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May 28, 2010

Community

Armed Forced Day Open House event brings people together

Story & Photos by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Guests who came to the Armed Forces Day Open House at Fort McCoy May 15 to learn about military life, meet up with Family members or former comrades or even just to enjoy the weather didn’t leave disappointed.

PHOTO: Prospective Soldiers throw foam grenades on the obstacle course at the Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House.  Phot by Rob Schuette
Prospective Soldiers throw foam grenades on the obstacle course at the Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House. The event, run by the Army Cadets of the Fox Valley, proved to be a popular stop for youth.

The popular attractions, including the camouflage face painting, personalized dog tags, an obstacle course for children and installation bus tours, saw a steady, and, sometimes heavy stream of participants.

New displays, including the thank-you cards for veterans station sponsored by the Army Community Service Family Focus program, also saw their fair share of traffic. The Buckle Bear mini robot from the Directorate of Emergency Services Police Department, another new exhibit, attracted a lot of youngsters and their parents. Buckle Bear publicizes the Child Care Safety Seat program.

Cadets from the ChalleNGe Academy kept the sand-bag filling station moving, while youth enjoyed traversing the obstacle course supported by the Army Cadets of the Fox Valley. Regional Training Center-Central cadre also supported a successful face-painting activity and a new marksmanship event.

Most of all, the event offered a self-paced opportunity to view items from the post’s past and present, the chance to interact with members of the installation’s work force — both military and civilian — and other open house guests.

Stephen Gauger of Mount Horeb, Wis., Dave Mumma of Janesville, Wis., and Larry Kleinsteiber of Madison, Wis., reunited to reminisce about their time as lieutenant colonels and instructors for the 4th Brigade of the 84th Division at Fort McCoy.

Gauger, who also served as a reservist from 1972-95, said there is no comparison with the way the post looks today to the way it looked during that time.

PHOTO: Discover Wisconsin personnel videotape a scene at the rock-climbing wall and sand-bag filling area at the Armed Forces Day Open House event at Fort McCoy. Photo by Rob Schuette
Discover Wisconsin personnel videotape a scene at the rock-climbing wall and sand-bag filling area at the Armed Forces Day Open House event at Fort McCoy. Trevor Wright is behind the camera, and Jim Dick is the show’s producer.

“Many of the things in the historical exhibits, such as the stoves and C Rations, were things I used as a Reservist,” he said.

“We retired in the late 1990s so it’s good to get together with friends we served with and experience the post as it is now,” Mumma said. “We re-lived the good times together and remembered the people we served with.”

“It was neat to see the equipment displays, talk to the troops and see what high-quality people they are,” Kleinsteiber said. “We left the service in good hands.”

A young National Guard sergeant stopped by and thanked the trio for their service and had them sign his T-shirt. Kleinsteiber said he enjoyed teaching and giving back to the younger troops.

A reunion of a different type took place between the Families of Brock Rozner of Plover, Wis., and Robyn Berger of Stevens Point, Wis. Rozner, an Army National Guard Soldier who demobilized at Fort McCoy after several deployment tours, and Berger are engaged.

The parents of the couple met for the first time at Fort McCoy during the Open House event. In addition to meeting each other, the parents enjoyed viewing the equipment and visiting the Commemorative Area.

Lilli Benzinger and her daughter, Sarah, visited from Shawano, Wis. Lilli Benzinger, who served in the Navy, said the Open House gave her daughter a chance to get some experience of Army life.

PHOTO: Visitors at the Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House create thank-you cards for veterans. Photo by Rob Schuette
Visitors at the Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House create thank-you cards for veterans. The activity was sponsored by the Army Community Service Family Focus program as a way to honor veterans.

“Sarah liked the dog tags, the smokehouse, and the obstacle course,” Benzinger said. “It also gave her the chance to interact with the police and see them in a positive light.”

The statewide television program Discover Wisconsin also was on site.

Trevor Wright, a photographer/videographer for the Discover Wisconsin program, and Jim Dick, Discover Wisconsin producer, visited the grounds and taped several activities as part of a show that will feature Sparta and area events.

Dick said the show tentatively will air in April 2011. A more exact date will be posted on the Discover Wisconsin Web site http://www.discoverwisconsin.com at a later date.

The Commemorative Area buildings next will be open to the public Friday, Sept. 10. The 2011 Armed Forces Day Open House will be Saturday, May 21.

For more information about group tours of the Commemorative Area, call the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office at 608-388-2407.

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