Service and sacrifice - Remembering our veterans
The following is a joint editorial from John A. Scocos, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and an Iraq War veteran; and Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Department of Military Affairs adjutant general, currently serving his second term as the adjutant general for the Wisconsin National Guard
Each year on Nov. 11, the country pauses to thank and pay tribute to the men and women who have served our country and to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom and democracy.
Since statehood was established in 1848, Wisconsin’s citizens have served this nation well and have gone above and beyond the call of duty. In the Civil War, more than 90,000 soldiers from our young state helped preserve the union. During World War I, units from Wisconsin like the 32nd Infantry Division pierced the enemy lines under Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing. Wisconsin veterans braved tumultuous waters and dangerous skies to combat evil in World War II. They slogged through mud and snow fighting for democracy in Korea. In the steamy jungles of Vietnam, they battled communist forces. In the deserts of the Middle East, they fought a determined enemy in a war without front lines, often returning home with life-altering injuries and experiences.
This year, while honoring all veterans from all service eras on Veterans Day, we also begin the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. President Barack Obama has proclaimed May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025, as the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War to honor Vietnam veterans, the fallen, the wounded, those unaccounted for, former prisoners of war, their families and all who served.
As a state and as a country, it is important that we recall the history of and the lessons learned during the Vietnam War. Veterans of Vietnam served honorably and faithfully, just as the generations before them had. What they served without, however, was often the support of their countrymen.
What is poorly remembered is that those who fought and survived returned to a nation that in many cases turned its back on them. Returning veterans were not treated as heroes, or even as patriotic citizens. They were seen as part of a war people didn’t like. Many soldiers went so far as to remove their uniforms on their flights home to avoid harassment and ridicule.
Time has brought perspective and, today, the Vietnam generation is remembered with dignity and honor. These brave men and women, who volunteered or were drafted, served with distinction and returned to make America better. They have raised families, run businesses, served in our communities, and our nation is enriched by their continued patriotism.
It is our job to ensure that returning service members never again face such a terrible situation. Here again, the Vietnam generation has been instrumental in supporting today’s military members who serve in the active duty, National Guard and Federal Reserve, and our newest veterans through continued service in our veterans service organizations.
Today, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Military Affairs are proud to be strong advocates for our veterans. Whether partnering with other state agencies or private organizations, we are always striving to help our veterans community. It is important to ensure veterans get the benefits and services they earned through their military service, as well as the assistance they are owed due to any service-connected disabilities. This includes everything from veterans employment initiatives to claims assistance. It also includes fostering a climate among businesses that recognizes the value in hiring veterans though programs such as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
The Wisconsin National Guard is proud to provide the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program for all of Wisconsin’s service members on behalf of the Department of Defense. Working with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, we are proud to offer extensive outreach to see that our veterans are afforded the best possible opportunities to make the transitions to and from civilian to military life that is so often expected of them. Working with the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is just one of many ways the WDVA and DMA make that happen.
We want to not only ensure our veterans are recognized and respected, but actually take advantage of opportunities afforded them in Wisconsin – the best state for veterans in the country. We also offer our sincere appreciation to Wisconsin’s citizens who continue to support our currently serving men and women and all of our veterans.