John Gorski kept his emotions in check during most of the recent Badger Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
But when the Vietnam vet arrived back at the Dane County Airport late on Nov. 3 to a cheering crowd, he no longer could hold back the tears.
“I couldn’t control my emotions when I saw how many people showed up,” he said. “I couldn’t believe all these people who didn’t even know me came to welcome me home.”
The crowd included children and extended from the escalators to the baggage claim.
“It was really heartwarming and renewed my faith in America,” Gorski said. “I was crying all the time.”
Like so many Vietnam vets, Gorski of Janesville never got a welcome home when he returned from Vietnam.
Instead, he had been warned not to wear his uniform because people who opposed the war might stone or spit on him.
“Veterans are finally getting the respect they deserve because people are finally realizing what we went through,” Gorski said.
Ninety Vietnam veterans were aboard the flight, which included 26 Vietnam vets from Rock County.
The Badger Honor Flight flies veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam to Washington, D.C., free of charge for one day to see the memorials erected in their honor.
Funding comes primarily from individuals, fraternal groups and corporations. As of June, almost 1,100 vets were on a waiting list to go on the trip.
Gorski debated whether to go because he has post-traumatic stress disorder and uses a wheelchair and oxygen.
“It took a lot of me to even do it, but I’m glad I did,” he said. “A nurse shadowed me every step of the way to make sure I could breathe. If you are disabled, these people make sure you can get around.”
Gorski’s son David accompanied him.
Gorski served in the Army as a crew chief on Huey helicopters in 1970 and 1971. When the helicopter flew, he manned an M-16 machine gun on the left side of the chopper. When the helicopter was not flying, Gorski was a mechanic who kept the chopper running.
He lost three comrades in Vietnam.
“My brothers warned me not to get too close to anyone because they might not be there later,” Gorski said.
Veteran Tom Moore of Milton also took the Nov. 3 flight.
Like Gorski, he appreciated seeing Washington’s memorials, including the Wall, being escorted from place to place by police cars and being greeted by enthusiastic crowds.
“I had no idea what the trip was going to be like,” Moore said. “I was just going through the motions until I saw all the people at the gate in Washington, D.C., to welcome us. That is when it hit me this was going to be something special.”
Everywhere he and the other veterans went, people smiled and thanked them for their service.
His son, Jacob, accompanied him.
“I was happy he got some of his questions answered,” Moore said.
Moore visited the Wall when the memorial to those who died in Vietnam was dedicated and again 25 years later.
His Honor Flight visit was just as meaningful.
“I took in the moment and thought about surviving and coming home,” Moore said.
He sought out the name of a Janesville man and former classmate who did not survive the war.
Moore served with an Army medical detachment whose primary focus was to care for military dogs.
When he returned home, the first thing he did was take off his uniform.
Then he got on with life.
“I never talked about it,” Moore said. “I taught for 40 years in the Janesville School District, and most of my colleagues did not know I had served in Vietnam. I put it all in the back of my head.”
The trip gave him a chance to be with others who understand.
When Moore arrived home late Nov. 3, he found at least two dozen people who came to see him personally.
“It was just the opposite of what I got when I actually did come home,” he said.
His wife, Dianne, proudly held up a “Welcome Home” sign.
“I held it not only for him,” she explained, “but for all the veterans.”
Moore said he is still processing the trip.
“It will take a while to figure it out,” he said.
At one point, he found himself weeping during the homecoming.
“I was crying,” Moore said, “but it wasn’t an emotion of sadness. I felt good about it.”
Veteran Pat Riley of Janesville remembers all too well his homecoming in 1969.
“We landed in San Francisco,” he said. “A girl asked me if I was just home from Vietnam. When I said ‘yes,’ she spit in my face and called me a baby killer. I was shocked that someone would think that of me.”
Later, when Riley enrolled at a university, a teacher called him the same name. The young Marine left school, grew his hair long and didn’t talk about being in the service for 20 years.
Honor Flight helped heal a longtime wound.
“For me personally, it was the welcome home that Vietnam vets never got,” Riley said.
He was impressed with the number of people who saw him off from the Dane County Airport early on a Saturday morning.
Veterans had to arrive by 4:30 a.m.
“It was very heartwarming that all these people got up at an ungodly hour of the morning to see us off,” Riley said.
In Washington, D.C., he visited the Vietnam Memorial for the fourth time.
“It has an impact on me every time,” Riley said. “I look for the names of a couple of my classmates, a cousin and a bunch of guys I was in Vietnam with when they died.”
He retreats into his own world at the Wall to pay his respects.
“I tell each one of them that I miss them,” Riley said. “And I wonder if we would still be friends today if they were still here.”
For him, the highlights of the trip were all the people who greeted him when the plane landed in Washington, D.C., and all the people who welcomed him back when the plane returned to Madison.
“The Madison airport was just jam-packed,” Riley said. “My kids were there. I didn’t expect that. So were a lot of people from Janesville who came to see me.”
The excitement reminded him of the atmosphere in old newsreels at the end of World War II, when people partied in the street at Times Square.
“There were so many people taking my hand and hugging me,” Riley said.
Almost 50 years after returning from war, he said the homecoming is not too late.
“It still matters,” Riley said. “It was just so nice. When I got to the end of the line, the tears were just coming down my face. I don’t think I will forget this for a long time.”
Austin Temple is at the cabin up north that his grandfather built, sitting in front of a fire.
He can smell the smoke from the logs in the fireplace that he and his father built.
He feels the fire’s warmth. He looks out the window and sees snow falling.
His 2-year-old son is in his lap. He’s reading to him.
Temple hopes someday he can be in this happy place.
In the meantime, he uses this visualization when he needs a timeout from the stresses of being an inmate at the Rock County Jail.
“So far it’s been working for me, and it’s something I want to improve on and use when I get out,” he said.
The visualization technique is something he learned in anger management classes at the jail.
Judges often order anger management training when they sentence offenders. If the judges don’t, probation agents often require it for their clients.
Tens of thousands of inmates and offenders under supervision of probation and parole agents—55 percent of them statewide this year—have been identified as needing anger management, state officials said.
Temple isn’t being treated by the state, but rather a local program, the jail’s Rock County Education and Criminal Addiction Program, known as RECAP. But he has been through state rehabilitation programs.
Temple has spent most of his adult life behind bars, but he never got assigned to anger management. He thinks of himself as easy-going, and he has no history of violence since a fight in ninth grade.
But in RECAP, everybody takes anger management. Temple’s eyes light up just at the mention of it. He has never been in a program that has meant so much to him.
The once-a-week, 12-week program, taught by sheriff’s office Sgt. Jay Williams, teaches that people often use incorrect thinking that leads to anger.
“Some say, ‘Oh, yeah, I have been angry all my life,’” Williams said of his students.
The program encourages inmates to seek the roots of their anger, such as humiliation and rejection, and the excuses they tell themselves while avoiding the real problem.
Blaming others is a common problem.
“I was blaming, basically, everybody but myself,” Temple said.
The inmates also learn tools, such as taking a time-out to relax and breathe deeply. They learn to think of something positive. Like that cabin in the woods.
Temple found out that he expressed anger differently from the classic outbursts. He didn’t confront people directly. He was passive-aggressive.
“One thing I learned is, at the end of the day, regardless of how you express your anger, you just want to be heard,” he said.
And that was helpful in understanding other people’s anger.
He and his son’s mother have not gotten along for years. Now, he understands they both wield anger against each other.
“I’m blaming her. She’s blaming me, and there’s never open communication between us,” he said.
Williams’ course requires the inmates to keep diaries about how they deal with anger. They role-play some of those situations and practice alternatives to blowing their tops.
Practicing ways to deal with those situations has given him confidence he can apply what he has learned, but he knows it will be difficult getting his son’s mother to believe he is sincere—she has seen him enthusiastic about changing his life before, only to fail.
Still, he is hopeful.
Temple has one success under his belt. It started with a fellow inmate who didn’t like him. The other man saw Temple as being privileged and not understanding life on the streets.
“He felt I thought I was better than him,” Temple said.
That led to an in-your-face confrontation that stopped just short of violence.
Williams was going to kick the other man out of the program, but Temple asked for a chance to work things out, using the anger-management skills both had been taught.
Williams put them in a small room at the jail. They talked for about 20 minutes and realized they had things in common, Temple said.
Their relationship turned positive, Temple said. They even used their conflict as an example in anger-management class.
“I felt so much better. It was like a weight lifted off my chest,” he said. “It gave me hope I could do the same thing with my child’s mother.”
The other man successfully graduated from RECAP. Temple plans to do the same Dec. 12.
Temple is in jail for violating his extended supervision. Addiction to heroin and its medicinal cousins got him into prison, and backsliding into opioid use got him sent back to jail.
The 30-year-old started with marijuana at a young age, he said, and that led to more serious drug abuse.
His parents sent him to a rehabilitation program in Montana. He fled and hitchhiked back to Wisconsin.
His most serious crime came in 2007. He was charged with first-degree reckless homicide for supplying cocaine and heroin that killed an 18-year-old friend. He was sentenced in 2008 to four years in prison.
He has tried to kick the addiction over the years, and he has won that battle a few times, only to slide back into using.
He spent a year in solitary confinement in prison after being caught in prison with drugs. The experience left him with anxiety and vivid nightmares.
Therapy helped him admit he has mental-health problems.
Trying to make it in the outside world has been tough. He learned welding in prison, and several times he was told he was a good candidate for a job, only to be turned down at the last minute when higher-ups took a look at his criminal record and said “no.”
He had a good job for a while, but the income led to losing BadgerCare, so he lost the counseling and Suboxone treatments he was getting.
That led him to buying Suboxone on the street.
And that led him back behind bars.
He was honest with his probation officer about the illicit drug use, he said, and the probation officer put him in jail. But instead of going back to prison, he was placed in RECAP as an alternative sanction. He has been there since July.
In state anger programs, the focus is on thinking that drives aggressive behavior and creates victims, said Autumn Lacy, assistant administrator for the Division of Community Corrections.
The goal is to restructure thinking to change behavior, she said.
Inmates learn things such as how to ask for help and appropriate ways of making a complaint, Lacy said.
“We have them practice in a group setting so we can see how skillful they are. Then we ask them to go back to their lives—the community or their units in prison—and practice with people around them,” Lacy said.
Probation and parole agents know the drill and try to reinforce the skills when they meet with offenders, Lacy said.
People who believe in this approach can change themselves, Lacy said, but not everyone does.
It’s hard to tell if everyone in the prison system who needs anger management gets it.
“We do a lot of triaging,” said corrections spokesman Tristan Cook, adding that offenders are assigned to programming based on their greatest needs and risks.
“It’s tough to say on an overall level that we have enough or don’t have enough,” he added. “I think we do a very successful job.”
Tracy Douglas, a licensed professional counselor at Associates in Psychotherapy in Janesville, doesn’t work with criminal offenders, but she often sees problems with anger in her practice.
There is always a valid reason for being angry, she said, but the question is what to do with that feeling.
“Especially with men, in our society today, we have not allowed men the emotional range that is full and healthy for them,” Douglas said.
Anger is a socially acceptable way for men to express emotions, Douglas said, but often anger masks the real emotion, such as fear or sadness.
Other times, anger is the primary emotion, usually outrage at something done to a person or that the person did to himself.
“It can really ruin marriages. It can ruin families. It can erupt in violence and aggression,” Douglas said.
People often feel shame over their anger, “but it’s important not to beat yourself up over it and drive yourself further down,” Douglas said.
Be compassionate with yourself, she said, as you work toward improvement.
Robert E. “Bob” Arnold
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When Gov. Scott Walker leaves office in January, he faces being out of work and off the government payroll for the first time in more than a quarter-century.
He hasn’t said yet what he plans to do next, but at 51, there’s plenty of time for Walker to mount a political comeback. Or, as he hinted on the campaign trail, he could go in a completely different direction and join the ministry like his father did.
“The poor guy, he’s got to consider all options,” said former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who campaigned for Walker. “But first he has to get over the pain of losing. That’s a hell of a lot of pain.”
Walker has been in elected office since 1993 when he was 25. Other than a brief stint working for the American Red Cross after he dropped out of college in 1990, Walker’s job has been politics. After nine years in the state Assembly, he spent eight years as Milwaukee County executive followed by eight more as governor.
His life has been focused on climbing the political ladder, and he wanted to go even higher. In 2015, Walker ran for president but dropped out that September. He rededicated himself to winning a third term as governor but lost narrowly to Democrat Tony Evers, who painted Walker as a career politician who cares more about himself than the people of the state.
Walker is not wealthy. Based on his most recent statement of economic interests, he has two retirement accounts each worth less than $50,000.
He has three other funds valued between $15,000 and $150,000, total.
He’s carrying more than $100,000 in student loan debt and credit card debt between $15,000 and $150,000.
When he was first elected governor in 2010, Walker kept living in his Wauwatosa home. But in 2016, he sold it and moved into the governor’s residence, where he will live until his term ends on Jan. 7.
Other former governors—most much older than Walker when they left—offer some clues about what he could do.
Thompson, 59 at the time, left midterm in 2001 to join then-President George W. Bush’s administration as health secretary. After leaving that job in 2005, he made millions working as a health care consultant and lobbyist in Washington and sitting on corporate boards before an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2012. Conversely, Democrat Jim Doyle mostly retired after leaving the governor’s office in 2011 at age 65 and largely dropped out of the public eye.
There are lots of options for Walker. He could join a television network as an analyst, make the rounds on the national speaking circuit, become a lobbyist or work behind the scenes for conservative groups or think tanks.
He has friends in all of those worlds but has never shown much interest in any of them.
Thompson said he expected President Donald Trump’s administration would be interested in having Walker join in some capacity. Walker insisted after Trump’s win that he didn’t want to join his Cabinet or turn to lobbying to capitalize on his close relationship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is also leaving office.
Walker could run for Senate in 2022. That’s when Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s seat is up, and Johnson has said he doesn’t plan to run again.
But Walker has never expressed interest.
Stephan Thompson, a close friend of Walker’s who ran his successful 2014 re-election campaign, said he anticipates Walker will be in demand to offer political and policy advice, both in Wisconsin and around the country.
“He has a tremendous following around the country,” Thompson said. “He’s been successful because of his communication skills in advocating for conservative reforms.”
Since his defeat, Walker has kept to himself. What he has said, including a statement Wednesday conceding to Evers, has come through Twitter. Several of his messages, from Election Day and afterward, have been deeply religious.
One Bible verse Walker tweeted said, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Walker’s father, Llew Walker, was a Baptist minister. He died in October, a month before Election Day.
Not surprisingly, Scott Walker didn’t say much publicly during the campaign about what he would do should he lose. When asked about it by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker told a story about his dad—a week before he died.
“A long, long time ago, when I was a kid and I’d fill in for my dad once in a while, some of his church members ... were surprised I didn’t go into the ministry,” Walker said.
“So who knows, maybe I’ll see what God’s calling is. I don’t know that it would be that specifically but maybe there’s some calling related to that, some sort of ministry.”