Retired Col. Judy Tracy featured during Rock Prairie Presbyterian Church patriotic concert
WHITEWATER—When Col. Judy Tracy talks about folding a U.S. flag, she speaks from the heart.
Tracy served 29 years with the U.S. Army, including 10 months in Afghanistan as the chief nurse at a combat-support hospital.
She worked hard to mend trauma patients in her 32-bed facility north of Kabul from 2003 to 2004.
She witnessed how men and women put their lives on the line every day.
So don't be surprised if Tracy pauses when she talks about veterans who died in defense of their country.
The Whitewater woman will explain the traditional meaning of each bend in a folded flag during the eighth annual patriotic concert at Rock Prairie Presbyterian Church. One of the folds symbolizes deceased vets.
The free event spotlights the U.S. flag and includes music about the flag, food and friendship.
The church choir and friends will present concerts Tuesday, July 1, and Wednesday, July 2.
Last year, almost 1,200 people attended the community gatherings, which kindle the patriotic spirit ahead of the Fourth of July. Pie and Culvers custard will be served after the concert.
In addition, a freewill offering will raise money for Rock County veterans with emergency needs. People gave more than $4,800 last year.
Rock County Veterans Service Officer John Solis said a one-time cash donation of $300 helps vets with gas, groceries and rent when they run short.
“Rock Prairie is very generous with its donations,” he said. “Every penny goes to help veterans.”
Tracy called the event a chance to hear inspirational music. She said more people attend each year because they want a chance to celebrate what it means to be an American.
“Many bad things are happening around the world,” she said. “We need these concerts. They remind us where we came from.”
For many years, Tracy worked as a nurse at Janesville's Riverview Clinic. She entered the Army Nursing Corps after graduating from nursing school in 1967 and served four years.
Tracy joined the Army Reserves in 1985.
During Desert Storm, she served with the 44th General Hospital of Madison in Germany, where she cared for wounded troops.
Later, she served in Afghanistan with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital of Milwaukee. A month after she came home, her son-in-law died in Afghanistan while on his second tour with the U.S. Army.
Most recently, Tracy served as a case manager in the wounded warrior unit of San Diego's Navy Medical Center.
“Many people had head injuries and amputations,” she explained. “The military was making sure these folks got all the services they needed.”
Tracy is now retired.
She keeps one flag close. The flag that draped over her father's coffin hangs folded in a case above her fireplace.
Memories of her father's service during World War II are bended in each crease. The flag also reminds her of an uncle who served in the Pacific and another who died in Italy during the war.
“It is an honor to have that flag draped over your casket,” she said. “It is a treasure when presented to the families who are left behind.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email email@example.com.