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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


A poignant message of thanks

Joe Campbell

Vietnam Veteran Joe Campbell was the guest speaker at the 2018 Veterans Day Observance (photo by Benjamin Slane).

By Jim Hoehn
Monday, November 12, 2018

Joe Campbell delivered a timeless Veterans Day message to those who served on either side of his experience in Vietnam.

“The war I know, serving in 50 years ago, it’s over for me now,” Campbell said. “But I do know that it will be with me all the days of my life. Be that as it may, those of that made it – which is us – have an obligation to build again and to teach others what we know.”

Campbell, an Army Veteran, was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day Observance on Monday at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. Campbell’s remarks reinforced the solemnness of the occasion, balanced with light-hearted anecdotes and stories that bolstered the camaraderie that was evident throughout the chapel.

The room was populated with Veterans of all ages, some in wheelchairs, some in uniform, many sporting ball caps or jackets identifying their branch of service.

The Milwaukee American Legion Band performed a wide range of patriotic songs, including a medley of the official songs of each of the five branches of the military, as members from each branch stood in recognition.

American Legion Post color guard

American Legion Post #416 of Greendale provided the color guard and rifle volley (photo by Benjamin Slane).

Campbell’s message struck a chord with Veterans of all ages, as well as family members, guests and employees, who filled the Matousek Auditorium.

“Without the sacrifices of my brothers and sisters before me, in whatever era from the very beginning, our country would not be here,” said Vanessa Morbeck, a 26-year-old Army Veteran. “Any time I get a chance, I thank as many Veterans as a I can, from all eras. We’re all equal, all the same, we just served in different time frames. That resonates with me.”

Ray Stubbe, a former Navy Chaplain who served in Vietnam, including the siege of Khe Sahn, said Campbell was the perfect choice to deliver a multi-generational message.

“It was very moving, said the 80-year-old Stubbe, named Milwaukee County Veteran of the Year on Sunday at a ceremony at the War Memorial Center. “Of course, I know Joe. He’s a good personal friend for many years now. We usually get together at least once a week to have supper or something. He gets me involved in things.

“He’s been ill, but he still has that energy, that spark that gets him going,” Stubbe said. “And when Joe gets going, he gets going, and he just has so much to offer. He’s such a caring person.”

Trumpet player from Milwaukee American Legion Band.

The Milwaukee American Legion Band provided the music for the ceremony (photo by Benjamin Slane).

Campbell talked poignantly of sacrifice throughout U.S. military history.

“I can’t help but start off of on a very sincere memorial note as we recognize our dear brothers and sisters, and their families of World War I,” said Campbell, citing the American casualty figures from that war, including “… to this very day, there are well over 3,300 that are missing.”

Campbell also talked of taking an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. and at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, placing his hand on the name of another Joseph Campbell, who was killed Feb. 6, 1968, the day before Campbell left Vietnam.

“He went home in casket, I got to go home in an airplane,” Campbell said. “And, I was able to go up to that wall and thank him. Although sad, no doubt, but thank him for giving me the privilege and the honor to live a life, hopefully, that is worthy of his and all the other sacrifices before me.”

“So I truly say, thank you. Thank you for giving your life for me, for us,” Campbell said. “If that isn’t freedom, I don’t know what is.”

Photo Gallery - View more photos from the Veterans Day Observance in our flickr album


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