MADISON, Wis. — Service members and volunteers with the Wisconsin National Guard’s Service Member Support Division decorated the Tribute to Our Troops tree Nov. 15, honoring the state’s fallen and deployed service members who are unable to spend the holidays with their families.
The Tribute to Our Troops tree at the Executive Residence dates back to 2005 — a tradition started by then-Gov. Jim Doyle and his wife Jessica to honor Wisconsin’s troops. Gov. Scott Walker and his wife Tonette have continued the tradition each year.
This year, Linda Hughes of Cambria, Wisconsin contributed 350 ornaments, of which 166 were homemade angels.
“I feel we all have guardian angels, and when families look at the tree, you know right away they’re going to be comforted just looking at the angel,” Hughes said.
Each ornament Hughes contributed features a small paper “dog tag” identifying the service member that ornament commemorates. When the ornaments are removed from the tree, Hughes mails them to the families of the fallen. Each dog tag also lists a name and address below the service member’s name. Those people or organizations helped pay for the ornament, materials or shipping costs to mail the ornaments.
“In the letter that I send back to the family, I ask them to please send a thank you to that person so they know that somebody else cared,” Hughes said.
This was the second time Tech. Sgt. Kathy Krauss, a member of the 115th Fighter Wing, has helped decorate the tree.
Many members of Krauss’s family have served in the military, including her great grandparents, mom, husband, and oldest son.
“I just feel like it’s my calling, so this means a lot to be able to honor those who have fallen and who can’t be here with their families today,” she said.
In addition to the Tribute to Our Troops tree, the service members and volunteers also decorated a second tree this year, in the main entryway of the Executive Residence, honoring Wisconsin’s troops.
The trees can be seen during public tours held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 2 and Dec. 9, and noon-2 p.m. Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14.