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December 11, 2009

Community

Stevens honored with flagpole,
marker at ChalleNGe Academy

Story & Photos by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems and Services

A United States Marine who had served on the cadre staff at the Wisconsin ChallenNGe Academy at Fort McCoy and was killed in action in Iraq was honored at a flagpole and marker dedication ceremony at the Academy Dec. 1.

Photo: The platoon of cadets is at “present arms” as “Taps” is played during the flagpole and marker dedication ceremony at the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy. (Photo by Tom Michele)
The platoon of cadets is at “present arms” as “Taps” is played during the flagpole and marker dedication ceremony at the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy.

Academy Director M.G. MacLaren told the crowd of guests and the platoon of cadets at the ceremony, “Sergeant Andy Stevens was a Marine dedicated to his country and a charitable citizen to his community as he assumed the role of teacher and mentor for many young adolescents throughout the state of Wisconsin.”

Faithful, honorable and charitable is how MacLaren said colleagues at the academy remembered Stevens.

MacLaren led the dedication ceremony at the Academy. The 25-foot flagpole and marker were donated by Stevens’ parents, Allen Stevens and Kaye Olson and step-father John Olson and step-mother Deb Schroeder.

A flag detail of three cadets raised a new U.S. flag to full-staff, and then lowered the flag to half-staff as part of the dedication. The four parents, with MacLaren’s assistance, then removed a shroud from a memorial marker at the foot of the flagpole. The marker has a photo of Stevens etched into the steel plate, with the words “SGT Andy Stevens, USMC, KIA Fallujah, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2005.”

“It is quite fitting this ceremony is held today, Dec. 1,” MacLaren said, “for it was exactly four years ago today, that, while on foot patrol with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, near the city of Fallujah, in the province of al Anbar, Iraq, that Sergeant Stevens’ unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire.”

Photo: The new marker in memory of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andy Stevens is unveiled at a ceremony at the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy at Fort McCoy. From left are Stevens’ step-father, John Olson; mother, Kaye Olson; Academy Director M.G. MacLaren; father, Allen Stevens, and step-mother, Deb Schroeder. (Photo by Tom Michele)
The new marker in memory of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andy Stevens is unveiled at a ceremony at the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy at Fort McCoy. From left are Stevens’ step-father, John Olson; mother, Kaye Olson; Academy Director M.G. MacLaren; father, Allen Stevens, and step-mother, Deb Schroeder.

“Sergeant Stevens and nine other Marines died of injuries as the result of that enemy attack,” MacLaren said.
Following Stevens’ graduation from Tomah (Wis.) High School in 1995, he enlisted in the Marines. His life shifted to the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s ChalleNGe program at Fort McCoy, then back to the Marines, MacLaren said.

During Stevens’ year between Marine Corps hitches, he served as a team leader with the Badger Challenge program for two summers and the ChalleNGe Academy in between.

MacLaren, quoting one of Stevens’ academy colleagues, said “he worked with me at Badger (Challenge) in 1999, and I remember how very well he worked with the kids, and I remember how he did it. He was one of the few staff there who understood the science behind what we did and how we did it.”

“He always had a teaching point behind everything he did and made sure the kids knew the teaching point,” the colleague wrote. “He was one of those team leaders who was firm, hard and fair, but he always made sure to come full-circle with the kids, ensuring they learned from every experience.”

Stevens was born Aug. 18, 1976, in Tomah. He was a decorated scout sniper and infantry squad leader. He is buried in Highland Cemetery, Menomonie, Wis.

Attending the ceremony at Fort McCoy were Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, deputy adjutant general for Army, Wisconsin Army National Guard; Brig. Gen. (retired) Andy Schuster; Col. (retired) Larry Olson, executive assistant to the adjutant general; State Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper; and Pastor Bill Rice of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Tomah where Stevens was a member.

Schuster was the Badger Challenge director when Stevens was on the staff. Larry Olson has agency oversight for the National Guard ChalleNGe program.

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