Soldiers and Airmen in the Wisconsin National Guard, and the state’s communities took a pause Monday as they remembered and honored our nation’s fallen.
Wisconsin National Guardsmen provided color guards, participated in parades, and spoke at Memorial Day services throughout the state. The 128th Air Refueling Wing also marked the day with a flyover as the Milwaukee Brewers paid tribute to Memorial Day as well.
One hundred years ago, Wisconsin’s 32nd “Red Arrow” Division Soldiers paraded through the streets of Milwaukee, celebrated by friends, families, and the community as they returned to the Badger State after carving out their place in history on the battlefields of France during World War I. But not everyone made it home for that joyous homecoming. In fact, hundreds of Red Arrow Soldiers and Wisconsin’s National Guardsmen lay in their final resting places in American military cemeteries in France.
Thousands of Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have given their lives in defense of our nation as they fulfilled their mission as our nation’s primary combat reserve. From Wisconsin’s earliest days of statehood when thousands of Soldiers serving in Wisconsin units like the Iron Brigade perished in the fight to preserve the Union, to the First World War, or when the Red Arrow once again answered the call in the jungles of New Guinea and the Philippines when thousands more lost their lives fighting for freedom, the Wisconsin National Guard has sacrificed dearly alongside their brethren from the other armed services. In the years since Sept. 11, 2001, 10 more Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers joined the ranks of the fallen.
The state and the nation paused on Memorial Day to pay solemn tribute to them and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in our nation’s wars.
In New Berlin, Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, addressed hundreds in the community, paying tribute to Wisconsin’s fallen service members during a ceremony at Highland Memorial Park Cemetery.
“I reflected that a hundred years ago, the Soldiers were finally home from World War I, and on that Memorial Day, they mourned and remembered over 116,000 casualties who fought in that war, 4,000 from right here in Wisconsin,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar also reflected on those who lost their lives during the Normandy invasion 75 years ago in June. Over 6,600 Americans died that day as the Allies carved out a foothold in Europe en route to defeating the Nazis.
“If we’re not careful, the numbers can leave us numb,” Dunbar said.
He added that families are the key to Memorial Day. They are the ones who remember, and help keep those memories alive.
“Families remember the man or the woman, the sense of humor, the crazy smile, the dreams and ambitions, the countless memories of a life lived well, and tragically cut short.”
Dunbar said that as long as our flag waves over our land, a part of all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our country lives on.
“Our history is freedom’s history, and it must be preserved.”