Fort McCoy News April 28, 2017

Annual Armed Forces Day Open House set for May 20

Public Affairs Staff

Everyone is welcome to visit Fort McCoy and learn about the post's role in keeping the nation's armed forces ready for action during the annual Armed Forces Day Open House on May 20.

The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is open to the public. Adults must be prepared to present IDs upon entering the installation. Food is available to purchase at the event, but visitors can bring their own lunches and eat at the picnic pavilion.

The day's activities are centered on the Commemorative Area, which features the History Center; five World War II-era buildings filled with historical equipment and displays, the outdoor Equipment Park, and Veterans Memorial Plaza.

Visitors to the 2016 Armed Forces Day Open House tour through Veteran’s Memorial Plaza in the Commemorative Area. Thousands of people attended the open house in 2016.
Visitors to the 2016 Armed Forces Day Open House tour through
Veteran's Memorial Plaza in the Commemorative Area. Thousands of
people attended the open house in 2016.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

Planned activities include guided installation bus tours, a sandbag-filling station, personalized ID tags, camouflage face painting, military equipment displays, marksmanship galleries, and more.

"The shooting galleries and ID tags are always favorites," said Public Affairs Specialist Theresa Fitzgerald. "Both adults and children like the equipment our units and fire department bring out for display. It's a chance for them to get close to machines they may have only seen at a distance before."

The Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch, or NRB, arranges another popular display every year that includes some of the wildlife found on post, such as turtles, frogs, and snakes.

"Fort McCoy, as a multiple-use federal property, has a responsibility to properly manage the landscape. While our primary purpose is conducting and supporting military training, we also have the responsibility to maintain wildlife diversity and ecosystem health for all users now and into the future," said David Beckmann, wildlife biologist with the NRB. "Fort McCoy has a long history in providing quality hunting and fishing opportunities and has a strong responsibility to manage its rare species, which are more common on military installations because the lands are less developed and built up."

He said the display is a good opportunity to show members of the public what Fort McCoy does to protect the land while still supporting the training U.S. service members need to be successful.

"It's good to have something for a hands-on experience, such as the snakes and turtles, that shows what we do," Beckmann said. "It catches people's interest. Especially younger kids — they really like seeing the animals, and that helps interest them in conservation in the future."

Both civilian departments and military units working at Fort McCoy will have displays and be available to talk about their jobs. Representatives of the Navy and Coast Guard auxiliary also will be on hand to talk to visitors and explain what they do.
Fitzgerald said the explosive ordnance robotics display is one new feature this year. The robotics crew will demonstrate the equipment using mock explosives.

This year, the installation will also host a "Welcome Home" ceremony for Vietnam veterans at 1 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Plaza. The guest speaker will be retired Maj. Gen. Paul Lima, and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Stumpf of Tomah, a Medal of Honor recipient, will help present pins to Vietnam veterans.

Fitzgerald said it's important to honor Vietnam veterans, many of whom were never thanked for their service.

"At the time, the American public mostly disapproved of the war, so returning Soldiers were often protested or simply ignored," she said. "Public sentiment has changed over the years, but for many of these veterans, a welcome home is long overdue."

Vietnam veterans who served in any branch are eligible to participate in the ceremony, which is part of the installation's efforts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Members of the public are invited to attend and join the Fort McCoy community in finally welcoming these veterans home.

For more information about open house, call Public Affairs at 608-388-2407.