Janesville32°

Women plan big occasion to thank departing Guard troops

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 1, 2009
— It was going to be a simple ceremony for the approximately 130 members of a Janesville-based Wisconsin Army National Guard unit. The unit soon will leave this country and head into harm’s way.

One of the unit’s members mentioned it recently while chatting with Tina Russell at Russ’s Park Place Pub.


And that’s why it’s no longer a simple ceremony.


“Oh my gosh. I have do something for these guys to show we appreciate all they are doing for us,” thought Russell, who owns the pub with her husband, Jeff.


Russell called a partner from previous charitable efforts, Lucy Anderson. Anderson is marketing manager at Kutter Harley-Davidson/Buell.


“I said, ‘Lucy, we have to do something,’ and she said ‘OK, let’s do it.’”


They offered to put together a ceremony. Company A quickly agreed.


The result is a meal, speakers and a public ceremony at Janesville Craig High School next Friday.


Not only that, but Guard members and families are invited during the day to free ice skating at the Janesville Ice Arena, bowling at the El-Ra and River’s Edge bowling alleys, and basketball and swimming at the Janesville YMCA.


Not only that, but the members and their spouses are invited for drinks at Park Place afterward.


Anderson has energetically organized these details, among many others. Her dedication to service members matches Russell’s.


“I had uncles and brothers who were in the armed forces and have always felt that many of us do not take the time to acknowledge and thank our veterans,” Anderson said. “It may be on our minds, but the physical ‘thank you’ doesn’t happen.”


Russell doesn’t know of any of her family that ever served in the military, but she says we’re all in debt to the soldiers and the families who wait for them.


“It makes my heart hurt to think that they have to be separated like that,” Russell said.


Russell is donating food for the approximately 500 Guard members and their families on Friday. The meal is for the families only. The public is invited to join later for the formal ceremony.


Local businesses and organizations are pitching in to make the occasion special.


“I’m very excited. It’s going to be a great night,” Russell said.


“It’s the least I can do for them,” Russell said. “It’s like: ‘Thank you guys, my heart’s with you, God bless.’


“What else can you say and do?”


IF YOU GO


What: Sendoff event for members of the Janesville-based Company A of the 132nd Support Battalion. Speakers include Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt and World War II veteran Bruce Terland Sr. Music and a video presentation also are planned. Prayers by the Rev. Cathy J. Price, DAV Chapter 39, will open and close the ceremony.


Where: Janesville Craig High School, 401 S. Randall Ave., Janesville.


When: Guard members, families and invited guests only will dine at 5:15 p.m. Friday. The public is invited to begin arriving at 6:15 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. ceremony.


Background: Company A is a small part of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which sometime around late February is headed to two months of training in Texas before an expected 10-month deployment to Iraq.


The brigade has 3,000-plus members. Of those, 67 have Rock County home addresses, and 79 are from Walworth County, said Maj. Jackie Guthrie, Wisconsin National Guard deputy director of public affairs. Company A has a detachment based in Elkhorn. It has more than 130 members. 15 live in Rock County, and 10 are from Walworth County.



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