Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sapper Stakes | Wisconsin-based team claims second place

Staff Sgt. Daniel Clark, a Reedsburg resident who is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, participates in the National Sapper Stakes Competition May 5 -8 at Fort McCoy. Since the competition, Clark has been promoted to sergeant first class.

From the Wisconsin State Journal: A Wisconsin-based team earlier this month took second place in a national competition to test skills at locating land mines and working with explosives.

The first National Sapper Stakes Competition took place May 5–8 at Fort McCoy near Sparta. Reedsburg native Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Clark, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve for 18 years, was among the participants.

DOD outflanked | Middleton man to bring "missing" WWII soldier's remains home

Journalist and filmaker
Jed Henry of Middleton,
Wisconsin, worked for
two years to force the
military to accept its errors.
Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon, KIA 8/13/44

Pfc. Gordon's charred wallet
 was returned to his family,
 but the military said
 it didn't know where
his remains were buried.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

A Middleton man has finally outflanked the U.S. military in his determined two-year campaign to bring home the remains of a World War II veteran who had served with his grandfather.

Along the way, Jed Henry enlisted the help of the Madison Police Department, UW-Madison’s DNA Sequencing Facility, members of the state’s congressional delegation and two Madison-based forensic scientists.

“The people of Wisconsin really got this done for the Gordon family,” said Henry, a freelance journalist and filmmaker.

Henry was researching his grandfather’s Army reconnaissance company for a documentary when he stumbled across the strange case of Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon — the only member of the unit who was killed in action but never got a proper burial.

After butting heads with the Department of Defense Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command and the Defense POW-MIA Office since 2012, Henry said, he wasn’t surprised by the announcement in March that the agencies would be reorganized because of complaints about their performance in the recovery and identification of war dead.

Temporary cemetery near Gorron, France, where
Pfc. Gordon's remains were buried first, on Aug. 15, 1944,
 as an unknown American soldier, then months later
reburied as an unknown German soldier.
“It highlights the other 83,000 who are missing and won’t get help and won’t have the luxury of the French government helping them out,” Henry said. “We all feel that if you go and you fight and you die, you ought to be able to go home.”

Cemetery for German soldiers where Pfc. Gordon's
remains were buried in 1961.
Working with Gordon family members and several military historians, Henry’s detective work led him to conclude that Gordon’s remains had been misplaced in a cemetery for German soldiers in France. The U.S. military repeatedly refused to perform DNA tests. And when the French government did the tests and identified the remains as Gordon’s, the military refused to accept the results.

In March, after Henry arranged for further testing at UW-Madison and
Pfc. Gordon's nephew in the funeral vault in France where his
uncles remains were exhumed on Sept. 13, 2013.
another laboratory, the Pentagon signaled that it would relent. He said the key was news coverage in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, along with pressure from Congress.

Last week, hundreds of veterans mounted motorcycles and headed for Washington, D.C., dedicating their 26th annual Run for the Wall rally to Gordon.

Henry and members of Gordon’s family plan to travel to France next month to take custody of the remains. They refused the military’s offer of military transport to the usual reception point for war dead, Dover Air Base in Delaware.

Read the full story here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fallen | Rhinelander street named for Sgt. Ryan Adams

From the The Lakeland Times: Armed Forces Day 2014 provided the appropriate backdrop for a brief ceremony Saturday afternoon in Rhinelander.
The name of the street in front of the Wisconsin Army National Guard armory, Military Road, was formally renamed Adams Way, in honor of Rhinelander resident Ryan Adams, who had been a member of the Wisconsin Army Guard's 951st Engineer Company (Sappers) when he was killed in action in Afghanistan on Oct. 2, 2009.
It was his second deployment, the first being to Iraq in 2003.

Photo: The parents of Ryan Adams, Pete (left) and Jalane Adams, at Saturday's ceremony. (By Brian Jopek, The Lakeland Times)

For an update on veterans of the 951stEsprit still strong among soldiers battered in Afghanistan

Veterans | Walker or Burke best on issues?

From the Wisconsin State Journal: Gov. Scott Walker touts all he has done for Wisconsin's veterans since taking office more than three years ago, making it a focus of his re-election efforts as he frequents events around the state with service members.

But some veterans say Walker's refusal to pardon a decorated Iraqi war veteran and support for legislation they oppose show he doesn't have their true interests in mind, an argument that could tarnish the image he presents to patriotic conservatives.

Jason Johns, an Iraqi combat veteran, Republican lobbyist for veterans groups and a former deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs under Walker, said veterans who previously wouldn't think twice about voting for Walker now aren't so sure.

"It's causing people to pause and really look at it," Johns said. "Before it was really easy to say he's nothing but positive for veterans."

Walker's expected Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, has tried to exploit Walker's record on veterans' issues.

"It just seems to me like Walker is far too willing to make decisions that adversely impact the brave men and women who've served our country," Burke said in a statement.

Kosovo | Long arm of Reedsburg High support-the-troops effort

From the Army Capt. Kevin Sandell in Kosovo: 
I’m the commander of the Army’s 11th Public Affairs Detachment, currently deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. One of our print journalists recently completed a story about Jolee Mockler, an art teacher at Reedsburg Area HS, who has sponsored care packages, letters and even her own “Wall of Heroes” for U.S. service members around the world. ... I am actually from Cedarburg, Wisconsin, so this story means a lot knowing that Wisconsinites are avid supporters of the U.S. military. 

ABOVE: Reedsburg High School art teacher Jolee Mockler in front of her ‘Wall of Heroes,’ which showcases service members who send her photos. The wall started in 2006 after some of her former students joined the military after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LEFT: Capt. Steven Northrop, battle captain for Kosovo Force's Multinational Battle Group-East and a native of Gulfport, Miss., holds a card, May 2, sent from Jolee Mockler’s class. Northrop found the card pinned to a board while he was cleaning an office after arriving at Camp Bondsteel, and kept it because it reminded him of his family.

The story from Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System: CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – When deployed, the simplest of things can make a service member feel at home and, for one Soldier, a two-year-old card was all he needed.
U.S. Army Capt. Steven Northrop, battle captain for Kosovo Force's Multinational Battle Group-East, found a "butterfly" card pinned to a board while he was cleaning an office after arriving at Camp Bondsteel last February.
He kept it from being thrown away because it reminded him of home.
“The drawing on it reminded me of something that my daughter would draw,” said the Gulfport, Miss., native. “Since we just arrived here, I didn’t have anything to decorate my workspace or my room to remind me of my family so I pulled the card from the board.”
Opening the card, Northrop found out the card was sent from a student at Reedsburg Area High School in Reedsburg, Wis., saying thank you to service members for the sacrifices they make.
Northrop wanted to return the favor.
“I always like it when people take a moment out of their time to just say a simple thank you or an appreciation for what we do,” said Northrop. “On the back was an address, so I sent [the listed teacher’s name] an email telling her I found this card from her students and I would like to say thank you for the recognition that you and your students are giving our men and women in uniform.”
Soon thereafter, he received a response from Jolee Mockler, an art teacher at RAHS, who has sent cards and care packages to deployed troops since 2006.
“It's my mission to give our students the opportunity to tell the troops ‘thank you’ and I've never had a student stay no to making cards,” said Mockler.
Her selfless service doesn’t end there, however, as she also coordinates with local schools in the district to also make cards and collect goods for the troops.
“Every holiday, I send out a district-wide email requesting cards and items,” said Mockler. “The items and cards are sent to me at the high school and we pack and send the care packages to deployed troops.”
Mockler added her drive to keep doing what she does, comes from the responses she gets back from service members around the world.
“We receive so much love and appreciation for the simple act of sending cookies and making cards,” said Mockler.
Many times, photos from the troops accompany their letters, which she puts on a dedicated wall called, ‘Mockler's Wall of Heroes.’
“[The wall] started after Sept. 11, 2001, when some of my former students joined the military,” said Mockler. “I asked them for their military graduation picture and started the wall and it has grown and grown.”
The passion she feels for honoring the troops has become contagious among the students and school staff, and Mockler said she feels it is important to keep supporting service members throughout the world.
“We wouldn't have all the freedoms we do in this great country of ours, if not for our troops, who are willing to sacrifice so much for us,” said Mockler. “We must never forget all that our troops do selflessly for the rest of us back home.”
Both Northrop and Mockler have kept in touch since the initial thank you note was discovered, and Mockler has sent additional letters and boxes to soldiers in the current Kosovo Force rotation. With each deployed unit, she receives new photos and her continued support is there for all to see as her wall of heroes gets bigger and bigger.