MADISON, Wis. — Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, commemorated the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day — which ended World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 — by speaking at a number of ceremonies including the Kohl’s Veterans Day program in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and at the Madison Veterans Council ceremony at the state capitol.
Dunbar also commemorated the Great War’s armistice, as well as the service and sacrifice of all of America’s veterans, Nov. 9 at the American Family Auditorium in Madison with a moment of silence.
“Silence can be uncomfortable, but there is power in silence,” Dunbar said. “A reverence that is appropriate to honor our veterans.”
World War I had a profound impact on America as the nation came into its own as a great power, Dunbar said.
The Great War marked the beginning of the modern National Guard as the Guard formed 25 divisions to join 25 other divisions in the United States Army to join the fight, Dunbar said.
The storied 32nd Division, comprised of 23,000 Soldiers from Wisconsin and Michigan, was one of the divisions formed during World War I. A century ago they were at Camp MacArthur, Texas, preparing for their mission. The 32nd fought in four major offensives and were the first allied unit to cross the famed Hindenburg Line. The 32nd continues on today not as a division, but as the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Brigade Combat Team, still fulfilling its mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army.
The Red Arrow went on to great fame in World War II, serving in the Pacific theater and logging more days in combat than any other American division. More recently, Red Arrow Soldiers and other nearly every other Wisconsin National Guard Army and Air unit deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in the years following Sept. 11, 2001, including when the entire 32nd Brigade deployed to Iraq in 2009-10.
Dunbar put the impact of the 32nd and all American veterans into perspective.
“Can you imagine if we had a national moment that followed the storyline of that great American Christmas classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ where we got to experience what life would be like in America without our veterans and those who had served our country in time of need?” Dunbar asked. “What a difference in our history.”
George Washington and the colonial militia would have never defeated the British, earning our independence. Nobody stood up at Bunker Hill. There was no shot heard around the world. Dunbar described an America with no record of battles at Antietam or Gettysburg during the Civil War. No veterans would have responded when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Nobody would have stopped the Holocaust. Americans simply would have accepted the will of terrorists following the attacks on Sept. 11.
“I think, after gaining this perspective, we’d pray with all our might to go back and live in the world protected by those who had served us so well, and have one more chance to recognize them and say thank you,” Dunbar said. “There’s no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of their service and sacrifice.”
Wisconsin’s National Guard is a proud part of Wisconsin’s veteran legacy, Dunbar said. That legacy includes over 46,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. Over 400 Wisconsin National Guardsmen are currently deployed to around the world. Those men and women, including service members who served during peacetime, were all commemorated in Dunbar’s silence.
Wisconsin National Guard troops continue to play an active role in global security operations, fulfilling its role as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. Last week, approximately 270 Airmen from the Madison, Wisconsin-based 115th Fighter Wing returned from a deployment to Korea and 35 Soldiers from the West Bend, Wisconsin-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. Approximately 110 Airmen from the 128th Air Control Squadron deployed to Southwest Asia in May. Another 30 Soldiers from the West Bend-based 248th Aviation Support Battalion deployed to the Middle East in September, while more than 70 Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee are in the midst of worldwide deployments. Another 150 Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Madison-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation deployed to Kuwait last spring.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin National Guard has been busy fulfilling the other half of its dual-mission as the nation’s first military responder in times of emergency. Approximately 650 Wisconsin National Guard troops deployed to Florida where they provided humanitarian relief, security and traffic control support to communities in the wake of Hurricane Irma. In addition, Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing, 115th Fighter Wing and Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria this fall. Two Wisconsin National Guard UH-60 Black Hawks and 19 Soldiers also deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist with medevac missions there.
“In this moment of silence, we can remember those who have served our country,” Dunbar said. “In this moment of silence, we can remember those who paid that ultimate price, including 168 from right here in Wisconsin since 9/11. In our moment of silence, we can lift our thoughts and offer a prayer for our veterans. We can let our humble moment of silence scream our appreciation in a deafening roar of gratitude.”