DOVER — Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch delivered what is likely her final address to some of the state’s veterans Friday morning during Veterans Day ceremonies at the Veterans Home at Union Grove.
Honoring and remembering those who served was the main focus of Kleefisch’s remarks.
“I am not a veteran,” Kleefish said. “I don’t claim that honor. I get the chance to honor you, and it has been my tremendous honor, over the last eight years, to do so.
“Thank you all so much. I hope that God continues to bless you, as you have blessed Wisconsin,” she said.
Kleefisch said afterward being among veterans at one of Wisconsin’s three veterans homes was definitely a highlight after a tough week.
Gov. Scott Walker and Kleefisch did not earn re-election in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election. The Republican duo lost to Democrats Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes.
Walker and Kleefisch were voted into office in November 2010 and took office in January 2011. Kleefisch said she made at least one visit a year to Union Grove in each year of her tenure as lieutenant governor.
Vets in her life
Kleefisch’s remarks focused on the veterans who played a part in her life and she regaled the audience with the story of her husband’s grandfather, an Italian immigrant who needed to fight for the United States in World War I to receive permission to marry from the father of his eventual bride.
Kleefisch talked about the stories told to her by a member of the State Patrol assigned to protect her in 2011 during the dust-up over Act 10, a time during which she and Walker received death threats.
Kleefisch simultaneously went through chemotherapy for colon cancer, and one day a member of her protection detail served as her only company during treatment. The member of the State Patrol shared stories with her about serving overseas as a member of the Special Forces.
Kleefisch also discussed recently visiting her grandfather, who served as part of the forces sent to Germany at the end of World War II. Kleefisch said her grandfather tells stories of seeing the destruction endured by a Germany at war and the recovery of a Germany at peace.
None of the veterans in attendance — the crowd numbered more than 100 — look as they did when they graduated from boot camp, or when they left or retired from the military. Many are in wheelchairs.
But the pride they felt in their service was obvious. Most hailed from either the Korean or Vietnam eras, and wore hats celebrating their branch of the service or pins commemorating a unit in which they served.
As is custom, the ceremony commenced at 11 a.m. The armistice between Germany and the Allied powers that ended fighting on the Western Front in World War I, effectively ending World War I, went into effect at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
Joining Kleefisch on Friday were Kathy Still, who serves as assistant deputy secretary in the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.
Pastor Rick Rogers of Calvary Baptist Church in Sturtevant, also a member of the Milwaukee-based Billy Mitchell Scottish Pipes and Drums, played bagpipes. Activities Director Terri Presser sang a solo and the home’s Member Chimers, a bell choir, played three songs.
The Great War
Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the end of the United States’ involvement in World War I.
In her remarks, Still said Gov. Walker declared the period from July 25, 2016, to Sunday, as a time in which each county in Wisconsin should commemorate the centennial of World War I.
“Let us remember — let us not forget — the Great War, the war to end all wars” Still said. “One-hundred sixteen thousand Americans died in that war — almost equal to the 122,000 Badgers who served, of which 3,932 gave their lives.”
Still said Kleefisch has been a strong supporter of Wisconsin’s veterans, especially through leadership on issues such as curbing opioid use and addressing issues regarding female veterans.
“I have witnessed her compassion as she has listened to the individual stories of veterans — some heartbreaking, some uplifting,” Still said.