Former Gov. Tommy Thompson and four retired general officers — Maj. Gen. Gerald Slack, adjutant general from 1989-1996; Maj. Gen. Jerome Berard, adjutant general from 1996-97; Maj. Gen. James Blaney, adjutant general from 1998-2002; and Maj. Gen. Al Wilkening, adjutant general from 2002-07 — presented a Wisconsin state flag to Matera’s family at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Madison. In 1989, Thompson awarded Matera the first-ever Wisconsin National Guard Distinguished Service Medal.
“He was a national leader of prominence,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s current adjutant general. “Not only did he set conditions for the success of the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard, he was elected and served as the chairman of the National Guard Association of the United States, and in 1986, he became only the fourth Air National Guard recipient, and perhaps the only adjutant general, to receive the Order of the Sword – a U.S. Air Force program which allows noncommissioned officers to recognize command officers they hold in high esteem.
“He was a great leader, and he will be missed,” Dunbar added. “I join all veterans of the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard in mourning his loss.”
Matera — the first Air Force general officer to serve as adjutant general in Wisconsin — passed away Jan. 31 at the age of 94. He served in the U.S. Marines during World War II as an aerial gunner and infantry in the South Pacific. Enlisting in the Air Force in 1948, he served in the Korean War as a pilot and ground forward air controller. He was assigned to Truax Field in 1952 while still serving on active duty, and joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 176th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in 1954.
Matera served as adjutant general — commander of the Wisconsin National Guard — from 1979 to 1989. He led a concerted effort to boost the enlistment and retention of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, which at the time was in danger of having units deactivated for having too few Soldiers in their ranks. He also led an effort to build or renovate armories across the state, enlisting the aid of local and federal politicians. In recognition of his efforts on behalf of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, he is the only Air National Guard representative inducted into the Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor. His efforts set the stage for a defining era in Wisconsin National Guard history that followed, which saw the National Guard emerge as the nation’s primary combat reserve while simultaneously remaining the first military responder during times of emergency.