Fort McCoy News November 28, 2014

Fort McCoy honors veterans during prayer luncheon

Public Affairs Staff

Honoring the contributions of military veterans was the focus of the Nov. 6 Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon at McCoy's Community Club.

The luncheon was sponsored by the Fort McCoy Religious Support Office. Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ike Eweama provided the introductions and opening words for the luncheon ceremony. Retiree Services Officer Mitzi Hinton provided the recognition of veterans and thanked them. She also discussed services available at the installation for military retirees of all services.

Photo for prayer luncheon article
Most Reverend Jerome Listecki, Catholic Archbishop of Milwaukee, Wis., addresses those gathered Nov. 6 for the Fort McCoy Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon at McCoy's Community Club.

Most Reverend Jerome Listecki, Catholic Archbishop of Milwaukee, guest speaker for the event, highlighted the history of Veterans Day and reflected on experiences of serving in the Army.

"I had the privilege of serving as a chaplain in the United States Army Reserve for 23 years — 19 years of which I did my (annual training) here at Fort McCoy," Listecki said.

Listecki said throughout those years he developed many relationships with the people of Fort McCoy, and still has many connections today. He also said how proud he was to be able to serve alongside some of the "finest people" he's ever known.

"It's obvious to me, especially as my service as a chaplain, the strength of the country's military was not in the vast arsenal of weapons the United States possesses, but rather it's in the living and breathing men and women who understand the commitment they make," Listecki said.

Reverting back to history, Listecki cited an ancient saying, "If you wish for peace, prepare for war." He said America's leaders knew this was important when the country was formed.

"This maxim was echoed by our founding father, George Washington, who said, 'To prepare for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace,'" Listecki said. "General Washington knew the fiber of the men who served with him. He observed them walking through winter snow with deep belief, so that they might strike a blow for the freedom of a fledgling country. Imagine that determination of our revolutionary Soldiers.

"We not only prepare for the defense of our country by not only integrating into our lives the reasons why we wear, and have worn, the uniform — it's a sign of our determination to keep this country free," Listecki said.

The archbishop said the strength of a service member's commitment and the "seriousness of a promise" can be found in the oath of enlistment.

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic. I will bear full truth and allegiance to the same. I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, so help me God."

"You know, we (might) think (when) we take that oath that we don't think we will ever hear those words ever again," Listecki said. "But to hear them, after you are living them, means all the more."

Listecki recalled when he took an oath to become an Army officer.

"I took an oath similar to that in the embassy in Rome, Italy, when I was sworn in as an officer," Listecki said. "It struck me at that time that I was pledging, by my word, to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.

"I also had taken an oath similar to that when I was admitted to the bar in Illinois federal practice. But there was a difference. This was not just by intellect, but my whole self was now being offered to my country's defense."

The former Army chaplain gave additional examples of history to include noting differences of valor between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, and from World War II. Throughout history, he reiterated how American service members continually have been proponents of peace.

"Former President Jimmy Carter, himself a veteran, stated, 'Those who love peace most are those who serve in the armed forces. They are those whose lives would first be lost if conflict occurs,'" Listecki said.

"We know that peace can best be preserved by maintaining the strength of our nation," Listecki said. "We must be strong enough militarily. We must have a strong commitment of the American people. Those are the commitments I made to you, and I ask you and millions of Americans to join me in assuring that the future will hold peace for all of us because our will for freedom, and our commitment to the principles of our nation, will always be strong."

Through the commitments of veterans who have served, and those who serve today, Listecki said it's important to have a day like Veterans Day.

"Veterans Day was established so we would not forget to thank and honor those who serve," he said. "In this way, we also hope to inspire future generations to proudly wear the uniform."

Capt. Dan Busenbark of the 181st Infantry Brigade and his wife, Charlotte, provided music for the luncheon. Head Chaplain of the La Crosse Police Department, Mark Clements, also participated.

For more information about the Religious Support Office and support they provide, call 608-388-3528.