February 10, 2016

Wisconsin Army National Guard braces for cuts

The Wisconsin Army National Guard would lose 3.6 percent of it’s force, under a defense bill that’s awaiting president Obama’s signature.

Guard Major Paul Rickert said that equates to a reduction of about 150 soldiers over the next two years. He said the guard is preparing to close three units based in Chippewa Falls and Hayward to deal with the cuts. The Guard will also lose 36 full-time administrative staff members, who are responsible for the guard’s day-to-day operations.

Rickert said the losses are expected to impact the group’s readiness, but he’s confident they will still be prepared to respond to any domestic or international incident, if called upon.


Wisconsin man receives Purple Heart, 40 years later

More than 40 years after being injured in Vietnam, a Marshfield man has been awarded a Purple Heart.

Vietnam War veteran Jeff Zondlo is originally from Marshfield, and remembers a June evening in 1969 when he didn’t think he would live until morning. The enemy snuck into their camp and threw grenades while they were sleeping.

Zondlo was able to survive the attack, but many from his unit died. His back and hair were badly burned and his ears were bleeding. He was able to stuff a handkerchief into a large wound on his side.

Zondlo says he went to Vietnam to serve his country, not earn medals, but he’s grateful for the recognition. “Now with this award program today I can say that finally, my war is over and I feel like I’m home with my family.”

Zondlo was presented the Purple Heart by Congressman Sean Duffy during a pinning ceremony at Rib Lake High School, as part of a Veteran’s Day observance.


Veterans Day observance at The Highground

The Highground

The Highground

There’s a Veterans Day observance planned for The Highground Veterans Park on Wednesday. Theresa Hebert is is special events coordinator at the park near Neilsville. “At noon, we will have volunteers reading the names of all the Wisconsin men and women that were killed, or missing in action, in the Vietnam War and the Korean War.  And what we do is we read the names out on our plaza, and also ring our Liberty Bell during this reading.”

The formal Veterans Day program is slated to start mid-afternoon, complete with featured speaker Todd Stage with a message about healing for veterans.   Hebert says in case of rain the ceremony will be held indoors in The Highground Learning Center.  “At 3:00 in the afternoon we’ll have our Veterans Day program, and that is scheduled right now to be outdoors on our plaza as well.  We have a speaker from the Wausau Vets Center, Todd Stage,” Hebert said.  “He is a combat veteran, and he does counseling here at The Highground, and he’s going to speaking on his experience and the need for counseling to deal with items such as PTSD.  We are focusing this year on our PTSD program that we have.  We do give out free books and try to get veterans and families headed in the right direction with any issues that they’re dealing with.”

It’ll also be a chance for the public to check out recent progress on the new Persian Gulf tribute. Looking ahead to next summer, there’s a big unveiling for that tribute already being planned.  Hebert said that, “In July of 2016 we have a dedication week for that tribute.  We’re going to be inviting veterans and families from across the country, actually, to come and join us for that week in July.  It will be a full week of dedication ceremonies, and we’ll have the Wall of Remembrance here as well.”


Duffy brings HUD Secretary to Wausau

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)

Groups focused on helping the homeless and hungry from across central and northern Wisconsin were in Rothschild yesterday for a conference hosted by Congressman Sean Duffy.

This was the 3rd annual Hunger & Homelessness Summit and Duffy brought U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro to the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center to not only talk about what the federal government is doing to help the less fortunate, but to also hear about issues facing the poor in northern Wisconsin.

Duffy says the federal government needs to do a better job of addressing the issues of homelessness in rural areas and in the northern states. He says that policies the work in warmer states where people can live out on the streets don’t work in places where it gets below zero outside. “We got a lot of folks in the winter travelling from sofa to sofa. The get people who will put them up just because it’s cold outside. And that doesn’t fall under the definition of homelessness, so then some of our centers that get HUD money can’t help those people out.”

The issue of homeless veterans was also brought up, and Duffy says that rural regions need better access to programs like the Veterans Affairs Housing Vouchers program. “There’s vouchers, but often times there’s a 50 mile radius for those vouchers to be used. And if you only have them as far north as Wausau, the people in the northern part of the state can’t use those vouchers. And then you have veterans going homeless because they don’t live in Wausau.” Veterans may also be unable or unwilling to move from their rural regions because of family or medical reasons.


Report details ‘paid patriotism’ at sporting events

PaidPatriotismA newly released report shows Wisconsin sports teams cashing in on Pentagon contracts. It’s called “paid patriotism,” and U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have detailed contracts between the Department of Defense and teams across the country, totalling $10.4 million between 2012 and 2015.

The contracts included teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer.

The Green Bay Packers netted $200,000 last season for things including a pregame party deck package for 200 Wisconsin Army National Guard members and their families. The Milwaukee Brewers were paid $80,000, including $49,000 for the Guard to sponsor each Sunday performance of “God Bless America” during Brewers home games. And the University of Wisconsin received $170,000 for activities including football and hockey game day presentations, signage, announcements, and radio broadcast recognition.

According to the report, the UW contract was between the Wisconsin Army National Guard and Learfield Communications. Learfield is the parent company of Learfield Sports and Wisconsin Radio Network.

Details of the contracts, contained in the report:

Green Bay Packers

• Opportunity to perform a pregame on-field activity/ceremony (FY2014)
• One pregame MVP party deck package for two hundred WIARNG soldiers and their families??
that included food, beverages, and a gift (FY2014)
• One co-branded promotional item (FY2014)
• On-field halftime entertainment with TundraVision video board coordination (FY2012)

Milwaukee Brewers

• $49,000 for WIARNG to sponsor each Sunday performance of “God Bless America” during
Brewers home game with announcement and logo recognition on the video board (FY2014)
• $10,000 for a promotion to recognize soldiers and their families and provide 12 vendor passes
during each of four Brewers home games (FY2014)
• $7,500 for 12 field-access passes for WIARNG members to perform an on-field award
presentation and throw out the ceremonial first pitch before three Brewers home games, and
a private suite rental for two of those games (FY2014)

University of Wisconsin

• Football game day presentation including a pregame or halftime ceremony, game ball
presentation, signage, announcements, radio broadcast recognition, 50 vendor passes, and
five parking passes (FY2014)
• Hockey game day presentation including a pregame hockey stick presentation, halftime
contest opportunity, WIARNG logo on program, signage, electronic message board
announcements, radio broadcast recognition, promotional item to fans, 25 vendor passes,
and five parking passes (FY2014)
• Football spring game sponsorship with WIARNG logo included on promotional advertising, onfield
game ball presentation, halftime contest with a WIARNG provided special grand prize,
WIARNG display, and an opportunity to provide promotional item to fans (FY2014)

Green Bay Packers Director of Public Affairs Aaron Popkey noted the team released a statement in May, when inititial reports surfaced regarding “paid patriotism.”

The Packers have a long and proud history of recognizing and supporting the men and women of the US Military. This support includes care packages, community service projects to benefit veterans, National Guard send-offs and change-of-command ceremonies, and GI Joe vs. Pro events. On gamedays, our recognition has included re-enlistment ceremonies, drill team performances, military music performances of the national anthem, salutes to military personnel and video board visits with military personnel overseas. Most of these recognition elements have been done without a formal partnership like the one we had with the Wisconsin National Guard.

Our partnership with the Wisconsin National Guard was similar to our partnerships with other organizations. It is comprised of many different features, including traditional marketing aspects to address the National Guard’s goals of recruiting, retention and awareness. It has also featured advertising on the video boards, stadium signage and, as well as sponsorship of other programs and events such as the high school coach of the week, a job fair for veterans and a continuing medical education program. Our partnership arrangement does not simply focus on one specific event, but is comprised of many different features.

NFL Commissioner Roger Godell sent a letter to the U.S. Senators on November 2 in regards to this report. “We are conducting an audit of all contracts between our clubs and the military service branches or state National Guard Units. If we find that inappropriate payments were made, they will be refunded in full,” Goodell said. Senator McCain suggested Wednesday that any refunds go to veterans causes like Wounded Warriors.