Fort McCoy News May 26, 2017

Hundreds attend Armed Forces Day Open House

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Fort McCoy Public Affairs

An estimated nearly 2,000 people attended the 2017 Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House here May 20 despite, at times, some heavy rain conditions.

The open house was held on the grounds of Fort McCoy's historic Commemorative Area, which includes World War II-era buildings, the Equipment Park, and Veterans Memorial Plaza.

Visitors to the 2017 Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House visit boots and displays May 20 in building 905 on post.
Visitors to the 2017 Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House visit
booths and displays May 20 in building 905 on post.



Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Stumpf (right), a Medal of Honor recipient from Tomah, Wis., and others participate in the "Welcome Home" ceremony for Vietnam veterans May 20 at Rumpel Fitness Center at Fort McCoy. The ceremony was part of festivities for the open house.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Stumpf (right), a Medal of Honor recipient
from Tomah, Wis., and others participate in the "Welcome Home" ceremony
for Vietnam veterans May 20 at Rumpel Fitness Center at Fort McCoy. The
ceremony was part of festivities for the open house.

Attendees enjoyed the many displays, activities, bus tours, and historical areas as well as a special “Welcome Home” ceremony for Vietnam veterans that was held in Rumpel Fitness Center.

Dennis Thompson from Lavelle, Wis., attended the open house with his wife and attended the ceremony.

“This experience was excellent,” said Thompson, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy from 1966-67. “It was great to see everything that’s here and to attend the ceremony. Also, it was great to see the place where my (father) served in World War II.

Thompson shared a photo that included his father, former Army Tech. Sgt. Eugene Thompson, pictured atop a tank at then-Camp McCoy in the early 1940s. “Dad always had fond memories of this place and his experience here,” Thompson said.

Veteran Douglas Gisler of Milton, Wis., who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, attended the open house with his wife Susan. Both took part in seeing everything available and were also ceremony participants.

“I’ve trained here in the past,” Douglas said. “It’s really changed a lot for the better.”

“We really enjoyed the tour,” said Susan, who also was one of hundreds who participated in the 45-minute installation bus tours offered throughout the day. “It was really wonderful to see everything that is here at this (installation).”

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. They also saw the latest Army medical equipment in use, filled sandbags to build a mock defensive position; and more.

At the Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home ceremony, dozens of veterans participated. Each veteran received a Vietnam Veterans Lapel Pin from retired Maj. Gen. Paul Lima and Medal of Honor recipient retired Command Sgt. Ken Stumpf. Both Lima and Stumpf are also Vietnam veterans.

The ceremony is one of many taking place around the United States that officially recognize veterans who served between May 1, 1955, and Nov. 15, 1975.

A child attending open house is camouflaged May 20 at open house.
A child attending open house is camouflaged May 20 at open house.


a
Visitors look over equipment used by the Fort McCoy Fire Department
on May 20 at the annual open house.

“When many of us came back (from Vietnam), we came back to a time of turmoil,” Lima said. “No one could recognize the invisible wounds coupled with haunting memories from that time. … (We) didn’t receive a public welcome or recognition of service.

“Many (veterans) quietly assimilated back into their communities and used their skills to better America,” Lima said.

Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter also recognized all the Vietnam veterans in attendance during the beginning of the ceremony. “All of you have served as my inspiration to serve,” he said.

The Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home event was something “long overdue for a generation of veterans that’s been long overlooked,” said Fort McCoy Public Affairs Officer Tonya K. Townsell. “While we can’t change the past, I hope our event brought a feeling of recognition and appreciation to our Vietnam veterans.”

She also said that the 2017 open house was a great success even though the weather impacted the usual amount of open house attendees.

“While the rain kept a good portion of our regular attendees home, those who did make it here to celebrate the day seemed to take the weather in stride,” she said. “I saw a lot of smiling wet faces.”

“Rain or shine, the open house provides an excellent opportunity for people to come and see what Fort McCoy is all about and to learn about the Army, the installation, the history, and Fort McCoy’s continuing mission to support the nation as the ‘Total Force Training Center,’” Townsell said. “The community around the region looks forward to this event every year, and we appreciated the opportunity to showcase the installation.”

“Also, successful events such as this don’t ‘just happen,’” Townsell added. “Many employees put their energy and hearts into this to make it what it is every year.”

Armed Forces Day is observed on the third Saturday in May. Planning already is underway for the May 19, 2018, open house.

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

Ward Zieski, historican for the 88th Regional Support Command, speaks to a visitor May 20 at the annual Armed Forces Day open house.
Ward Zischke (right), historian for 88th Regional Support Command, speaks
to a visitor May 20 at the annual Armed Forces Day open house.



a
Vietnam veteran Dennis Thompson of La Vallee, Wis.,
holds a photo of his father, Eugene Thompson, who
trained at Fort mcCoy during World War II in the
1940s. Dennis Thompson visited the open house for
the first time and attended the welcome home ceremony
.