Sometime last year, I opened an old, small overnight case tucked away in the basement that I knew contained the remnants of my father’s time in the Army. I hadn’t opened it since he died in ’01 when I fished out his parachute wings, dog tags, expert marksman badge and patches from the 11th Airborne Division in which he served during and after World War II. I was looking for his discharge paper and thought it might be in there but it wasn’t.
Still, the case contained some interesting things including pictures of northern Japan in the winter, Japanese currency from the occupation after the war, and U.S. Army collar devices that I thought could be worn on my VFW cap in his memory. What I also found was a rolled up picture of his Recruit Training Center graduation, a certificate from his parachute school completion, and an 8-by-10 color print of the Chilton VFW Firing Squad, now Honor Guard, from March 1, 1968.
The picture was taken outside of Oscar and Melda Steffen’s Hiawatha Bar in what was then known as “uptown” Quinney on the east shore of Lake Winnebago. The Hiawatha had an attached dance hall and the group had gathered there following the funeral of Norman Franzen because the St. Elizabeth Church in Kloten, where he was buried, did not have a basement for the traditional dinner. I remember Norman Franzen well because he was one of my dad’s best friends, but I did not know that he was also a paratrooper, a technical sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division, and was a part of the Normandy Invasion for which he was awarded the Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster and Silver Star for heroic actions.
Of the 14 men in the photograph, 13 served in WWII and one in Korea. The WWII veterans were widely dispersed throughout Europe and the South Pacific where their specialties ranged from infantry, paratroopers, the Army Air Corp, a Tank Destroyer Unit and medics. The picture seems to be well composed and that may be because the father of Earl “Tom” Hertel (front row, center) owned Hertel Photography in Chilton and was likely there to take the picture. My dad is in the front row, far right, and is flanked by Melvin “Putz” Lisowe who served in Korea, is holding the Post flag, and is the only one in the group that I can still call for clarification or information.
2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and included here is a poem that I have worked on through this past winter in recognition of the sacrifices, contributions, and service of the soldiers in that war. The poem was specifically intended for the Memorial Day observance in Chilton although a more timely reading might be around Labor Day when the war actually ended. Nonetheless, the piece is intended to be read aloud and is in the form of an address and/or prayer to such an assembly. I have singled out my dad in a personal way but the reader or listener is surely invited to substitute their own, be it father, mother, grandfather or grandmother who helped beat back the threats to our sovereignty three-quarters of a century ago. If you can thank them personally, please do. For so many, however, may they rest in peace but always be with us!