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Banquet planned to recognize students enlisting in military

When students graduate from high school, they face a world of choices about their future.

A select few of those students choose to keep the world a safer place by enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Those students will be recognized this month at the inaugural Eau Claire County “High School to Heroes” banquet.

The event, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, at Wild Ridge Golf Course, is open to all future servicemen and servicewomen from Eau Claire, Altoona, Augusta and Fall Creek schools.

“It’s just a way to thank them in advance for their service,” said U.S. Navy veteran Scott Cramer, co-organizer of the event with his wife, Lesa. “For many of them, it’s recognition they won’t get anywhere else.”

The Cramers, of Eau Claire, give credit to their son, 2018 North High School graduate and U.S. Air Force Academy cadet Ryan Cramer, for the idea.

While Ryan received commendation last year for being selected to the Air Force Academy, he told his parents it didn’t seem fair that many other students entered the military — with some even facing the possibility of serving in a war zone while he was still in school — with no public acknowledgement of their commitment on behalf of their country.

“His wish was to have one event to recognize all who sign up to serve,” Lesa Cramer said.

Scott and Lesa thought their son made a good point, so they decided to do something about it.

They organized the banquet, recruited Vietnam veteran Dick Freitag to be the guest speaker and have been rounding up military organizations and businesses as sponsors.

Each high school senior enlisting in any branch of the military — including active duty, National Guard, Reserve and ROTC units — is invited to bring two adult guests to the event, all at no cost thanks to sponsors. Roughly 60 Eau Claire County high school seniors enlist in the military annually, Scott Cramer estimated, based on conversations with recruiters.

Staff Sgt. Aaron Schmidt, a recruiter for the U.S. Army recruiting center in Eau Claire, is a big backer of the concept, maintaining students entering the military deserve some acclaim for making an adult decision at a young age.

“When any soldier or student gets recognition, it reinforces why they’re doing what they’re doing,” Schmidt said.

A large contingent of Chippewa Valley veterans is expected to welcome the new recruits to the military ranks at the banquet, which will include a meet-and-greet social hour, buffet dinner, speaker and roll call introduction of all the students and their branches of service.

“This is all about recognizing someone who makes the commitment to be part of something bigger than themselves,” said Cramer, who served in the Navy for seven years, including a deployment to the Middle East, and the Navy Reserves for four years.

The Cramers intend to make “High School to Heroes” an annual event and already have heard from people in neighboring counties interested in joining the effort.

“It’s a chance to start something I think other people would want to follow,” Cramer said.

Male dies after being found in Chippewa River

A male subject has died after he was found in a vehicle in the Chippewa River on Sunday morning in Chippewa Falls.

The male was pronounced dead after he was transported to HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls, according to information from the Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Services Department.

Battalion Chief Trevor Weiland said the male was pronounced dead after lifesaving procedures at the hospital. It was still considered a rescue at the time the male was pulled from the river, Weiland said.

According to a news release from the Fire and Emergency Services Department:

The department was dispatched at 8:28 a.m. for a report of a vehicle in the river south of the Pumphouse Road boat landing.

The fire department responded with two engines, two medic units, the boat and water rescue equipment with eight personnel. A second alarm was initiated for additional fire department personnel.

Mutual aid was requested from the Chippewa County town of Anson Fire Department for water rescue equipment along with the Chippewa Fire District Dive Team and a Chippewa Fire District medic unit.

First arriving fire units observed a vehicle 150 yards downriver from the boat landing. A bystander said he saw one person in the vehicle.

Xcel Energy was contacted to see if the Chippewa dam could be shut down. Xcel was unable to shut down the dam because of the amount of water coming over the spillway at the Wissota dam.

The divers and fire department personnel used boats to make their way to the car and victim. The high water conditions made it difficult to reach the car. Upon reaching the vehicle a male subject was removed and then transported to the hospital.

The Chippewa Falls Police Department assisted with securing the scene. State Department of Natural Resources also was on the scene.

There were no injuries to any responding personnel. Fire crews left the scene at 11:03 a.m.

The incident remains under investigation, which is being led by the Police Department, Weiland said.

What's at stake in Wisconsin Supreme Court election

MADISON — The Wisconsin Supreme Court race to be decided Tuesday won’t have an immediate impact on majority control of the state’s highest court, but it could put liberals in position to take control in 2020 by a court that has long been marked by partisan leanings.

Lisa Neubauer, who is backed by liberals, faces fellow appeals court judge Brian Hagedorn, the favorite of conservatives.

Here is a look at key factors in the race:

Who are they?

Hagedorn, 41, served as a law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, whose victory in 2008 gave conservatives control of the court. Hagedorn served as an assistant attorney general, worked in private practice and was former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s chief legal counsel for nearly five years. Walker appointed him to the state appeals court in 2015, and Hagedorn won election two years later.

Neubauer, 61, was appointed to the appeals court in 2007 by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Neubauer was elected to the appeals court in 2008, re-elected in 2014 and has been chief judge since 2015. She spent almost 20 years as an attorney in private practice and clerked for U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb.

Who supports them?

Nearly every judge who has endorsed a candidate in the race — more than 340 — backs Neubauer. She also has support from more than two dozen current or former police chiefs and county sheriffs and more than 50 district attorneys. Liberal outside groups that spent money on her campaign include the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is run by former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Service Employees International Union and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

Hagedorn was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and Wisconsin Right to Life. Two current, and three former, Wisconsin Supreme Court justices all back Hagedorn. He also won backing from more than 40 current or former sheriffs. The conservative group that’s part of the Koch network, Americans for Prosperity, spent money to help Hagedorn, and an arm of the Republican State Leadership Committee said a week before the election it was spending $1 million for Hagedorn.

Issues in the race

Neubauer pitched herself as fair, impartial and independent. Hagedorn said she isn’t being honest about her judicial philosophy and has been lying about his record. Hagedorn said he interprets the constitution and laws based on their original meaning and holds conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch as role models.

Hagedorn is an evangelical Christian who said his personal views don’t affect his work as a judge. Hagedorn wrote a blog in 2005 and 2006 while in law school where he called Planned Parenthood a “wicked organization” and denounced court rulings favoring gay rights by likening homosexuality to bestiality.

In 2016, he founded a private Christian elementary school that bars homosexual teachers and allows for the expulsion of gay students.

Hagedorn was also paid $3,000 to give speeches at meetings of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that supported criminalizing sodomy and sterilizing transgender people and has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Neubauer denied lying about Hagedorn, saying she was talking about his past blog writings and actions to inform voters about his beliefs.

Neubauer defended attending a 2017 People’s Climate March in Madison with her daughter, Greta, who is now a Democratic state representative from Racine. The march was promoted as opposition to President Donald Trump’s industry-friendly environmental agenda, but Neubauer said “I did not view it as a partisan activity in any way. It was about climate change.”

Why does it matter?

The conservative majority would increase to 5-2 with a Hagedorn win. A victory by Neubauer would keep the conservative majority at 4-3 but give liberals a chance to take control in 2020. If that happened, liberals would control the court until at least 2025.


Polls are open statewide from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Turnout is generally around 20 percent for past Supreme Court elections that don’t fall on the same year as presidential primaries.