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Visit sparks pride, memories

From Jill L. Riggs, Triad Contributor

       When I entered Fort McCoy, there was a sense of pride, and also a sense of apprehension, as I reached the guards at the Main Gate for the 100 percent I.D. check.

      The place I've heard so much about from my husband also was where my father was discharged in 1945 when he returned from Italy during World War II.

      My father didn't speak much about the time when he was in the war. During the few times he did, I felt the pain and sadness through his eyes. So, when I was young, I didn't dare ask about that time. But, what I did learn from those few times, is that no one wins in war.

      My father was a very strong-minded man. I've never seen him cry. 

      The times he spoke of the war, and some of the things that happened, there was a sense of pride along with that deep pain and tenderness.

      The pride I felt in my father's eyes is the same pride I felt from the soldiers at Fort McCoy when I pulled up to the gate that day.

      As I was met at the gate, the guards were very professional and thorough, and at the same time, helpful. As I hadn't any idea (how to get) where I was going, I was given a map along with instruction on how to get there.

      As I approached the building and parked to wait for my husband, I observed soldiers in physical training, moving equipment, unloading train cars, and working on paperwork. I watched in amazement as they all worked as a team - from the smiles of accomplishment, to the pats on the back for a job well done.

      During my two-day stay, I stayed at the Pine View Recreation Area. We visited Fort McCoy's Historical Center, the World War II Commemorative Area and the Equipment Park, even though the buildings were closed.

      The buildings told the history by themselves as we peeked in through the windows. I was seeing through my father's eyes, as I felt what he must have felt, and understood for the first time what I saw in him.

      I listened to Reveille in the morning, watched the Army helicopters leave and return, and read up on Fort McCoy.

      When I met my husband that next evening, he took me on the driving tour, which has proved to me what a first-class establishment Fort McCoy really is.

      I stood with pride as I watched these United States soldiers stop everything to salute when Retreat was played that evening.

      Not only is there a sense of pride in these men and women soldiers, there also is a sense of belonging with a respect and love for each other and all others, so deeply close as brothers and sisters.

      I used to live near an Army base. I was a visitor there, as well. Not once did I see the dedication, respect and professionalism to build a team like the units at Fort McCoy.

(Riggs' husband, Sgt. Russ Riggs, is a member of the 229th Engineer Company from Prairie du Chien, Wis.  Sgt. Riggs trained at Fort McCoy from June 8-22.)

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