Fort McCoy News May 22, 2015

Armed Forces Day Open House draws thousands

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Thousands of people flocked to visit Fort McCoy's 2015 Armed Forces Day Open House May 16.

Photo 1
Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House visitors take photos at Veterans Memorial Plaza.

The open house centered on the installation's historic Commemorative Area, which includes World War II-era buildings, the Equipment Park, and the Veterans Memorial Plaza. And, despite an early threat of rain, the weather at the event improved to partly sunny skies with summerlike temperatures.

Mark Levandoski of Menomonee Falls, Wis., said he spent a lot of time going through all the historic displays and would have done so no matter what the weather held in store.

"This place is absolutely spectacular," Levandoski said. "To see all the different pieces of equipment, like a Sherman tank and other areas, is like walking through history. I had planned for several weeks to come to the open house just so I could see all that was here."

Inside building 905, visitors could see military items issued to Soldiers through the Logistics Readiness Center Central Issue Facility, catch a glimpse of snakes and turtles that live on Fort McCoy at the Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch display, or visit one of dozens of other displays on both floors of the building.

William Lobeck, commander of Wisconsin's department of The Military Order of the Purple Heart from Viola, Wis., attended the open house for the first time as a presenter. He said he was glad he made the trip.

"I thought it would be a good venue to let people know about our organization," Lobeck said. "We also were able to let people know more about the benefits available to Purple Heart recipients. For me, I was just proud to be here. Coming to Fort McCoy brought back memories of my roots in my military past."

Activities were available for people of all ages, and those activities highlighted more than history. People lined up for camouflage face painting, personalized ID tags, an interactive marksmanship gallery, and military vehicle and fire truck displays; to see the latest Army medical equipment in use and to fill sandbags to build a mock defensive position; and more.

Some visitors planned extensively to visit the open house. Charlotte and Dave DeShelter, who are summer residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and winter residents of Florida, stayed at Fort McCoy's Pine View Campground during Armed Forces Day weekend just to go to the free event.

"It's great to stay at Pine View — they have great facilities, and it was nice to be close to this event," said Charlotte, who also had numerous friends attend the open house. "Seeing everything here was just wonderful. We thoroughly enjoyed this."

The DeShelters were among the approximately 700 visitors who took a 45-minute guided bus tour. The tour showcased installation facilities and South Post training areas.

"The bus tour was really interesting," Charlotte said.

"I really enjoyed it," Dave said. "There is a lot more to see of (Fort McCoy) than you would see otherwise."

Fort McCoy Public Affairs Officer Linda M. Fournier said the 2015 open house was a great success.

"Each Armed Forces Day Open House provides an opportunity for people from throughout the region to learn about Fort McCoy, its history, and its continuing mission supporting our nation," Fournier said. "It was wonderful to see all the people come out and enjoy the day with us."

Armed Forces Day is always the third Saturday in May. Planning is underway for the event to be held May 21, 2016.

For more information about the event, call 608-388-2407.

For more photographs of Armed Forces Day Open House, click here.