CUMBERLAND, Wis. — Members of The American Legion volunteered to host a Morale, Welfare and Recreation dinner at Cumberland’s Post 98 for the nearly 100 Soldiers and Airmen with the Wisconsin National Guard serving on state active duty, Aug. 2.
Elements of the Air and Army National Guard mobilized to Polk, Barron, and Langlade counties in the aftermath of the severe weather that swept through northern Wisconsin July 19-20, and have remained on duty to support damage assessment and debris removal efforts — clearing roadways and ditches to provide safe pathways for civilians and emergency responders.
2nd Lt. Raymond Johns, a 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB) platoon leader and the current officer-in-charge of the task force in Polk and Barron Counties, explained how Wisconsin’s communities and organizations have offered their support since the Service Members’ arrival in Northern Wisconsin.
“There’s been a ton of civilian support, both individuals stopping by and offering their gratitude or some of these organizations: the American Red Cross, The American Legion, the Salvation Army, helping to make sure we had what we needed,” he said.
The American Legion members and volunteers, many of whom live in the communities affected by the storms, came together in just a few days under the direction of Steven DuBois, commander of The American Legion Post 278 in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin. The Air Force veteran and former pilot explained why he gathered volunteers and Legion assets to provide a hearty meal for the Soldiers and Airmen serving on state active duty.
“I was a reservist for 16 years and I enjoy home-cooking,” DuBois said. “The American Legion talks about helping vets, but we don’t have a lot in our area. Today, we do. We have money in our account for moments like this. We walk the walk.”
Spc. Kevin Albrant, a heavy equipment operator with Company A, 173rd BEB, shared why events like The American Legion dinner, and the support of the communities in Polk, Barron, and Langlade counties, are important.
“It means a lot to have the work we’re doing supported and appreciated by the community,” Albrant said. “It makes it easier to do your job and do it the best of your ability knowing the community and organizations like this are backing you. They’re feeding us well and helping to make sure we have everything we need to stay focused on our mission.”
Harry Bauer, 10th District commander for The American Legion, Department of Wisconsin, is a retired Air Force Reservist. “I served 36 years, eight months, and six days,” he said. “Not that I was counting.”
Bauer, who serves out of Post 77 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, felt the event was a way to “pay it forward.”
“I’m returning the favor that was done for me,” Bauer said. “The American Legion is about taking care of veterans, but that also includes the Guard, the Reserves, even their dependents if needed. It’s about the total force concept. A function like this is good for morale. They are our brothers and sisters — Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, whoever they may be. They may not want recognition, but a pat on the back and a nice warm meal goes a long way.”
The Soldiers and Airmen shared a meal of barbecued ribs, bratwurst, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, watermelon, and plenty of desserts with the volunteers. Laughter and thank-yous filled the dining hall before the Guardsmen departed to prepare for another day, ready to stay on site for as long as assistance is needed.
Serving on state active duty and assisting civil authorities during times of emergency is one of the National Guard’s core missions. Approximately 30 Soldiers mobilized July 22 to distribute water to local residents in Langlade County. That mission concluded July 24 before approximately 100 additional Soldiers and Airmen mobilized to assist communities in Polk, Barron, and Langlade counties with debris removal efforts. The debris removal mission in Langlade County concluded Aug. 2 and those personnel are now assisting with removal efforts in Barron County.