Tom Yetter knows first-hand the challenges of serving his country while stationed overseas, and he knows how difficult it is on the families back home.
“Most of us have been deployed, and our families have gone through that,” Yetter said. “It’s much worse for the people who are back here.”
Yetter is among a group at VFW Post 305, 1300 Starr Ave., that are organizing a tribute for the troops, honoring the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry regiment of the Wisconsin National Guard, who will leave this month for Fort Hood, Texas. Later, the unit will head to Afghanistan. The unit is expected to be gone for about a year.
The event will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the VFW. Beginning at 2 p.m. will be a showing of the film “Dawn of the Red Arrow,” which traces the history of the unit. Yetter estimated that between the film and a question-and-answer session, that portion of the event will last 80 minutes.
The 128th Infantry is based in Eau Claire, but it has members ranging from Abbotsford to River Falls to Onalaska, Yetter said.
The rest of the event includes free food and a meet-and-greet time with the troops, prior to their leaving. He said it is meant as a time to express solidarity and gratitude for their sacrifices and time away from their families, work and regular daily lives.
“We want it to be a relaxed atmosphere; we want it to be a community event,” he said. “It’s a chance to come down and meet the soldiers and families, and offer them their assistance, if that’s what you want to do.”
Yetter said he would love to see people offer to do everything from offering to pay postage on care packages to offering to mow yards or fix cars of the family members who are left behind.
“We understand what their families are going through,” Yetter said. “And a lot of the time, they need someone who understands their fears.”
Yetter served in the U.S. Army, enlisting in 1969. He was stationed in Germany. He left the military in the mid 1970s, only to later join the National Guard, which turned into a full time job. He had 37 total years in uniform, including two tours of Iraq, from 2004-05 and again in 2006-07.