Gov. Tony Evers joined senior Wisconsin National Guard leadership in honoring and recognizing the Soldiers and Airmen who have been supporting the state’s COVID-19 response efforts since March 2020 and continue to do so.
The ceremony took place at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Madison on Aug. 24, 2021, a day that the governor proclaimed as Wisconsin National Guard COVID-19 Support Recognition Day. More than 100 Wisconsin National Guard members from Joint Task Force Domestic Operations and Joint Task Force 64 attended the ceremony, representing just a portion of the 2,001 Soldiers and Airmen who have supported the state’s COVID-19 response over the past 18 months.
In his remarks, Evers referred to Wisconsin National Guard members as “Wisconsinites helping Wisconsinites” as everyone in the state faced this unprecedented pandemic together.
“The work of the Wisconsin National Guard in this pandemic saved thousands of lives,” said Evers.
Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen first responded with support to the state during COVID-19 pandemic on March 12, 2020 when a group of 30 mobilized to State Active Duty to assist stranded cruise ship passengers return to their homes after exposure to COVID-19.
The mission expanded to include personnel protective equipment distribution, supporting isolation centers, conducting mortuary affairs, supporting nursing homes, specimen collection, and an enduring vaccine distribution mission.
Wisconsin National Guard troops supported community testing efforts, collecting more than one million specimens, accounting for a third of all testing done statewide in 2020.
“Your teams worked with local health departments to run COVID testing sites in our smallest towns and our largest cities,” Evers said. “If a Wisconsinite wanted a test, the Wisconsin National Guard went out on the front lines and provided them with one.”
Guard members also working at call centers placed 600,000 phone calls, informing citizens of their test results. Nearly 200,000 vaccines have been administered with the support of Soldiers and Airmen serving on mobile vaccination teams.
“It’s the intangible efforts behind these numbers that made these missions work – the human spirit of service that drove our collective actions,” said Brig. Gen. David May, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Air. “That is the true story of what you’ve accomplished and will continue to accomplish in the future.”
Col. John Morgen, the commander of Joint Task Force 64, spoke to the future and how our state will look back on COVID-19 response efforts. He said that there may be exhibits in museums or history books reflecting on the pandemic and how our state and Wisconsin National Guard troops reacted in a time of need and uncertainty.
“In the end no exhibit, no paragraph will ever capture the sacrifices that you’ve made, your many accomplishments, or how you’ve reminded us of all that’s possible within the Wisconsin National Guard,” Morgen said.
Evers agreed. During the ceremony, he presented Morgen with a U.S. flag flown over the state capitol and a state proclamation plaque commemorating the professionalism and sacrifice of the Soldiers and Airmen who have supported the state throughout the pandemic.
“The Wisconsin National Guard and Soldiers and Airmen like you truly represent the values that make this state great,” Evers said. “Your sense of duty, hard work, commitment to community, and service to others is unmatched.”