Retired Col. Michael Fonger of Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, retired Col. Michael Williams of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and 1st Sgt. Gregory Fulton of Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin were inducted into the Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor during a May 3 ceremony in Madison, Wisconsin.
The adjutants general have selected 54 recipients for the Hall of Honor since Aug. 30, 2000. The award is one of the most prestigious that a Wisconsin National Guard member can receive.
The Hall of Honor is designed to encourage esprit de corps, in remembrance of a Wisconsin National Guard heritage that spans more than 175 years. The purpose of this honor ensures proper recognition to individuals whom have made lasting and exceptional contributions to the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
"We view this as the highest honor that we can bestow," said Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin adjutant general. He spoke of the Wisconsin National Guard's involvement in numerous conflicts throughout history.
"This is the heritage that we share in the Army National Guard," Dunbar said. "In this organization, with such a rich history, it is an exceptionally big deal when your peers vote you for this honor."
Fulton had previously received the Silver Star for his actions in close combat, while deployed to Afghanistan as first sergeant of the 951st Engineer Company, in 2008.
"The key to my story is the people around me," Fulton said in a heart-felt speech given during the ceremony. Fulton was the first Wisconsin National Guard Soldier to receive the Silver Star since World War II.
"My story has been one of fortune. I'm fortunate to have a good family who are very supportive," Fulton said.
Prior to the ceremony, Fulton said that one of the keys to his success was following the principles of military doctrine. Fulton continues his enlistment as the first sergeant of the 273rd Engineer Company in Medford, Wisconsin.
Fonger enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in 1963 and graduated from the Wisconsin Military Academy in 1965. He volunteered for active duty in the Vietnam War where he served as a construction engineer, communication officer and company commander with the 169th Engineer Battalion.
"I was hired to come down here and run recruiting back when the strength of the Guard was at 66 percent, and we got it up to about 98 percent strength during the time I was the head of recruiting," Fonger said before the ceremony. "I mentored a lot of people," he added, referring to the six years he spent as chairman of the National Guard Bureau's Recruiting and Retention Advisory Committee. He joked about tough love and the audience erupted when he asked them to raise their hand if he had ever chewed them out.
"I'm pretty proud that I was picked to do this," Fonger said. Recruiting and retention strategies that he developed and implemented were a great success in the Wisconsin Army National Guard are still being used today nationwide.
Williams led the 264th Engineer Group to unit strength of more than 100 percent due to innovative policies and programs which he implemented during his time as commander there. His leadership also helped to define Wisconsin's state partnership with Nicaragua in support of Task Force Chontales, a humanitarian assistance mission there.
"There is a saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child,' but it takes an entire National Guard community to raise a colonel." Williams said. He introduced his two grandchildren and his mother who were present at the ceremony.
"The family is the foundation," he said.
Before the ceremony Williams acknowledged that many people supported what he described as a long and illustrious career.
"I could never have gotten to this point without being surrounded by a loving family and many supportive members of the National Guard," Williams said.