Milwaukee VA Medical Center
Community events honor Veterans
From middle school students to two of Milwaukee’ s most iconic business brands, set to the soundtrack of a popular morning radio show, area Veterans were treated to a wide range of events leading up to Veterans Day.
“I think our students get a ton of out of this,” Mike O’Connor, principal at Whitefish Bay Middle School, which hosted a morning event for Veterans from the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, as well as Veterans from the community, who braved the season’s first snowfall.
Radio station WKLH began the day with a live broadcast of its morning show from the lobby of the Milwaukee VA. In addition to the school program, Harley-Davidson and MillerCoors also held events.
The Whitefish Bay program included patriotic music by the school’s band and choir; the reading of poems and essays written by students; a speech by Col. Adria Zuccaro, Operations Group Commander of the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing; and a video about Honor Flights, which transport Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the war memorials.
“A lot of our Veterans who come our family members, so I don’t know how often kids get that opportunity to recognize those family members for their service, so I think that’s really important,” O’Connor said. “But, a lot of our kids who don’t have service members in their family, it’s probably never a conversation there.
“So, to give them opportunity to pause and to think about that, at a time when they’re naturally inwardly focused, but to think about those who have given such tremendous sacrifice is, to me, a really important part of their educational journey.”
Afterward, Veterans were provided breakfast by students, who sat and talked at each table with the Veterans, including Roy Arndt, who piloted B-17s in World War II, and Leon Zalewski, whose 32-year Navy career began with the Korean War.
“I think for people, it’s more dramatic,” said Arndt, who will turn 97 next week, about talking to students. “I think young people will remember it and maybe respect it more, at least that’s what we hope.”
Zalewski, who said he was recalled from the reserves to active duty the last time at age 58, said it was nice to get out, even with the snow – “It don’t bother me.”
The event at the Harley-Davidson in Menomonee Falls included a ceremony with guest speakers, a Veterans Appreciation Luncheon and a tour of the plant. About 30 Veterans from the Milwaukee VA attended the Harley-Davidson event.
“This is very important to me,” said event organizer Michelle Anderson, who served eight years in the Army and now works at Harley-Davidson. “I come from a family with a lot of family members that served in the military. This makes me smile to see Vets from all different branches, all different types of careers.
“It makes me very happy to walk out of here and know that I impacted someone’s life,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of Vets who have been coming here for many many years and we’ve become friends.”
Jeffrey Peterson, a 65-year-old Navy Veteran who was attending the Harley-Davidson event for the first time, said the opportunity to be with other Veterans was greatly appreciated.
“That’s the greatest camaraderie there is, to show one another that we’re all one brotherhood,” said Peterson, who was among those attending from the Milwaukee VA. “My comfort level is when I tear up, and just hearing the stories, it’s something that’s heartbreaking, but comforting at the same time.”
The MillerCoors event also featured a luncheon for Veterans, and a program of guest speakers.
“We’ve done this for 15 years, I think,” said Ron Powell, president of the MillerCoors Veterans Group, and an Air Force Veteran. “We basically wanted a way to honor our Veterans, and honor the people who have served. We lost people in World War II. One of the memorials we have was built primarily because we lost people who went to war, but we wanted to honor all of our Veterans.”
“This is something they always enjoy, and we enjoy doing it, too,” he said.
The Milwaukee VA Medical Center will hold a Veterans Day Observance on Monday, Nov. 12, with a ceremony from 10-11 a.m. in the Milwaukee VA chapel.
Photo Gallery - View more photos on area events for Veterans in our flickr album