Veterans Day message from the Adjutant General of Wisconsin

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar
Ninety-four years ago today, a cease-fire agreement went into effect, halting the destruction and bloodshed of what was then called "The Great War." If World War I had lived up to the claim that it was the war to end all wars, today might still be known as Armistice Day.

But, of course, World War I was not the last conflict mankind would see.

When Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, compiled a list of the 100 greatest American heroes of World War I, he included 1st Lt. Ray Dickop of Beloit, Wis., who despite suffering wounds that would shortly prove fatal at Chezelles Farm, led Company L, 127th Infantry on a subsequent assault until he perished of his wounds.

Wisconsin sent 122,215 of its citizens to serve in World War I. But if you factor in all the wars Wisconsinites have served in since the Civil War, the Badger State boasts nearly 900,000 veterans. Among them:

Arthur MacArthur, as an 18-year-old Soldier in the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment at the Battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863, inspired his fellow troops by seizing and planting the regimental flag during a crucial moment in the battle, shouting "On Wisconsin." This deed earned him the Medal of Honor, and the following year he was brevetted as a colonel. He would go on to take part in the campaign against Geronimo in 1885, command the Third Philippine Expedition during the Spanish-American War in 1898, command a division during the Philippine-American War in 1899, and eventually become a three-star general commanding the Pacific Division.

Richard Bong, of Poplar, Wis., is known as the "Ace of Aces" who still holds the title of highest-scoring air ace for shooting down at least 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II. Bong believed he was an inaccurate gunner, and compensated by attacking enemy aircraft at close quarters, often flying through debris and once even colliding with the target. Gen. Douglas MacArthur - Arthur MacArthur's son - presented Bong with a medal of honor during a special ceremony in December 1944.

1st Lt. Jerome Volk of Milwaukee, a fighter pilot in the later years of World War II, joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard in 1949 and deployed with the 126th Fighter Squadron to Korea in 1951. A little more than 61 years ago, on a strafing mission against communist Chinese forces in North Korea, a napalm bomb on Volk's aircraft was damaged, causing the F-80 Shooting Star to lose its tail section and crash at an estimated 200 miles per hour. Volk is remembered today as the namesake of Volk Field Air National Guard base in central Wisconsin.

One week ago we also remembered another Wisconsin National Guard veteran - 1st Lt. Thomas Wortham IV, a member of Troop A, 1st Battalion, 105th Cavalry. Wortham enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in 1999 and deployed to Iraq in 2004 and again in 2009. Commissioned in 2006 after completing Reserve Officer Training Course at the University of Whitewater, he attended police academy and joined the Chicago Police Department. Wortham served as president of the Cole Park Advisory Council in Chatham, Ill., and worked to make the neighborhood safe for children to play in area parks. After he was murdered outside his parents' home in May 2010, the Wisconsin National Guard created an award in his name, honoring military and citizen service. We presented that award to Sgt. 1st Class Don Grundy during halftime of the Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field.

These veterans are a notable but small representation of the hundreds of thousands of brave men and women from Wisconsin who cast off the safety and comfort of home in exchange for service to their nation. Not all our veterans received medals of honor or had awards or bases named after them, but all have earned the gratitude of their state and their nation.

On Veterans Day, we naturally think of our combat veterans and pay special tribute to those who faced the dangers and hardships of combat. They have earned our deepest admiration. But, we also honor and revere our veterans who served during peacetime. For it is the peacetime readiness of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen - serving on active duty or in the National Guard or Federal Reserve - that have allowed us to avoid the devastation experienced during the great war. Peace through strength is a guiding principle for our nation. Our veterans stand point and preserve that peace.

I ask you to join me on this day in recognizing the spirit, the accomplishments, and the legacy of our veterans.