December 21, 2014

Veterans agency urges POW-MIA remembrance

POW-MIA flag atop the state Capitol building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

POW-MIA flag atop the state Capitol building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

On the third Friday in September, Americans remember the commitment and sacrifices made by members of the U.S. military who were taken as prisoners of war or went missing during combat operations.

“America has made a commitment to those in uniform that no one would be left behind,” says Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos. The Iraq War veteran reminds us there are more than 83,000 Americans still listed as MIA, dating back to World War II. His own father was held prisoner of war after having been shot down over Nazi Germany during the second World War.

POW-MIA proclamation (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

POW-MIA proclamation (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Scocos stresses the importance of remembering those who haven’t returned home. “I think it’s important that we show our service members and their families that we will continually make the resolve to find the remains. As a nation, we honor our members of the armed forces and that their dedication and duty — whether in peace time or war time — will not be forgotten by the public.”

Scocos points out, for many former POWs, the pain of their captivity never entirely ends, even years after their return home.

Many veterans groups across the state are holding silent marches. Scocos will participate in an event in Lake Geneva.

Another veterans Honor Flight readies for Washington

Officials from the Never Forgotten Honor Flight say this weekend’s Guns and Hoses charity softball game in Stevens Point is their biggest one yet.

Co-founder Jim Campbell says the softball game has topped all previous fundraisers. “They raised $45,000 which literally fills a 737 with veterans, because we take approximately 90 veterans on every flight.” It costs roughly $500 to send a veteran on a flight to Washington DC, which includes airfare, care, and the activities that surround the day’s events.

Campbell says it’s important that these fundraising events take place, since they rely solely on community donations to run the program. “It comes from individuals, it comes from civic organizations, it comes from schools, it comes from employees from all industries, and it comes from fundraisers put on by individuals and organizations.” Campbell says they also encourage donations year round, since their list of veterans waiting for flights is always there. “We’ve pretty much had between three and 600 veterans in the backlog at all times. We continually need our community support.”

If you’re a military veteran who’s been waffling on going on the Honor Flight, Campbell says you’re entitled for the trip. “The only qualification, and I emphasize the word only, is to serve between the dates that are listed for each of those conflicts. It doesn’t matter if they were in Germany, in Japan, if they never left Texas, it doesn’t matter.”

The next Never Forgotten Honor Flight is scheduled for October 6th.


Preparing for another honor flight

(File photo)

(File photo)

The seventeenth Honor Flight is taking veterans from Central Wisconsin Airport to Washington D.C. to see the monuments built in their honor today. While the vets make the trip, fundraising continues at home. One of the upcoming fundraiser’s is a new event this coming Saturday.

Portage County Veterans Service Officer Michael Clements says the event will be a softball game at Mancheski Field in Bukolt Park. “It’s going to be the Police Department versus the Fire Department, and the name of the event is Guns and Hoses.”

Along with the family fun, the police department’s M-RAP vehicle will be on display, and the Plover and Stevens Point fire departments will have the flag displayed between two ladder trucks.

Clements says veterans will be getting involved as well as the police and firemen. “The first pitch is going to be a veteran from each period of conflict from World War II forward, throwing the first pitch out to a veteran who will receive at home plate, so you could essentially have a World War II veteran throwing the first pitch to an Iraqi Freedom veteran.”

The softball game admission is free, but donations to the Honor Flight program are welcome. Proceeds from concessions and a raffle all go to the program.

Clements says this is the first local fundraiser they’ve held this year, but they have come up with private and corporate donations totalling about $40,000 for the Honor Flights. It takes about $500 to send each veteran to Washington D.C. for the day.


Wisconsin native killed in Afghanistan

(Photo: Jackie Johnson)

(Photo: Jackie Johnson)

A Wisconsin Rapids native serving in the military has died in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said 39-year-old Army Sergeant Matthew Leggett died Wednesday after he was attacked near Kabul’s airport.

A relative said Leggett was born in Wisconsin Rapids, and his father grew up in nearby Nekoosa before moving to Texas. Leggett’s most recent address was listed as Ruskin, Florida. He enlisted in the Army in 1995, and was based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina since 2012.

He served three tours of combat duty, and had won numerous awards — including a Purple Heart for being wounded.


Johnson: ISIS must be defeated (AUDIO)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

While he is not pushing to send American troops into Syria and Iraq to deal with the terrorist groups known as ISIS, or the Islamic State, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) argues the threat posed by the group must be taken seriously.

Johnson is calling on President Obama to develop a plan and set up a coalition of willing western and Arab states to deal with ISIS. “We have to defeat ISIS,” Johnson says. Otherwise, he believes that the group will “not be contained” to Syria and Iraq.

Pointing to the beheading of journalist James Foley earlier this week, Johnson says it shows that ISIS is “brutal, they are barbarians, they are evil.” He says that the group has long indicated that, once it establishes a base of operations in the Middle East, it will use that to carry out attacks against the west. “We ignore it at our own peril,” Johnson warns.

AUDIO: Sen. Ron Johnson (1:03)

Johnson says the air strikes the U.S. has carried out to slow the advance of ISIS have helped, but he believes President Obama was largely pushed to act after the group seized control of a key dam that was in danger of failing. “His hand was forced there, but his hand is also going to be forced when we start seeing what a threat these guys represent.”

Johnson’s comments came during a stop in Barron County on Wednesday.

Audio courtesy of Mike Duncan, WJMC