MAPLE BLUFF, Wis. — After COVID-19 led to a two-year pause in public tours, the public will once again be able to see the Tribute to Our Troops Tree at the Executive Residence.
The Tribute to Our Troops Tree tradition dates back to 2005 as a means to remember Wisconsin residents who could not spend the holidays at home due to military service. Wisconsin National Guard members — first through the Family Assistance Program, and then through the Service Member Support Division — decorate the tree in time for holiday tours at the Executive Residence.
“Kathy and I are so glad to be able to continue the important tradition of the Tribute to Our Troops Tree to honor our active-duty service members, veterans, military families, and fallen heroes during the holidays at the Executive Residence,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “It’s a simple but meaningful way to honor their bravery, service, and sacrifice, and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who helped decorate and contributed ornaments to the Tribute to Our Troops Tree this year.”
Gov. Evers and First Lady Kathy Evers invited Wisconsinites to contribute ornaments to decorate the tree.
Master Sgt. Bridget Cox and Master Sgt. Karen Neperud, both with the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, said the opportunity to decorate the tree was an honor.
“Look at what we’re remembering — not only those who have previously served and who have given their life for our country, but those who continue to serve and continue to deploy,” Neperud said. “It’s great to honor them as well, especially at this time of year.”
“It’s a great tribute to the troops, and helps keep them in the back of people’s minds,” she said. Missing from this year’s tree trimming was Linda Hughes of Cambria, Wisconsin. Hughes had been involved with the Tribute to Our Troops Tree since 2005, creating thousands of individualized ornaments to remember veterans, deployed service members and fallen service members. She died April 8 at age 75.
Hughes’ involvement was linked to her nephew, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Scott of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, who was killed in Buhriz, Iraq in 2005 when his Kiowa helicopter was shot down by small-arms fire.
“Gov. [Jim] Doyle came to the funeral, and there were lots of funerals that year,” Hughes said in 2014. “Mrs. [Jessica] Doyle saw the agony that families were going through, so she suggested to her husband that they should do something special.”
Master Sgt. Carmen Keating of the 115th Fighter Wing is a distant relative of Hughes, and volunteered to carry on her work with the Tribute to Our Troops Tree.
“In the end, it’s amazing how people just drop what they’re doing and help put the ornaments on,” Keating observed, “to recognize the fallen heroes and other service members and all the hard work and dedication our service members do for our country.”
The Tribute to Our Troops tree can be seen during public tours at the Executive Residence — 99 Cambridge Road, Madison, Wisconsin — from noon-2 p.m. Dec. 6, 8, 15 and 20, and from 10 a.m.-noon Dec. 10 and 17.