By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The display of people from Wisconsin who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is a stark reminder of how many have died in a war so far away.
When Mike Hanke, AMVETS State Vice Commander, asked William C. Yingst Jr. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedication at Tom Prince Memorial Park August 30 if Yingst would like to have the display honoring those from Wisconsin killed in Iraq and Afghanistan set up at Colfax High School, Yingst accepted the offer.
Yingst is the superintendent of the Colfax school district and is, himself, a veteran of Afghanistan.
The traveling display is from “The High Ground” in Neillsville, and those featured in the display are from all areas of Wisconsin, including Jeremy Wolf, 1st Lieutenant, age 27, United States Army, from Menomonie, who died November 15, 2003, in a helicopter crash.
The display is part of a nationwide initiative to develop traveling displays for each state.
“Remembering Our Fallen From Wisconsin,” was set up September 12 and remained in the lobby at Colfax High School September 13 before being taken down and moved to the next location.
Teachers were invited to bring their students to the lobby to see the display.
“The display is intended to educate our students and staff regarding the human sacrifices that have been made in the Global War on Terrorism. It is sobering to see the senior class photos alongside the military photos, the wedding photos, the fishing photos and all of the others. This gives our students a visual image that these are real Wisconsin young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Yingst said.
Two large sections of the display each had eight display sections, and each of those contained the names and photographs and information for four people, for a total all together of well over one hundred.
For each person from Wisconsin who has died, the display includes the name, age, rank and branch of the service, the hometown, the date of death, the cause of death (quite often an Improvised Explosive Device, IED, although some small arms fire and other causes of death, such as helicopter crashes) and the place — Iraq or Afghanistan.
One person in the display was killed at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
For each person, the display includes a civilian photograph (high school graduation photos, fishing photos, hunting photos, family party photos, photos wearing formals, wedding photos, some with their favorite cars, some with their spouses or significant others, photographs with their dogs or children, barrel racing, or childhood photos) and the person’s military photograph.
“As you well know, I feel strongly that we must educate our students on the history of our country and the sacrifices our Veterans, children of Veterans, and family members make for our country every day. In my humble opinion, our schools need to make an effort educate our students on what makes our democracy special and why others are envious of us around the world,” Yingst said.
One panel of the display contains the following:
Remembering Our Fallen From Wisconsin
“The warriors of the 21st Century, professionals who volunteer to join the United States Armed Forces, grew up in the shadow of September 11, 2001, a defining moment for most of them. They come from all walks of life and every corner of our country, daring to go where so many never would. They retain the face of freedom and build upon the legacies of those who went before them in a cause greater than themselves.
“We cannot all pick up the sword — nor should we — but we owe our support and gratitude to those who do, and to their families. Each Fallen Hero, shown here, left behind family and friends who will never forget them, and we must be there to support them. Remember their loved ones, continue to pray for them, and speak their names … most importantly, speak their names.
“Relish the freedom consecrated by that last full measure of devotion and paid for, on your behalf, by these Heroes and their Fallen Comrades who died in a war zone while wearing our country’s uniform.
Stand down young warrior. Your mission is complete.”
The photographic memorial was made possible by the financial support of Bellevue University, a private, non-profit university.