Field of Honor - Timeless Voices: Honoring Our Veterans
The fourth annual Field of Honor ceremony, titled “Timeless Voices—Honoring Our Veterans,” was conducted by the Boys and Girls Club of Lac Courte Oreilles with the support of local sponsors on Patriots Day, Friday, Sept. 11.
The event was held in memory of those killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and in honor of local veterans.
The ceremony was highlighted by a video featuring interviews of local veterans from the World War II era to the present, conducted by Boys and Girls Club youths. A silent walk of remembrance then took place, as participants walked across Highway B to the Field of Honor, where 475 U.S. and Lac Courte Oreilles tribal flags waved in the breeze. Many of the flags were sponsored by families in honor or memory of their loved ones.
The day’s events began in the LCO Casino Bingo Hall, where local World War II veteran Don Jacobson played a patriotic medley on an electronic keyboard. Karen Harden, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club of LCO, welcomed the assembled veterans, youths and other community members. A video was shown, titled “I fought for you.”
The grand entry of flags was conducted by members of AmVets Post 1998, led by the LCO Eagle Feather Staff. The LCO Ojibwe School drum group sang a grand entry song and flag song. Mitch Nelson and Boys Girls Club youths led the Pledge of Allegiance. The Hayward High School Choir sang the national anthem, and Pastor Mark Wilson gave the opening prayer.
In a videotaped message, LCO Tribal Chairman Mic Isham welcomed all to the ceremony. “I don’t believe there are enough ways to thank veterans and their families for their tremendous sacrifices on behalf of all of us, but we certainly want to try,” he said. “We acknowledge all veterans. We also want to highlight all the services for veterans that we have here.”
Harden acknowledged Beehive Botanicals and the LCO Tribal Governing Board as presenting sponsors of the event. She also thanked the many community businesses and citizens who purchased flags for the Field of Honor.
“No matter the decade, year or war in which they served, our veterans’ message is timeless,” Harden said. “We revere their message, which is timeless. We want kids to know this, to increase their connection to what it was like to be of service to our country.”
Renee Brown, Sawyer County veterans service officer and an Air Force veteran, spoke of issues facing veterans today and what services are available to them.
The Veterans Administration estimates that at least 2,000 military veterans reside in Sawyer County, she said. The county’s office has more than 3,600 electronic files on veterans, and so far this year has recorded over 3,000 office visits and nearly 9,000 telephone calls made by and for veterans.
“This reflects the large demand our veterans have in seeking assistance,” she said. “Each veteran is unique in their needs. A largely utilized resource in our area is the VA Clinic” in Hayward, which provides primary medical and mental health care.
Brown mentioned that VETS (Veterans Emergency Team Sawyer) serves the community in natural disasters and other emergencies. Also, the Library of Congress Veterans History Project collects stories of veterans from every war. Locally, Thomas Blumenberg conducts these veteran interviews.
Brown said the county veterans office is being renovated to provide additional space for counseling and alternative therapies.
“Many veterans simply want someone to talk with and share their day,” Brown added. “Volunteer to bring them a meal or provide a ride to a medical appointment. Urge our government representatives to fight for our veterans, and say thank you to them for their selfless service and sacrifice.”
Another speaker, Norb Laufenberg from the Veterans Center in La Crosse, said he visits the Sawyer County VSO every Friday to provide counseling to individuals, their families and groups.
“When a veteran comes back from combat, the most suffering he has is the conflict with values he learned as a child, including (the commandment) ‘Thou shalt not kill,’” Laufenberg said. “They struggle, because as a warrior, you want to be the biggest, baddest, best warrior you can. When you come back to civilian life, you have a conflict, because now you have another side to you.”
A video produced by Kevin Bushnick and Bill Nuyttens, “Timeless Voices,” featured interviews with local veterans conducted by Boys and Girls Club youths.
The veterans are William Gaddey, World War II; James Carroll, Korean War; Richard Theis and Thomas Beaudin, Vietnam War; Sean Fahrlander and Rick Richter, Gulf War; and Patrick Brown, Iraq War.
The kids who did the videotaped interviews were John Peterson, Mitch Nelson, Dominick and Lorenzo Shuman, Mikayla Trepania and Theresa Two Bulls.
Bushnick said he spoke with Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who shot terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.
“O’Neill spoke about all the things that go on all the time to keep us free,” Bushnick said. “When you listen to the veterans in this video, you can see that it’s a team effort. They have the entire U.S. military behind them. Don’t take it for granted. Realize that ‘Freedom is not free.’ There have been many unbelievable sacrifices so that we can be here today.”
The Hayward High School Choir sang a patriotic medley, as the youths handed out hand-written thank you cards to all the veterans who were present.
A moment of silence was observed in memory of those lost in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
Harden read the names of 31 tribal members who passed away during the past year, each of whom was represented by a flag on the Field of Honor.
Harden also presented a U.S. flag to Lee, Shannon and Mitch Nelson of Hayward, whose relative, Sgt. Einar H. Ingman Jr. of Tomahawk, won the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1951 for his actions in the Korean War. Ingman died on Sept. 9 at the age of 85. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.
Following the procession in silence from the Bingo Hall, across Highway B to the Field of Honor. The AmVets Honor Guard led the walk, and Sawyer County sheriff’s officers guided vehicle traffic.
At the field, the HHS Choir led the singing of “America the Beautiful” and the LCO School Drum group sang an honor song. The LCO AmVets Post rifle squad fired a three-volley salute.
-- Article first published in the Sawyer County Record --