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Friday, October 12, 2007

How we serve our soldiers tells a lot about ourselves

Gayle Hegge was the latest to tip me off that there is a lot of work quietly being done to help area service men and women once they get home to Walworth County.

Hegge, a member of Elkhorn's VFW Post 6375, contacted us last June as they were planning a bronze star ceremony for Staff Sgt. Chris Cook, one of the first area soldiers wounded in action.

As Donna Lenz Wright reports in today's cover story, serving their comrades in arms is one of the primary responsibilities of today's veterans groups.

Although Lenz Wright focused on the Elkhorn VFW, the other eight VFWs and the nine American Legion Posts in Walworth County are extremely active, although never high profile.

They do their work because it needs to be done, not because they need the PR.

We've been covering these local efforts since the beginning of the current conflicts. The war in Afghanistan began Oct. 7, 2001, and is now entering its seventh year.

Early on, we covered local American Legions as they revived the Blue Star and Gold Star Banner programs.

The stars are given to families who have a loved one serving in the military. A blue star is for those serving, the gold star for those who have been killed.

Also early on, we covered the first Support the Troops Rally on the square in Elkhorn in November of 2004.

The rally is sponsored by the Walworth County Council of the American Legion.

It's relatively easy to start something like this, but to keep it going faithfully for nearly three years is a testament to the commitment of Bob Webster, Joe Guido and others who have kept it going.

At the rally Monday, the 141st, a black balloon was released for Rachael Hugo, of Madison, the latest service member from Wisconsin to be killed.

Then, as they always do, the read the names of 172 people with county ties who have served, including the 26 who are currently overseas.

A special mention was made of the two who died during their service. The first was Justin Linden of Clinton, whose mother lives near Elkhorn, and more recently Keith Nurnberg, whose expectant wife lives in Genoa City.

The Walworth County Council of the American Legion has also sent 446 packages to soldiers overseas as well as 412 phone cards.

Volunteers have made and shipped more than 1,000 cool ties and 142 cool dos to help soldiers fight off the heat.

They've also printed 7,555 thank you cards.

The rallies are held each Monday either at the north entrance of the Walworth County Government Center on the square in downtown Elkhorn, or inside in the county board room.

Other county groups continue their outreach efforts as well.

Just this week, the Frank Kresen Post 24 in Lake Geneva unveiled its new Web site as a way to keep the public informed about its activities.

Visit it at

Sadly, it appears we'll need strong local support for our returning service members for quite some time.

But regardless of one's views of the wisdom of the current conflicts, our local veterans groups have set the example on how we should treat our soldiers upon their return.



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