Guest Editorial | Lack of transparency in total $74 million West Bend School District referendum | By Carol Heger
Dear Editor: I will be voting “No” on April 2 on the total $74 million West Bend School District referendum. The WBSD referendum is being forced on West Bend citizens by the school district and its school board. They have been waging a less than transparent campaign with less than honest facts for several years now.
Item 1: The Superintendent, Don Kirkegaard, does not like to mention that the referendum will cost taxpayers $74 million (which is a figure that includes estimated interest over the course of 19 years). He prefers to mention only the amount that the district will be borrowing: $47 million. How can a referendum be discussed honestly if the Superintendent doesn’t want to share that there will be about $27 million that the community will owe as a result of interest payments? By the way, the community – your tax money – is still paying on the two previous school referendums: a total of $34 million won’t be paid off for 9 more years (until 2028).
Item 2: The Superintendent is refusing to talk about the fact that the number of children in West Bend/Jackson, as well as in Wisconsin, has been declining drastically for about a decade. He says that the referendum is not about “capacity.” In fact, the low birth rate is historic, and projections state West Bend will lose another 500 students by 2024. Reasons are many for the dramatic decline in enrollment, in addition to the birth rate, such as the rise of parental choice schools (like Good Shepherd and Kettle Moraine Lutheran), an increase in home schooling, open enrollment where many students attend districts like Slinger and Germantown, virtual schools/online learning, and the liberal ideology of our public schools. Riveredge Nature Center is even opening a charter school. By 2024, five years from now, I suspect there will be disappearing students and idle classrooms at Jackson and other West Bend schools, and as a result there will be less tax dollars coming into the WBSD coffers. (State funding is based on the number of pupils in a district.) Less income means staffing cuts and not enough money to maintain (and continue paying for) the gleaming new edifice that is to be built south of Rt. 60.
Item 3: The Superintendent did not answer questions from the audience at the large informational meetings held at Jackson and the high schools. He referred the audience to “experts” stationed at tables at the rear of the room, a convenient way to prevent audience members from learning the “rest of the story” by listening to each other’s questions. Just another tactic to keep the playing field uneven for the taxpayers.
Item 4: The Citizens Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) that met during the 2017-18 school year was used as a prop to justify the “needs” of Jackson Elementary and the high schools. First, many of its members were WBSD employees, retired employees, or their family members. The majority of committee members nodded and agreed when the architects led the discussions and created the list of “needs.” The natural gas pipeline that is adjacent to the site of the new Jackson School was obviously not a safety concern of the majority of CFAC members or with the architects. Bray Architects is the same firm that will get the contract to build the new school at Jackson and the renovations at the high schools. Believe it or not, CFAC was not even given a chance to present a final report of its findings, although the committee was initially told it would make recommendations regarding the district’s needs. Yet the referendum survey created by School Perceptions last summer stated that not Bray, but CFAC “developed the options explored in this survey.” If the referendum wins, I predict there will be a tall, energy-inefficient lobby or atrium that will be built at the new Jackson School, designed by Bray Architects but paid for by the taxpayers. (Check out Bray’s 2-story open, window-filled space at Kewaskum Middle School that is furnished on two levels with sofas & chairs. How much learning is being done there?)
Item 5: Jackson Elementary has been presented on tours as a dungeon-like building, while in contrast it’s a warm, welcoming facility with classroom cabinetry and furniture in good shape and classic style. Many of the “needs” that were tallied by the architects were maintenance items that had been deferred over the years (replacing ceiling tiles, new urinals, etc.). Replacing Jackson’s roof is listed on the referendum flyer as a “need,” but CFAC members learned from the WBSD Facilities and Operations Manager that roofing is always included in the operating budget, and each summer a different roof or several are replaced totaling $800,000 per year. Why then is Jackson’s roof used as a referendum need? At its peak, Jackson held about 525 students compared to the current 350 that are pupils. Moving the fifth graders to Silverbrook about five years ago freed up four classrooms. The current building, larger than needed, could be re-configured and consolidated to take advantage of that extra space. It wouldn’t surprise me if the old 1900 portion might not even be needed, thereby eliminating the use of steps and an elevator.
There are many questions that have not been adequately answered about remodeling the current Jackson, including the cost. Does anyone know what it would cost to remodel or simply upgrade Jackson Elementary? Certainly, the Superintendent must know as do the school board members, but no one’s telling the taxpayers. At a school board work session on April 30, 2018, a board member stated that he thought it was a waste of money to investigate what it cost to close Jackson and build new. He thought spending money on boilers and air conditioners (i.e., maintenance upgrades) was not worthwhile. The referendum plan calls for a new building at a price tag of $24,400,000 (not including 19 years of interest). And the number of students is continuing to decline annually.
Item 6: The twin high schools’ 50-year-old “major building system components,” as described on the referendum flyer, have “exceeded their useful life” and “are in need of replacement.” After the CFAC behind-the-scenes tour, positive comments were made by committee members that it was “a clean and solid plant” and “well-maintained” and “a sense of pride” was evident. Older equipment with a good operator is sometimes better than new equipment, a member suggested. “Newer isn’t always better” was added by another member, while other members recalled that a new storage tank installed at the new Badger Middle School had ruptured. (CFAC meeting, Oct. 17, 2017)
Commentators have weighed in, stating that the desire of Wisconsin voters for “world class” programs and facilities is apparent, since 90% of 82 communities in 2018 voted in favor of school referendums. (Daily News, March 6, 2019) Of course, does that mean that the West Bend population of lemmings should jump off the tax-and-spend cliff because others have?
The three candidates for the school board have finally been identified and appear to be following in quick step behind the previous trio of self-described “fiscally conservative” board members who were elected a couple years ago. One candidate has stated the WBSD “has worked hard to carefully steward the money given for the upkeep of the buildings.” (Daily News, March 9, 2019) He obviously has slept through the last year or so when the school board rewarded all teachers with a $1 million raise across the board, not taking into account any merit, innovation, or awards, something that is allowed due to Act 10 (see below). The school board also presented the last two superintendents with hefty salary increases above each previous administrator: Erik Olsen was awarded a higher salary than Ted Neitzke before him, and Mr. Kirkegaard was given $20,000 more than Mr. Olsen. This is particularly disrespectful to taxpayers since the school board also voted to pay Mr. Olsen $300,000 so that he would resign from his position. Yes, he received $300,000 for not working for our schools and our children! In addition, usually when an employee moves to take a new position, their benefits include moving costs. Do you think that the school board will let us know how much they paid for Mr. Kirkegaard to move from South Dakota to southeastern Wisconsin? Let’s not forget that $360,000 was appropriated to re-pave the high schools’ tennis courts last summer, when the school board knew that they would be headed to a referendum. And the school board even spent $16,500 of tax money on a referendum survey designed to persuade taxpayers to vote “Yes” on this same referendum! So how conservative has our school board been, how careful have they been to “steward” the tax money provided by its hard-working residents?
Another candidate for the school board states “there is no reasonable alternative” if the referendum fails. (Daily News, March 9, 2019) She obviously wasn’t paying attention to the teachers protesting in our state capitol building when Act 10 was passed. Act 10 provides the tools for school districts to create savings without taxing their residents. The largest portion of a school district budget involves salaries and benefits. Prior to Act 10, teachers and other state employees paid no share of their health insurance premiums. Their health insurance was free. (I don’t have enough space to talk about their lack of pension contributions as well.) Act 10 gave districts the ability to negotiate with health insurers other than the WEA Trust (run by teachers), so that employees would pay at least some share of their health insurance, as is done in the private sector and even by federal employees. But West Bend has not availed itself of the hundreds of thousands of dollars it could save from using cost-effective insurers. Since Act 10, which dates to 2011, WBSD teachers are paying as little as 3% for their share of health premiums and taxpayers pick up the remaining 97%! Compare this 3% share with the state average of almost 12%. Most people who work in the private sector pay about 33% of the cost of their health insurance. (Boots & Sabers, July 25, 2018) The resulting savings could go towards operating, maintaining and improving all the schools in West Bend/Jackson. There would be no need to close schools, as yet another school board candidate has threatened, if the referendum fails. (Daily News, March 9, 2019) The school district could also wait for Gov. Evers’ promised $1.5 billion in state aid to schools. (Washington Post, Nov. 1, 2018)
By the way, don’t be fooled by another threat heard from these school candidates: that the safety of our students will be in question if the referendum fails. The WBSD has already received something like $350,000 for upgrading the security of our schools; this is a state grant and is separate from the money requested by the referendum for security upgrades at Jackson and the high schools.
Finally, Jackson student test scores consistently rank among the highest in the district, second only to McLane among elementary schools. Both Jackson and McLane are the oldest buildings in the district. Although the school board has plenty to say about the age of Jackson, it can’t list any educational needs that the school lacks. In general, some of the best test results come from older buildings and low-funded schools. The amount of money spent on education has no relationship with educational outcome. As mentioned, the largest portion of a district’s budget is spent on personnel. How does paying more for benefits such as expensive health insurance improve the education of our children? Why one district is “better” than another is not because of its fancy buildings or the amount of tax monies spent on a referendum. Spending a fortune on upgrading facilities means nothing when it comes to learning.
One last point: Jackson Elementary – students, faculty, and parents — recently raised about $10,000 to buy books for their library. The great success of this effort suggests that maybe WBSD should contract with the Jackson students to raise money to pay for the “needs” of their own school. Obviously, the high school tennis courts were more important to the school board than funding the Jackson library with new books or upgrading the school’s physical plant.
Let’s hold the line on out-of-control spending by this current school board. Do you want to be stuck holding the bill for 20 years of referendum payments? Vote “No” on Tues. April 2!
Sincerely, Carol Heger
Disclaimer: Opinions and letters published in washingtoncountyinsider.com are not necessarily the views of the Editor, or Publisher.
New traffic lights by Fleet Farm on Highway 33 and Shepherds Drive
Business owners on the west end of Highway 33 have received an update regarding plans to add turn lanes and a traffic signal at the intersection of STH 33 and Shepherds Drive. Details were released in a one-page letter along with photos outlining the plans, which also include median modifications and closure of a median.
Construction on the new 192,000-square-foot store began Nov. 12, 2018. Motorists can see development is well underway just south of Highway 33 and just east of CTH Z.
A portion of the letter to property owners reads: Dear Sir or Madam: I am writing this letter as a representative of R.A. Smith Inc., the civil engineering firm retained by Fleet Farm for the design of their new West Bend retail store site development plans and associated STH 33 road improvement plans.
Road construction is planned to commence March 2019, with an estimated duration lasting 8 months (until October 2019). The scope of general planned modifications consists of the addition of turn lanes into the Fleet Farm site, median closures and median modifications, utility installation, street lighting and road signing. Additionally, traffic signals are to be installed at the intersection of STH 33 and Shepherds Drive. Traffic control measures will be in place throughout the duration of the project, which will allow the state highway to remain open throughout construction. The new Fleet Farm is expected to open September 2019.
Articles about Honor Flight Veterans appreciated Tanya Burg
Thanks for all the healing you are helping to facilitate. So many of these veterans, especially the Vietnam ones, don’t even realize the healing they need.
Back in October I had a personal reflection regarding the Honor Flight experience. I still feel a stab in my heart thinking back to the morning of my Dad’s Honor Flight.
We stayed by his sister & brother-in-law and they were driving us in the dark morning hours to the airport. Dad and I were in the backseat and he looked over to me and asked quietly, “So all these people at the airport will know I was in Vietnam?”
I responded yes, since the Honor Flight color codes your jackets, the pale blue signifies Vietnam. He was very serious, which is not his demeanor typically, and after a short time thinking about it he looked back at me and said, “Just so you know, they are going to say really nasty things to me that you shouldn’t hear.”
He truly still thought that was going to be the experience and was trying to shield me from it. I just took his hand and said, “Not today, Dad, not this time.”
When we landed and got off to the first round of people smiling and reaching out to thank dad and shake his hand, he only made it a few people in and had to move away.
He turned back to me with tears in his eyes and fighting so hard to keep composure said, “No one has ever thanked me before.”
I’ve never been so humbled and ashamed.
Wittenberger Bus was generous upon asking and donated a bus to take Dad’s family (he is the youngest of 11) and friends from the Rubicon area to the Homecoming in Milwaukee, unbeknownst to him.
Toward the end of the incredible walk of celebration home at the end of a truly life changing day – from “hosing down of the plane honor” (I can’t remember the correct name for that), through the heartfelt silent salute from what had to be hundreds of kind eyes that shared my tears, to the boy scout gifting, the grand gala of a booming patriotic band, to the Marilyn Monroe greeting kiss, vets and loved ones flanking the isles … he saw his family waiting and waving for him toward the end.
Stars and stripes caught his expression as he realized the depth of who was there, through their amazing attention to every detail.
My dad was able to be welcomed home, 50 years later, in a way that was so deserved but wasn’t possible the first time – when one sister picked him up after officers’ spit on his shoes for that homecoming.
My Dad and I are very close. In my 43 years with him before that flight, I had heard things about his time in service perhaps a dozen times. Since the flight, in the past 5 months, he brings up a memory (good and bad) at least 3 out of the 5 times I see him in a week.
I recall in my lifetime seeing him cry maybe once. Now he tears up but to my gratitude. It is incredible the damn that has burst, the processing and healing that has taken its place.
I will FOREVER be grateful to the Honor Flight and have pledged to spread its amazingness and help fund future veteran flights.
Thank you for giving me another opportunity by thanking you and your role in thanking all the deserving veterans. Thank you for giving me another opportunity by thanking you and your role in thanking all the deserving veterans.
New store hours for Hankerson’s Country Oven Bakery in West Bend
Hankerson’s Country Oven Bakery, 2107 W. Washington St., in West Bend is updating its schedule. The family-owned bakery will now be closed Tuesdays until further notice.
Owner Ryan Hankerson said that one day will allow staff to attend to some of the normal behind-the-scenes business. The bakery and diner will be open on Tuesdays during the holidays to accommodate special orders and family gatherings.
Hankerson’s was sold to Ryan Hankerson in September 2018. Since then the hometown bakery also added Colectivo Coffee. Hankerson’s operates on a normal 5 a.m. – 3 p.m. schedule except Sunday which is 5:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Look whooooo is back nesting at the old Lithia Brewery
It was May of last year when Ric Koch found a Great Horned owl nesting in what looks like an old vent in the side of the old Lithia Brewery building on Franklin Street in West Bend.
Koch moved into Rivershores and was out on his bike when he spotted the trail of dung on the side of the building. Next, he saw the baby owl. While we were filming the mother, owl flew the coop. (what are the chances?)
Located below the nesting site is a rather graphic collection of last night’s dinner. Koch said owls will take in food and then yack up hair and bones and what not; a lot of that is in a small grassy area right under the nest. (you have been warned)
Calls were placed to Law Lawrann Conservancy to see if someone could identify the species and we were between a Great Horned Owl, a Burrowing Owl or even a Screech Owl. (no Saved By the Bell jokes please).
Chris Schmidt, who owns the brewery building, stopped to take a look. The conversation gravitated to what happens when the baby tries its first flight? The nest is about 25 feet off the ground and below is cement. Schmidt, who rents space in the building to the West Bend Dance and Tumbling Troupe, suggested he go inside and bring out a couple of tumbling mats to help cushion the fall.
Now the mother owl has returned and a passerby on Tuesday said he’s already seen a couple of white tufts, possibly owlets, in the nest. If you happen by and don’t see the mother owl, look in the surrounding trees by the Milwaukee River. That’s good hunting area for them.
City of West Bend selects 2018 Business of the Year
The City of West Bend presented an award for the 2018 Business of the Year this week to First Bank Financial Centre, 1811 W. Washington Street. Mayor Kraig Sadownikow praised First Bank for being “truly a hometown community bank.”
“The award is a wonderful recognition of the commitment of our employees,” said Jeff McCarthy, First Bank marketing director and vice president. “Our employees spend about 15,000 a year volunteering in local communities and at the West Bend branch alone in 2018 spent nearly 400 hours volunteering.
“A lot of banks offer savings accounts and checking accounts but for us it’s about charitable giving and volunteerism that really makes a difference. The awards are nice but that’s not why we do it, we do it to make lives better.” First Bank Financial Centre employs over 300 people and has branches in Hartford, West Bend and Germantown. Opened in 2002 and remodeled in 2017 the bank on W. Washington Street has nearly doubled the size of its branch on the west side of town.
Kettle Moraine YMCA’s Dynamite Gymnasts Place at YMCA State Meet By Kayla Teske
The 2019 YMCA State Gymnastics Meet “West Coast Dreams” was hosted by the La Crosse YMCA. The gymnastics competition was held at the Lacrosse Central High School in La Crosse, WI. The Dynamites’ team consisted of gymnasts in USAG Girls’ Levels 1-8, Xcel Gold, and Platinum.
YMCA gymnastics Event Champions:
Level 2 – 9-year-old – Floor Ex – Jordan Jashinsky (9.5), Ages 11 & up- Floor Ex – McKenzie Uniewski (9.3)
Level 3 – 10-year-old – Bars – Hope Konrath (9.2)
Level 4 – 11-year-old – Beam – Mallory Spaeth (9.35)
Level 6 – Ages 14 & up – Bars – Kayla Barker (8.9)
Ages 13 & under – Bars – Makayla Cibulka (9.0)
Ages 14 & up – Vault – Isabelle Thomas (9.225)
Gymnasts who placed 1, 2 or 3 in All Around:
Level 2 – 9-year-old – Jordan Jashinsky – 1st AA (36.65)
Level 6 – ages 13 & under – Makayla Cibulka – 1st AA (36.625)
ages 14 & up – Isabelle Thomas – 3rd AA (35.975)
All Ages – Sloane Freitag – 3rd AA (33.4)
Team State Champions: Level 6 with a team score of 108.8
The Dynamites will be competing in the 2019 YMCA Gymnastics National Championship in Wisconsin Dells, WI, June 19-23. The 2020 YMCA State Gymnastics Competition will be hosted by the Heart of the Valley YMCA.
Hartford Union High School down to two finalists for superintendent.
Ronald Russ and Jeffrey Walters are the two finalists for HUHS Superintendent position. Approximately 40 candidates applied for the position. Nine candidates were interviewed by the Board and four semi-finalists were selected for second-round interviews. A record check shows Walters signed the Walker Recall and Russ did not. Hartford Union High School District (HUHS) Superintendent, Attila J. Weninger, Ph.D., will retire his position effective June 30, 2019.
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of American Legion Lt. Ray Dickop Post 36
A special evening Saturday night, March 16 as members of the American Legion Lt. Ray Dickop Post 36 gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the post. Commander Bart Williams oversaw the ceremony which paid tribute to veterans past and present and recognized the history of Lt. Ray Dickop. West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow was the keynote speaker.
“Leading, motivating and inspiring” were words Sadownikow focused on as he jumped into a short speech about veterans, the Tea Party, and the meaning behind the Don’t Tread on Me flag.
“The flag is actually called the Gadsen flag and named after General Christopher Gadsen of the Continental Marines during the Revolutionary War,” said Sadownikow.
The snake featured on the flag is described as “magnanimous.”
“It means to be gracious and noble in victory or defeat,” he said. “That is our service men and women, that is our Armed Services and that is the United States of America. That is all of you, gracious and noble in victory defeat.” Quoting Ben Franklin, Sadownikow said the snake in the Gadsen flag followed three rules to live by, “Never, always, never.”
“Never looking for trouble, always giving warning and if a snake is tread on it never surrenders,” said Sadownikow. “It will fight to the death to protect its home, family, itself and presumable its snake friends. I’m looking right now at a bunch of red blooded, American rattlesnakes.”
Also recognized during the ceremony were two of the oldest veterans in the room. Joe Zadra, 96, who served in the U.S. Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge and Allan Kieckhafer, 95, who joined the Navy when he was 18 and fought at Iwo Jima, Saipan, Guam and Okinawa.
Wrapping up the ceremony Williams and Sadownikow unveiled a plaque that would be a tribute to Lt. Ray Dickop. Below are details from the write up.
Ray C. Dickop was born on May 30, 1891, in Beloit, WI. His mother, Ada (1872-1913), and his father, John (1861-1904), predeceased him. Census records show Ray Dickop lived with his mother at 7 Maple Ave, South Beloit, IL in 1912. Old maps show the location of his home at 7 Maple St. Maple was renamed to Dickop Street after his death to commemorate this great national hero of World War I. He also had a paternal aunt, Hilda Schiller, and cousin, Lena Schiller, who lived in West Bend, WI.
Dickop was 2nd Lieutenant in Company L, 1ST Wis. Infantry, Wisconsin National Guard, at Beloit, WI, when mobilized July 15, 1917. He was assigned to Co. L when the U.S. Army’s 127th Infantry was organized and rode to France aboard USS George Washington. He was promoted to First Lieutenant (Infantry), U.S. Army Company L, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division, American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.). Lt. Dickop was killed in action (KIA) while serving with Company L, 127th Infantry Regiment in France during WWI. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism.
Updates & tidbits
– The Washington County Sheriff’s Office released the names of the deceased operators from the March 17, accident on County Highway NN. John David Johnson, 52, from Town of Barton and Michael George Roeber, 51, from West Bend. The Sheriff’s Office continues its investigation.
– In-person absentee voting for neighbors in the City of West Bend ends Friday, March 29, 2019. Voting at the City Clerk’s office is from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Remember to bring a valid I.D.
– Cedar Community recently announced renovation plans for its Top of the Ridge Restaurant on the Cedar Ridge Campus. American Construction Services, in partnership with American Architectural Group and Studio Lux design firm, will manage renovations at the restaurant. Renovations begin March 27, 2019 with completion by the middle of June. Renovation includes new walls, carpet, furniture, the addition of a bar, and lounge area in the restaurant lobby.
– Tickets go on sale April 21 for the 32nd annual Washington County Breakfast on the Farm. It will be held June 21 at Highland Dairy, LLC this year in Kewaskum. Mike, Linda and Corey Enright are set to roll out the red carpet and invite guests to tour the robotic farm, compete in pedal tractor pull, listen to live music and share in some eggs, ham, pancakes and applesauce.
– Adam Kirchhoff, a resident of West Bend and an RN on the Medical/Surgical Unit, has been recognized with Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin St. Joseph’s Hospital’s second quarter DAISY Award for his support and politeness.
-There will be a public information meeting for improvements to North Wacker Drive in the City of Hartford on Thursday, April 11, 2019. The meeting will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hartford City Hall, in Scherger Hall Community Room (Room 101), 109 N. Main Street. The City of Hartford is proposing to replace the bridge carrying North Wacker Drive over the Rubicon River. The project is located approximately 0.2 miles north of the junction with WIS 60. The project is currently scheduled for 2020. The roadway will be closed during construction.
– Common Sense Citizens of Washington County will meet Thursday, March 28 at the West Bend Moose Lodge at 7 p.m. Any person running for office in Washington County on the April 2 ballot is invited to introduce themselves. There may be time for questions from the audience depending on the number of candidates present. The meeting is open to the public.
– Get your tickets today for the Saturday, April 13 Brunch with the Easter Bunny brought to you by the West Bend Kiwanis. The event is from 7 a.m. – 11 a.m. at The Columbian, 3245 Lighthouse Lane in West Bend.
-The 2019 ArtWalk Sneak Peek Party at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Get an up-close look at the 2019 hand painted banners by local artists before they are displayed on light poles in downtown West Bend. Admission to the event and galleries is free.
Vietnam veteran Gary Thetford of West Bend on April Honor Flight By Samantha Sali
Vietnam War veteran Gary Thetford, 71, of West Bend is heading to Washington D.C. on the April 6 Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. Born in 1947 in Toledo, Ohio, Thetford was drafted into the Army in 1968. “I remember the day, the first time I heard Otis Redding, ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’,” he said.
Thetford completed Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and was then stationed in Fort Belvoir, Virginia to be trained as a printing press operator. “When I first went in after being drafted, chances were I’d be in infantry, so I took an extra year so I could pick my duty,” said Thetford. “I chose to be a printing press operator because I figured I wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam.”
After three months at Fort Belvoir, Thetford was sent to Vietnam, assigned to a topographical unit attached to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. “I was a part of one of the field teams they sent, stationed on the Central Highlands,” said Thetford. “I traveled around the area, going to villages, showing movies, throwing leaflets out of helicopters or airplanes. We would go in with loudspeakers before some of the troops would make an assault on a village, to give the people a chance to surrender.”
Thetford’s service in the military ended on Christmas Eve in 1971, ranked as an E5. “One week after I left, the compound I was assigned to was overrun and I never got anything back,” Thetford said. “I had left all my gear behind to be shipped home. I don’t have any pictures or anything like that from serving.”
After his service, Thetford worked for the 7Up Bottling Company, until taking a job at a chemical company. He was eventually transferred to West Bend as a regional sales manager, over 35 years ago. Thetford shared while he’s never seen the current memorials and monuments, he has been to Washington D.C., while stationed at Fort Belvoir in 1969. “That was back when they had thousands of protesters on the memorial grounds. They sent us in there to do some guard duty,” he said.
Going on the Honor Flight and seeing the memorials is something Thetford is looking forward to but shared his concerns about his PTSD. “At first, I wasn’t going to go on the Honor Flight because I’ve had some bad experiences with some of the things that happened in Vietnam,” he said. “When they had the traveling wall war memorial in Germantown last year, I had a really bad experience with recalling things. When my wife put me in for the Honor Flight, I told her I’m glad she did but I really don’t want to go. Now that I’ve been going to the VA to get help, they thought it would be good to go.”
Veteran Norvin Lehman of Slinger on April Honor Flight By Samantha Sali
Korean War veteran Norvin Lehman, 81, of Slinger, is heading to Washington D.C. on the April 6 Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. Born in 1937 in Washington County, Lehman attended two years of high school in Slinger before eventually volunteering to enlist in the Army in 1955 when he was 18 years old.
“My basic training was at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and after that I went to Quartermaster School in Fort Lee Virginia,” Lehman said. After 10 weeks of training, Lehman was sent to France where he drove truck. “It was exciting over there, all the places I’ve seen. I’ve gone from the English Channel down to Spain, just driving trucks,” said Lehman. “I drove all over those European countries and it was rough at times, but there wasn’t too much I could complain about. I’m grateful for the experiences.”
Lehman’s service in the Army ended in September of 1956, retiring as a Private First Class. “After a while, I worked for the Wacker Corporation and drove semi for them for a while until I officially retired in 1990s”
Lehman remembered coming home to nobody but his sister waiting to drive him home. Lehman retired because he had a heart transplant a few months later, “My heart wasn’t pumping,” said Lehman. “It was only working at three percent.”
Lehman shared that his family is happy he can go on the Honor Flight. “It’s something they had been hoping would happen,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the buildings and monuments, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen it. A long time ago, I was there during a bowling trip.”
Lehman’s son, Steven, will be his guardian on the flight. Lehman also has two daughters and met his wife over 59 years ago. “She was milking cows when I met her,” he said. “I just popped right in to talk to her and that was history.” Before the interview ended, Lehman wanted to impart some marital advice to the younger generation. “You gotta take the good with the bad,” he said. “Not everything is peaches and cream. Don’t toss it when it’s broken.”
On a side note: During a sentimental moment Lehman went from talking about the service, to buying his first car to the love of his life Eileen. Throughout the afternoon, Lehman teared up. He’s currently going through treatment at the VA and he was truly gracious for the opportunity to go on the Honor Flight and to have spent his life with someone who has stood by his side in good times and bad.
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