Publication: Kenosha News
by Joe Potente [email protected]
For veterans who cannot make it to the National World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., the monument is coming to them. An 8-foot-by-8-foot scale model of the memorial will be displayed Sept. 9th at the United Auto Workers Local 72 hall in Kenosha, along with a program to honor surviving World War II veterans in and around the Kenosha area.
County Executive Jim Kreuser announced the event Wednesday, putting out a call for veterans to register in advance to receive a special certificate and have their names listed in a program.
The model, created for Congress in advance of the memorial’s 2004 debut, is on a national tour organized by the nonprofit Pillars of Honor organization. The group’s events serve as a sort of substitute for the Honor Flight program, in which World War II veterans are flown to Washington to visit the memorial. “Many of the veterans for various reasons cannot travel to Washington, D.C., so we’re going to bring that model here so that they can be honored and they can have an opportunity to see what the model looks like,” said Derrell Green, director of the Kenosha County Division of Veterans Services.
Kreuser announced the event in a news conference that featured two local World War II veterans, Chet Eisenhower and the county executive’s father, Harold Kreuser.
Neither Eisenhower, who landed at Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, nor Harold Kreuser have been to the memorial.
“It’s something I’d really enjoy looking at and see what it’s like,” said Harold Kreuser, who served in the Philippines and in Japan with the U.S. Army Amphibious Engineers.
Both men — Eisenhauer is 87, Kreuser celebrated his 86th birthday on Wednesday — are among dwindling ranks of World War II survivors.
Harold Kreuser recalled wondering what would happen when he got his assignment, given that he couldn’t swim. Eisenhauer laughed as he recounted coming upon a scene as he hauled a load of prisoners through Czechoslovakia one day in 1945.
“I said when I got back, ‘What’s going on?’” Eisenhauer said. “They said, ‘You don’t know, the war’s over?’”
Harold Kreuser’s cousin, Raymond Tucker, is one who didn’t make it home nearly 70 years ago. Tucker, who grew up in Kenosha, was killed in action and buried in France in 1944.
The Pillars of Honor program is as much about honoring the veterans who are no longer with us, as it is those who can make it to the ceremony, officials said. Greene said it’s also about honoring those who served stateside during wartime and supported their fellow servicemen abroad.
Jim Kreuser, who approached Greene about bringing the Pillars of Honor program to Kenosha — it’s first stop in Wisconsin — said the county already is looking to bring it back again in 2013, for those who can’t make it this year.
This year’s program, organizers said, will include musical performances and a keynote speech by U.S. Navy Commander Lee Donaldson.
“It’s quite a significant opportunity we’re going to be having here in Kenosha County, come Sept. 9,” Kreuser said.