By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard leaders expressed gratitude to
Stevens Point officials and other Wisconsin Army Guard supporters before a packed City Council meeting Monday (Sept. 20) for the city's role in the "Back from The Sand" celebration held in downtown in July. Stevens Point
The homecoming event featured more than 3,200 Soldiers marching through Stevens Point, down streets lined with community and family members, to a staging area that included static equipment, food, entertainment - including two national-level country artists - and no shortage of patriotic fans.
Every aspect of the event took a lot of planning, approval, coordination and execution. For that, Brig. Gen. Donald Dunbar, adjutant general of
, Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin Army National Guard commander, and leaders of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team presented awards to many of the event's key players - including Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halverson. Wisconsin
"Our citizens were honored to have been the host community for the welcoming," Halverson said. "It was a complete success and made the citizens feel so proud to have such wonderful Soldiers serving and sacrificing for them. It was the citizen's way of saying thank you."
"It really did make our job a lot easier,"
said. "The city of Anderson absolutely came through and I want to say thank you for that." Stevens Point
Halverson admits the two-way relationship has blossomed throughout the entire process.
"Our relationship has become one of complete friendship and complete support of one another," Halverson said. "Communities need to be there for the Wisconsin National Guard, just as much as the Wisconsin National Guard needs to be there for the communities. It is truly a complete partnership."
"I have never been more proud or more humbled, as a non-military person, then to have the adjutant general of
Wisconsin pin that medal on my chest," Halverson said. "I, in fact, told my wife that evening that should I pass away, I want that medal in my casket with me. That medal meant more to me than any award or recognition I have ever received."
veteran, came up with the idea for a homecoming event. He proposed the idea to Halverson, who endorsed it. Halverson created a committee to coordinate the event. Vietnam
Other key players recognized for their contributions were Tom Schrader, director of parks and recreation; Tom Barrett and Sara Brish of the planning committee; four members of the Stevens Point Police Department; the Civil Air Patrol Stevens Point Composite Squadron; Stevens Point Convention and Visitor's Bureau; American Red Cross of North Central Wisconsin; Portage County Veteran's Services, and Sentry Insurance.
Dunbar said everyone, from the volunteers and committee members to the citizens of
, really made this event possible. To have a welcome home like that is uniquely American, Stevens Point Dunbar said.
"We will always be thankful for what you did,"
Dunbar said at the meeting.
Col. Martin Sieffer, 32nd Brigade commander, also gave his appreciation to the council.
"It was a special moment for the Brigade and it was a special moment for us," Sieffer said.