The Wisconsin History Tour at the Weber Center for the Performing Arts in La Crosse will include special “Salute to Veteran History” events Tuesday.
Those who view the traveling exhibit of local and state history at the center this month also will be able to watch documentaries about Wisconsin veterans in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as a concert of Civil War music performed by the 1st Brigade Band.
The fact that Veterans Day is Tuesday made the tribute to veterans a natural addition to the free tour, said coordinator Mary Jane Connor of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The documentary about Wisconsinites’ Vietnam service includes Logistics Health Inc. founder and CEO Don Weber, making it even more appropriate, Connor said.
“What a great coincidence,” she said.
Weber, who will introduce the film at its 3 p.m. showing in the center’s Veterans Theater, described the salute as “a tremendous event because it helps us remember the service and sacrifice of past generations, those who served in the Civil War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and more — while at the same time allowing us to honor our military who are still serving.”
Weber, who joined the Marines at the age of 18, shortly after graduating from high school, said, “It was a decision that shaped my life in so many ways. I was a simple farm kid, but I had no direction, and the Marine Corps changed that. The Marine Corps made me a man — someone with goals and perseverance.
“Six months after enlisting on April 6, 1967, I found myself on the DMZ in Vietnam. They called it the ‘Dead Marine Zone,’ because you were either wounded or killed — it was 100 percent.
“One night we were overrun. I don’t know why I survived — so many others didn’t. Those were tough times. Remembering is still tough, even today,” Weber said.
Being featured in the documentary “was both humbling and healing for me,” he said. “It can be really hard to open up about war experiences, and the day of my documentary interview was really the first time I talked about many of my experiences in Vietnam. And I do think it helped me.
“There are still things I’m working through, things I’m not ready to talk about, but it is an honor to be included with so many others who served in Vietnam and are willing to share their stories with the public through this documentary,” Weber said.
War experiences helped form LHI’s dedication to serving the military and veterans, he said, adding, “To me, it’s our civic responsibility. It means supporting our military and veterans as employers, so that when they are called up for active duty, they don’t have to worry about the financial burden or whether their families will be taken care of back home.
“It means hiring our heroes — taking a hard look at the skills they learn while in the service, and realizing how easily that translates to the business world,” he said. “It means providing support for service members who return from battle, ensuring they get the care they need.
“And it means taking care of our aging veterans: their health, their safety, their well-being. In truth, for the people who have made our very way of life possible, it is the least we can do to thank them,” he said.
Activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday will include the traveling exhibit, as well as the Wisconsin Veteran Museum’s World War I Traveling Trunk Display and the opportunity to search veteran benefits and records.
Also on the schedule of events, which are, free and open to the public:
- 10:45 a.m. — Documentary on Wisconsinites’ World War II stories.
- Noon — “History Sandwiched In,” when attendees are invited to bring a lunch and listen to a presentation by Joseph Streeter, a former Wisconsin Army National Guard staff sergeant and co-author of “Private Soldiers: A Year in Iraq with a Wisconsin National Guard Unit.” A book-signing will follow.
- 1 p.m. — Documentary on Wisconsin Korean War stories.
- 3 p.m. — Wisconsin Vietnam War stories documentary.
- 4:30 p.m. — Documentary titled “The U.S. Wisconsin: The Last Battleship.”
- 7:30 p.m. — John A. Scocos, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, will outline the history of Wisconsin residents in the U.S. armed forces. The 1st Brigade Band, dressed in period costumes, will present a concert of Civil War music on antique instruments.
The concert will include Union and Confederate pieces and readings from soldiers’ letters.
The overall tour, which began in Wausau in June and continues at the Weber Center through Nov. 26, is a traveling exhibit of state and local history.
“The Wisconsin Historical Society is taking its best and brightest on the road. It’s really about sharing all of the history and reminders of our past,” Connor said.
“We’ve met a lot of people we expected to meet — those interested in history,” she said. “We’ve also seen lighthouse aficionados and people interested in shipwrecks.”
A special event in conjunction with the La Crosse tour will be a cooking workshop titled “Breakfast in a Victorian Kitchen,” to be presented by Susan Caya-Slusser, site coordinator for Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien.
During the workshop, from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Caya-Slusser will give adults hands-on lessons to prepare a Victorian breakfast with the foods, utensils and technology of the era.