While it may not feel like it in Northern Wisconsin, the unofficial start of summer is here: Memorial Day. For many of us that means a three day weekend, enjoying time with family and friends. All five of my grandchildren will be coming for a visit, something I am looking forward to. But it’s not all about the ice cream, brats and fishing. It is the day for remembering and honoring all those who have died in service of the United States of America.
For the last couple of years I have been invited to speak at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery Ceremony. I am looking forward to once again offering my thanks on Saturday and will be joined by the Shell Lake Honor Team, the Northwood’s Brass Band, and the Spooner High School Choir. And I will spend the morning of Memorial Day with a group of veterans in the Mellen area, visiting a number of small rural cemeteries to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
During the Second World War alone, a war that both my father and uncles served in, over 8500 Wisconsin citizens laid down their lives. In an early battle against the Japanese in the Pacific, Oscar Verner Peterson, a Chief Petty Officer from Prentice in Price County, sacrificed himself to save his ship from sinking after it was struck by bombs during the Battle of the Coral Sea. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt in 1942.
There are countless others from communities across Northern Wisconsin, like Chief Petty Officer Peterson, whose names I do not know. But that does not lessen my gratitude for the sacrifice they made. Like all the others celebrating Memorial Day in communities both big and small, I will do my best to honor their memory.
While we remember our fallen military heroes, I will also be thinking of the men and women in other uniforms that sacrifice for us every day here at home. Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personal put their lives on the line every day. Just two weeks ago, a firefighter from Appleton was shot and killed while responding to a medical emergency. Two others, including a police officer were wounded. Once again this session I will be working with Senator Van Wanggaard (R – Racine) to pass our bill that provides health insurance for surviving spouses and children of all those killed in the line of duty. We have introduced similar bills in the last three session. It’s my hope that in 2019, we can finally get this done.
While one day doesn’t seem adequate to truly honor the men and women who gave their lives to protect and defend our great country, I will do my best this Memorial Day weekend. I will be thinking about those that died in the line of duty and all those they left behind so that we can enjoy the lives that we have today.