He was hit by a bomb fragment. Some people said the bomb was from an American plane and others say it was German. All Ehlers knows is that they got bombed and he got a bomb fragment in his leg.He went to the hospital in Cherbourg. When he got there he wondered what he was doing there. He was placed in a bed next to a guy and every time the man breathed blood came up out of his stomach. The next guy over was in a half body cast from his waist up. He had been burned in a knocked out tank.Ehlers saw so many other wounded men that he couldn't stand to be in there. When they operated on him the doctor froze his leg then went in with a long pair of tweezers. The doctor was pulling out pieces of meat and eventually got to a part of his muscle that wasn't frozen. It felt like the doctor was about to pull his belly button out through the hole in his leg. It was the worst feeling he had ever felt. He wanted to scream. The doctor finally pulled out the shrapnel. Then he looked at Ehlers and told him he was the first person he had ever operated on and asked Ehlers if he could keep the piece of metal. Ehlers told him that he could have the shrapnel but he could never operate on him again.

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Ehlers rejoined his unit in Belgium after being in the hospital. He fought in Aachen and Bonn, both in Belgium [Annotator’s Note: Aachen and Bonn are in Germany]. He also fought in the Hurtgen Forest. He was wounded in the Hurtgen Forest. A piece of shrapnel was stuck in the front of his right leg. He also received shrapnel in his shoulders.He received help from a friend walking back to the aid station. As he was crossing a stream Ehlers felt the shock of the cold water and started to keel over. The medics came and put him on a stretcher and carried him to the aid station. As he was leaving the Hurtgen Forest shells were falling around him.Ehlers was taken to a field hospital but doesn't remember going there. The next time he woke up he was in a hospital in Paris. In the hospital he received care from a nurse who was redheaded and beautiful. He does not remember much enroute from the Hurtgen Forest to the aid station in Paris. He had some of the shrapnel removed from his shoulders and arm and most of it from his leg. He discovered one night while walking to the bathroom that the surgeon had missed a piece of shrapnel in his leg. It had lodged itself in the back of his leg and was putting pressure on his Achilles tendon. The nurse initially suggested that Ehlers be moved to the NP ward [Annotator's note: nurse practitioner ward] which is for recovering patients. The doctor believed that Ehlers should have been walking by this time, but he persisted that he could not, so another X-ray was taken. The X-ray showed the piece of shrapnel and it was successfully removed.Gangrene eventually set in on his wound and this infuriated him. He could smell the infection. Ehlers told the nurse that they better take care of his wound because if he lost his leg they would lose more than that. He is not sure exactly how they cured it but they did. He went back to his unit still bandaged up.Ehlers was on a train back to the front line where he met a guy from his brother's company who knew both of the Ehlers by their last name. The guy was reading Stars and Stripes Magazine and told him that he was reading about Ehlers' brother getting the Medal of Honor. Ehlers knew the man was referring to him because he was reading about it too but wasn't going to say anything to anybody until he got it.Ehlers got back to the CP [Annotator's Note: command post] and was asked by a colonel why he was there. When he replied that he was reporting back for duty the colonel said that he was supposed to be back in States receiving the Medal of Honor from the president. Ehlers found out he was receiving the Medal of Honor by reading about it in Stars and Stripes.The first order the colonel gave was for someone to get Ehlers some overshoes and an overcoat because it was still winter in the Hurtgen Forest and snow storms were starting to come in. The 1st Division was given a break. They were pulled off of the line for some rest and relaxation and were replaced on the line by another division.On 16 December [Annotator's Note: 16 December 1944] Ehlers was awoken at 2:30 in the morning and told that he needed to be evacuated because German troops had landed behind the American lines and there were German troops who had infiltrated the lines wearing American uniforms and speaking perfect English. They had to get him back to Paris to receive his Medal of Honor before he got killed. Ehlers agreed with him.He got back to Paris and was awarded the Medal of Honor by General John C.H. Lee on behalf of President Roosevelt in the name of Congress. After he was awarded his medal he was informed that he was getting a 30 day leave because he had more points than anyone in the division. Ehlers learned at this point that he had been awarded 2 Bronze Stars, 3 Purple Hearts, and the Medal of Honor, as well as campaign ribbons from Africa, Italy, Normandy, and Belgium. With all of this he had in excess of 150 points.Ehlers arrived home on 19 December [Annotator’s Note: 1944]. Someone told Ehlers that there would be over 200 people waiting for him at the airport. When he arrived there were only about 20 relatives and friends.

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After 30 days at home Ehlers returned to his unit in Belgium. By this point he had received a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant on 9 December [Annotator’s Note: 1944] after a press conference about the award of his Medal of Honor.He received his lieutenant bars from Captain Bobbie Brown [Annotator's Note: Captain Robert Evan "Bobbie" Brown]. Captain Brown was with the 1st Infantry Division and had been wounded 8 times. Most of his wounds were received in the Hurtgen Forest around the place Ehlers was wounded.At the time Ehlers received his bars from Captain Brown, Brown had already been put in for the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Hurtgen Forest. Captain Brown would later receive his Medal of Honor from President Truman. Some Medal of Honor recipients were not informed right away because of delays in the stories being told, or because of paperwork or for other reasons. Ehlers got his medal in Paris because it had been written about in the papers. He believes that this saved his life. Since he was sent to Paris to receive his medal and received a 30 day R and R, he missed most of the Battle of the Bulge.Ehlers’ first big jump off after returning from his break was at the Remagen Bridge which crossed the Rhine. He did not actually cross that bridge, but rather a pontoon bridge built by the engineers. After crossing the bridge he was shelled by German railroad guns. He encountered a group of a dozen or more bodies that didn't have a mark on them that had been killed by the concussive blast from the German railroad guns.When Ehlers was in Normandy he and his squad were in a field where they came across the bodies of a squad of American paratroopers. They had obviously been lined up and shot. Their bodies were laid out in a row and all of their boots were missing.After Ehlers crossed the Weser River he was wounded again. This time he was shot by one of his rifleman who was cleaning his gun. The man had his rifle across his lap and was trying to open the bolt. The barrel was pointed right at Ehlers and a sergeant. When the round went off it took off the tips of the sergeant's fingers then hit his leg blowing it in two. The round exited the sergeant and hit Ehlers in the leg. He still carries that bullet with him. As a result of the bullet’s proximity to his sciatic nerve it was never operated on.That was it for his combat service. After the war was over, he survived a jeep accident in July of 1945. He was banged up but not seriously hurt.

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Ehlers' life didn't end with his military service. He spent 29 years working for the Veterans Association. His work included interviewing veterans from the Civil War thru the Persian Gulf War. He also helped veterans file for disability claims, home loans, G.I. insurance, etc. He retired as a GS-12. At the time, being promoted to GS-7 required a college degree.Ehlers believes that World War II started the greatest wave of freedom in the world. More people were freed at the end of World War II than in any other time in history. He notes that the military is still doing its best around the world today to free people. He wants people to remember this war was not fought for aggression, but rather to help people.Ehlers believes in the direct tie between religion and freedom. In other words, you cannot have one without the other, and only religion truly sets you free. Without freedom there can be no religion, so for religion to work there needs to be freedom. This is the basic philosophical basis for how he justifies World War II. In his mind he helped to free people so that they have free choices in their life and for him this was the greatest contribution his generation gave the world. Ehlers wants people to remember why this country is the greatest in the world, namely because of freedom, religion, and the Constitution.

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