AMVETS in Action

Category: Press Release

Suicide Prevention Month: #BeThere

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of Public Affairs/Media Relations
Washington, DC 20420
Phone: (202) 461-7600
www.va.gov

VA Highlights Initiatives to Prevent Veteran and Servicemember Suicide

WASHINGTON – Today marks the start of Suicide Prevention Month and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is asking for the entire nation’s help in reducing Veteran suicide. VA is calling on community leaders, supervisors, colleagues, friends, and family members to BeThere for Veterans and Service members starting with a simple act, which can play a pivotal role in preventing suicide.

“You don’t have to be a trained professional to support someone who may be going through a difficult time,” said Dr. Caitlin Thompson, Director of the VA Office of Suicide Prevention. “We want to let people know that things they do every day, like calling an old friend or checking in with a neighbor, are strong preventive factors for suicide because they help people feel less alone. That’s what this campaign is about – encouraging people to be there for each other.”

The campaign also highlights VA resources that are available to support Veterans and Servicemembers who are coping with mental health challenges or are at risk for suicide, and it encourages everyone to share these resources with someone in their life.

“We hope our Suicide Prevention Month efforts help educate people about the VA and community resources available nationwide,” said VA Under Secretary for Health David J. Shulkin, M.D. “We’re committed to working with experts and organizations across the country to identify ways we can help Veterans and Servicemembers get the care they deserve and to expand the network of mental health support.”

Veteran suicide data released by the VA Office of Suicide Prevention in early August 2016 serves as a foundation for informing and evaluating suicide prevention efforts inside the VA health care system and for developing lifesaving collaborations with community-based health care partners.

VA plans to host a series of roundtable discussions with key stakeholder groups in the coming months as part of its plan to develop a public health strategy for preventing Veteran suicide. In August, VA hosted its first roundtable discussion, “Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business,” with corporate sector partners. In September, VA will host the Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Innovations event, which will bring together a community of experts from business, industry, academia, and government agencies to collaboratively identify solutions for reducing suicide rates among Veterans and Servicemembers. In addition, new programs such as REACH VET are being launched nationwide in September to identify Veterans in VHA care who may be vulnerable, in order to provide the care they need before a crisis occurs.

For more information about VA’s suicide prevention efforts:

Army Cpl. Curtis J. Wells of Korean War Accounted For

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 1, 2016

Contact:
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (Public Affairs)
Washington, DC 20301-2300
Phone: (703) 699-1420
Fax: (703) 602-4375

Fulfilling Our Nation’s Promise
Soldier Missing From Korean War Accounted For

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Cpl. Curtis J. Wells, 19, of Ubly, Michigan, will be buried Sept. 10 in Harbor Beach, Michigan. In late November 1950, while Wells was assigned to Company C, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, his company joined with Task Force (TF) Wilson to fight the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) in the vicinity of Unsan, North Korea. The TF was overwhelmed by a large force of CPVF soldiers, and by Nov. 27, 1950, they began to extricate themselves south and Company C returned to the control of the battalion. As the battalion attempted to account for its casualties, Wells was reported missing in action.

Wells’ name did not appear on any POW list provided by the CPVF or the Korean People’s Army, nor did any repatriated American POWs have any information about Wells.

In late 1953, as part of a prisoner of war exchange, known as “Operation Big Switch,” no repatriated Americans had any knowledge of Wells’ whereabouts. As a result of this, the U.S. Army declared him deceased as of March 18, 1954.

In October 1998, during a Joint Recovery Operation, a U.S./North Korean recovery team excavated a site in Kujang County, North P’yongan-Pukto Province, North Korea, based on information provided by witnesses concerning buried American soldiers. This site correlated with the area of the battle between TF Wilson and the CPVF.

To identify Wells’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence, DNA analysis, including mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat and autosomal DNA, which matched two brothers, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched Wells’ records.

Today, 7,802 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using advances in technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously turned over by North Korean officials or recovered by American teams.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa/ or call (703) 699-1420.

EOD Warrior Foundation Seeks Tech in Need of Assistance Dog

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Cher Murphy
Cher@chermurphypr.com
571-263-2128

EOD Warrior Foundation Seeks EOD Tech in Need of Assistance Dog

The EOD Warrior Foundation is partnering with MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs to pair a trained service dog with an EOD technician in need

NICEVILLE, Florida – (August 1, 2016) – Many EOD technicians need assistance when they return home from combat. Those who suffer from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often find that service dogs bring relief, others who have physical injuries, including amputations, blindness, and many others, may find benefit in having a service dog for multiple reasons. The EOD Warrior Foundation is partnering with MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs to provide an EOD technician in need with a fully trained service dog.  This dog is being donated in honor of former U.S. Navy EOD officer, Commander Kevin Childre, who passed away in May 2015 as a result of a bicycle accident while on a ride raising awareness for the EOD Warriors Foundation.

“We are pleased to work with MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs to find a fitting home for this beautiful animal, and a deserving EOD technician,” explains Nicole Motsek, executive director of the EOD Warrior Foundation. “We are also thrilled to honor Kevin, who meant so much to the country and did so much for our foundation. Kevin was a true dog lover and I feel this is a great way to honor his memory.”

Kevin Childre was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician who started the annual 2-Day EOD Undefeated Bike Ride in 2009 to support the EOD community, which quickly became the largest fundraiser for the EOD Warrior Foundation, raising almost $1.3 million in support of EOD families in its six year history. While on a 6-day bicycle ride to raise awareness for the cause he was in a fatal accident. The annual ride continues in four cities across the country this fall in his honor.

Wanting to honor his memory, MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs began training a goldendoodle puppy to become an assistance dog.  Kevin’s last dog was also a beautiful goldendoodle named Tucker.  The puppy currently in training is named KC, in honor of Kevin Childre. KC will finish training this fall and will be ready to be paired with an EOD technician in need. The EOD Warrior Foundation is working with MADE to provide the selected candidate with travel and accommodations to meet KC.

“We believe in what Kevin did for our country and feel this is a great way to honor him,” explained Hailey Jumper Mauldin, founder and executive director of MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs. “Helping fellow EOD technicians was Kevin’s life and KC will help continue the mission in Kevin’s honor. We are thrilled to be a part of this legacy.”

EOD technicians who are interested in KC can apply online at the MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs site: http://www.madeintexasassistancedogs.org.

There are over 7,000 men and women in the U.S. military who serve as EOD techs. They have one of the most dangerous jobs in the military, helping to defuse and dispose of explosive devices. They are highly trained members who are responsible for disarming, rendering safe, and disposing of bombs.

Since September 11, 2001, the EOD community has sustained serious loss of life and limbs. Since 9/11 and to date, 131 EOD Warriors have lost their lives on the battlefield, approximately 250 EOD Warriors have lost limbs, sight, experienced terrible burns, as well as paralysis, and numerous additional warriors continue to suffer from the invisible wounds of war, including traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress. The numbers of invisible injuries are unknown at this point and the suicide rate numbers are quickly approaching the number lost in combat.

About EOD Warrior Foundation

The EOD Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help EOD warriors and their family members to include families of fallen EOD warriors. Specific programs include emergency financial relief, college scholarships, hope and wellness retreats, and care of the EOD Memorial located at Eglin AFB, FL. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, visit their site at: www.eodwarriorfoundation.org.

# # #

Marine From World War II, Pfc. Charles E. Oetjen, 18, of Blue Island, Illinois, Accounted For

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 22, 2016

Contact:
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (Public Affairs)
Washington, DC 20301-2300
Phone: (703) 699-1420
Fax: (703) 602-4375

Fulfilling Our Nation’s Promise
Marine From World War II Accounted For

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, unaccounted for since World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Marine Pfc. Charles E. Oetjen, 18, of Blue Island, Illinois, will be buried July 30, in Alsip, Illinois. In November 1943, Oetjen was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island. Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Oetjen died sometime on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943.

The battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the U.S. military because the Gilbert Islands provided the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.

In the immediate aftermath of the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died in the battle were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries on the island. In 1946 and 1947, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio Island, but Oetjen’s remains were not recovered. On Feb. 28, 1949, a military review board declared Oetjen’s remains non-recoverable.

In June 2015, a nongovernmental organization, History Flight, Inc., notified DPAA that they discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed were 35 U.S. Marines who fought during the battle in November 1943. The remains were turned over to DPAA in July 2015.

To identify Oetjen’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched a cousin; laboratory analysis, including dental and anthropological analysis and chest radiograph comparison, which matched Oetjen’s records; as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

DPAA is grateful to History Flight, Inc. for this recovery mission.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1420.

###

Pfc. Charles E. Oetjen, 18, of Blue Island, Illinois, has now been  accounted for from World War II and will be buried July 30th in Alsip, IL
Pfc. Charles E. Oetjen, 18, of Blue Island, Illinois, has now been
accounted for from World War II and will be buried July 30th in Alsip, IL

Soldier Missing From Korean War, Army Chief Warrant Officer Adolphus Nava, 38, of Uniondale, New York, Accounted For

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 28, 2016

Contact:

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (Public Affairs)
Washington, DC 20301-2300
Phone: (703) 699-1420
Fax: (703) 602-4375

Fulfilling Our Nation’s Promise
Soldier Missing From Korean War Accounted For

Army Chief Warrant Officer Adolphus Nava, 38, of Uniondale, New York, will be buried with full military honors on August 4, in Calverton, New York.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Adolphus Nava, 38, of Uniondale, New York, will be buried with full military honors on August 4, in Calverton, New York.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Adolphus Nava, 38, of Uniondale, New York, will be buried August 4, in Calverton, New York. In late 1950, Nava was a member of Battery B, 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, fighting the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) between the towns of Sinhung-dong and Kunu-Ri, North Korea. Their mission was part of a United Nations Command offensive to advance north to the Yalu River. On Nov. 29, the unit was in danger of being encircled and destroyed by the CPVF and were ordered to withdraw. In the escape route, termed “The Gauntlet,” units were overrun by aggressive attacks from the CPVF, and Nava’s unit elected to destroy its guns and escape through the mountains on foot.

For more than a week after the battle, soldiers made their way through enemy lines back to their units. After searching all adjacent units, aid stations and hospitals, Nava was declared missing in action as of Nov. 30.

At the end of the war, during Operation Big Switch, where both sides exchanged all remaining POWs, repatriated Americans provided information on the capture and death of Nava at Pyoktong/Camp 5, where most prisoners of war from the unit were held.

Although the American Graves Registration Service hoped to recover the remains of United Nations Command (UNC) and American soldiers who remained north of the DMZ after the war, conflict between the UNC and North Korea complicated efforts.

Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea returned to the United States 208 boxes of commingled human remains, which when combined with remains recovered during joint recovery operations in North Korea between 1996 and 2005, included the remains of at least 600 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents included in the repatriation indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the vicinity where Nava was believed to have died.

To identify Nava’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial, Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat and autosomal DNA analysis, which matched his brother and daughter, as well as chest radiograph comparison and anthropological analyses, and circumstantial evidence

Today, 7,807 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously returned by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American recovery teams.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1420.

-end-

USS Oklahoma Sailor From World War II, Navy Fireman 2nd Class James B. Boring, Accounted For

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 29, 2016

Contact:

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (Public Affairs)

Washington, DC 20301-2300

Phone: (703) 699-1420

Fax: (703) 602-4375

Fulfilling Our Nation’s Promise

USS Oklahoma Sailor From World War II Accounted For

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman from World War II have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Navy Fireman 2nd Class James B. Boring, 21, of Vales Mill, Ohio, will be buried August 6, in Albany, Ohio. On Dec. 7, 1941, Boring was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Boring. No single vessel at Pearl Harbor, with the exception of the USS Arizona, suffered as many fatalities.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.

In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Boring.

In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the NMCP for analysis.

To identify Boring’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched two nieces, as well as circumstantial evidence and laboratory analysis, to include dental comparisons, which matched Boring’s records.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1420.

-end-

Lorraine Plass, AMVETS State Legislative Chair, Honored By CA State Senate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, July 20, 2016

Contact: Dana Nichol
Phone: (916) 492-0550
Fax: (916) 492-8957
Email: dana.nichol@sbcglobal.net

Lorraine Plass and Senator Steven Glazer (center) with members of the California State Senate presenting Member’s Resolution 637 to Ms. Plass
Lorraine Plass and Senator Steven Glazer (center) with members of the California State Senate presenting Member’s Resolution 637 to Ms. Plass

Lorraine Plass, the AMVETS-Department of California’s Legislative Committee Chair, was recently honored on the floor of the California State Senate by Senator Steven Glazer (D-Orinda) for her advocacy at the State Capitol on behalf of veterans for the past six years. She was also being honored for her work on Senate Resolution 69, which deals with the World War II Port Chicago disaster. Port Chicago is located in Senator Glazer’s district.

Plass received a California Senate Resolution signed by Senator Glazer which expresses “the deep appreciation for her dedication and contributions to the passage of Senate Resolution 69, and conveyed best wishes that her indomitable efforts will continue in the years ahead”.

“In my 30 years at the State Capitol, I have seen few volunteers for veterans advocacy as dedicated as Lorraine. She has become a well-known and familiar figure in the halls of the Legislature. Her advocacy on behalf of veterans has been an inspiration to all of us who get to work with her on veterans issues here at the Capitol”, said veterans advocate Pete Conaty (LTC, U.S. Army-Ret).

Plass served in the U.S. Army from 1974 to 1978 in both the United States and Germany. Following her active service, she served for six years in the California National Guard. Plass was recently appointed as the AMVETS National Legislative Co-Chair, a newly created National Committee.

About AMVETS
or American Veterans was formed in 1944 to help WWII veterans obtain the benefits promised by the federal government. AMVETS continues this commitment to America’s veterans, their families, and the active military by assisting them in securing their earned entitlements. Team AMVETS strongly supports legislation to provide services to veterans. AMVETS Department of California has over 10,000 members and over 51 local posts in the state, as well as thrift shops. AMVETS is involved in helping hospitalized veterans, Special Olympics, scouting, organ donor projects, national monuments, and living by their commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.

Free AMVETS Membership for Student Veterans

We (the veterans in AMVETS) offer you free membership in appreciation for your military service. Only one in ten Americans has the fortitude to volunteer for military service. AMVETS knows the sacrifices of service and we offer you free membership in AMVETS while you are students.

AMVETS began as a group of loosely tied college veterans clubs. We know your struggles, we have been on the path you are travelling and are prepared to help.

AMVETS (American Veterans) was chartered by congress in 1947 (public law 216).We are mandated to helping veterans reintegrate into the American workforce. Our charter allows honorably discharged and actively serving military personnel to become members. Membership is available to all the services: Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines Corps, and members of the National Guard, Reserve and Coast Guard. The GI Bill and the VA home loan program are key initiatives we supported until they became law. Two programs you may be interested in are:

The Call of Duty Endowment works through AMVETS to find veterans jobs.

AMVETS National Service Officers will shepherd your VA claim.

AMVETS is prepared to help you succeed. Go to the link below.

Free Student Membership: https://www.amvetsmembers.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?Site=AMVETS&WebKey=c16108b2-8ce2-44e0-b1ff-a5be37a379cb&Action=Add

Please pass this on to other student veterans.

Visit AMVETS at www.amvets.org

If you have any question contact: hneal@amvets.org

From ‘Go Home’ to ‘Welcome Home’ for Sheboygan man

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Every Thursday morning Joe Glover Jr. volunteers at the Sheboygan Police Department, alphabetizing the judge’s records, mailing documents or feeding officers with food from his wife.

His work in the municipal court is quiet, and often done alone. Yet he is known around the police department for his outgoing, cheery disposition —he is always trying to make other people smile.

SPD Volunteer Coordinator Penny Weber said despite being one of the department’s newest volunteers, he already has built a positive reputation.

“If you met Joe, you know he is probably one of the most positive people you will ever meet. He always has a smile on his face. He is just one happy person,” Weber said.

The woman who volunteered before him would bring in cookies for the officers, affectionately becoming known as “The Cookie Lady.” When she retired, Joe took over her working duties, and eventually, he found out about her baking reputation and took up the mantle himself.

Joe was a volunteer at the Blood Center before he went to Coffee with a Cop at McDonalds and learned of the police department’s volunteering programs.

Joe’s decision to help the police department is remarkable given that he happily works for the same department that racially profiled him on several occasions more than 40 years ago.

His path to becoming a retired volunteer in Sheboygan is a long one that didn’t even start here.

Joe grew up in Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code, an infamously rough neighborhood now being featured in a documentary for having the highest incarceration rate in the country.

He grew up in private schools, graduating in a class that only had six minority students. He also had a machinery apprenticeship in Milwaukee and became a skilled laborer.

Those skills brought him to Sheboygan Jan. 5, 1970 to work for Hayssen Manufacturing, running the lathe machine. According to Joe, he was harassed by the white workers whom saw him as a threat to their job.

“Guys would be balling up clay, spitting it through straws, hitting you all over,” Joe said. “You’d turn around and they’d be standing there like, ‘Well who do you pick did it?’”

One day, a fellow black coworker was beat up in the bathroom before Joe saw him running across the machine floor. He went to physically defend the man—a decision that resulted in him and the man being fired, according to Joe.

That was two weeks after his first day.

The job didn’t even outlast the temporary living at the YMCA Hayssen provided. He had two more weeks to live there for free. Joe met a woman there, who was white, who would become his wife—Mary. Those last two weeks were the beginning of a courtship that lasted several months before Joe was drafted for service.

He noted that he was stopped by police both before and after he was fired. But according to Joe, they’d leave him alone when they found out he was employed.

“I’d get stopped here, stopped there,” Joe said. “I never knew about (Sundown towns) at the time. I didn’t see it immediately, I just was wondering, ‘Why are they doing this? Why do I have to be out of here at dark?”

Was Sheboygan a sundown town?

Census data dating back to 1860 shows that the black population of Sheboygan did not reach double-digits until 1970, peaking with nine in 1910. Through the 1920’s and 30’s, there were no black residents in Sheboygan, with one in the 1940 census and eight in the 1950 census.

According to research by Professor James W. Loewen, who taught race relations for 20 years at the University of Vermont, there is evidence to suggest Sheboygan may have been a “Sundown Town” – a place where people of color were forced to leave the city after sunset.

Loewen compiled an online map allowing people to find out more about the racial history of their towns, identifying thousands of likely and confirmed sundown towns across the U.S.

Sheboygan is labeled as having possible sundown status. It is unknown whether there was an ordinance or sign specifically prohibiting black people from staying, but the testimonials he lists indicate a certain amount of racial animus.

Loewen received a report of a black social worker from Madison’s state office had to stay at a smaller hotel outside of Sheboygan in 1976 because she couldn’t stay in Sheboygan’s main hotel.

Other testimonies to Loewen showed similar patterns.

“’I recall being told when I moved to Sheboygan in August 1970 that in previous years blacks had not been allowed to stay in the city overnight. There was no generalized policy in that regard by 1970, but I suppose reminisce[sic] of the one-time prohibition might have been carried on informally.

“’We lived on the city’s south side initially and later on the southwest, mostly in the working class section. And I saw no evidence of blacks being prohibited per se, that the black population was quite low.

“’We had a black mailman between 1970 and 1975, but at the junior high school I taught at in those years, also on the south (side), I don’t recall any black students,” Loewen said he was told by Donovan Walling, a former Sheboygan resident, in 2002.

Loewen’s testimonies are remembered, secondary accounts. The Sheboygan Press archives also tell a story of discriminatory local discourse and policy.

The very rumor of a sundown ordinance prompted then-Mayor John Bolgert in 1959 to outright deny that Sheboygan had any sundown laws. He cited as proof that black people we able to live in the city when they were playing baseball for the local minor league team. The same story reported a local pastor as saying there was no prejudice toward black people because there were none here.

Four years later in September of 1963, Professor Spencer Hildahl, then chair of the sociology department at Lakeland College spoke to the Sheboygan Evening Optimist Club about welcoming “negroes” into the city.

“Negroes are coming to Sheboygan just as surely as Christmas is coming next December,” Hildahl said. “We have to assume, whether people accept the fact or not, that Sheboygan is going to have a population that includes Negroes and other minority groups in the not too distant future.”

One of the unnamed Optimists present asserted that an ordinance existed that prohibited black people from living in Sheboygan.

“The same Optimist asserted that present city officials deny that Sheboygan has an ordinance preventing Negroes from living in Sheboygan. But, he claimed, Sheboygan adopted such an ordinance in 1887 —‘that no Negroes will be housed in Sheboygan — and it is still on the books,’” the Press reported.

Confirming ordinances or signs that explicitly gave a town sundown status is difficult because ordinances are revised and recodified.

The city clerk’s office has only two old ordinance books, both of which were from 1976. One of those has been updated. The city attorney’s office has a 1975 book that was updated in 1998 and a 1965 copy that was updated in 1975. The Sheboygan County Historical Research Center also has a 1928 copy of the ordinances, but it is abridged. No such ordinance is mentioned in any of those copies.

Even if the ordinance never officially was on the books, it is still possible that sundown policy was institutionalized here, according to Loewen.

“It’s typically difficult or impossible to actually find copies of the ordinances. Matter of a fact, most towns, you might ask the clerk to show you the double-parking ordinance,” he said. “I bet they can’t find that, but if you double-park you’re going to get a ticket. So the issue typically is many sundown towns never even claimed to have passed an ordinance.”

Legalized discrimination: The 1968 “Fair Housing Ordinance”

Even if there was no specific sundown ordinance, discrimination was occasionally on the books. On Monday Oct. 7, 1968—four years after the federal Civil Rights Act was passed—the Sheboygan Common Council passed an ordinance in a 15-0 vote that banned housing discrimination with two exemptions.

Religious organizations could discriminate based on religious reasons and owners of owner-occupied two-family homes could discriminate in rentals on the bases of “race, color, religion or national origin.”

The first exemption was narrowly added back into the ordinance after a motion to do so narrowly passed in an 8 to 7 vote. It had been deleted two weeks before the final vote by the Committee of the Whole. Alderpersons also rejected 11-4 a last-ditch effort to delete the second exemption from the ordinance.

The State of Wisconsin had already passed a fair housing statute in 1966, but it had several exemptions as well, which left it to cover only about 25 percent of housing in the state, according to an April 1966 Press article.  In that article, local leaders were urging the Common Council to pass a fair housing, open occupancy ordinance to ensure minorities who came to Sheboygan were not confined to a “big city ghetto.”

In the months following the ordinance’s passage, several local organizations including the Sheboygan County Council of Churches and the Sheboygan City of Elm Amvets Post 18 called for the exemptions to be deleted.

The fight was mainly over the religious exemption, not the one that allowed for racial discrimination in shared dwellings. And in February of 1969, a motion to remove just the religious exemption was defeated. The ordinance exemptions were legal until state laws, federal laws and court decisions made the exemptions illegal, according to a January 1976 Press article.

 “There’s no negroes here after dark”

Those instances of discrimination were epitomized when Joe and Mary were relaxing one night outside of the same YMCA. That was when one police officer made the situation clear to him.

“I was parked with Mary, we were having popcorn and root beer. Because of the humidity the back windows fogged up, you know, And all of a sudden this cop knocks on the back window and I’m like, ‘What’s he doing?’

“I said, ‘I bet he thinks we’re making out or something.’ She was driving because I didn’t have my license. And she’s just laughing. I rolled down the window and said, ‘Can I help you?’

“He’s looking in the back of the car—‘What’re you guys doing here?’ the officer said. I said, ‘We’re just having a beer.’ (He responded) ‘You’re not supposed to be drinking in the car!’ I said, ‘Root beer,’ trying to be funny.”

The officer was not amused and continued by asking Joe and Mary where they lived. Mary told the officer her address and Joe said he lived at the YMCA. The officer asked him where he worked and Joe explained he had recently been laid off.

“He said, ‘No then you got to get out of town.’ I said, ‘Pardon me? Why do I have to leave?’” Joe said. “He said, ‘We don’t have negroes here after dark.’ And that’s when I went, ‘Woah!’”

The officer went on to tell him it was city law that no “negroes” could be in town, unless they had a job. That was when Joe moved back to Milwaukee.

“180 degree difference”

In 2008, years after Joe first met Mary at the YMCA, they moved back to Sheboygan.

Joe spent 34 years in Milwaukee as a plumber, with Mary working at various locations over the years. Joe’s parents and his only remaining brother all died within 90 days of each other, all of whom lived in Milwaukee.

They moved here to take care of Mary’s mother. That was when Joe retired and started volunteering. He said it was also when he noticed the police are more approachable.

“180 degrees (difference). You can talk with them. You can joke with them. You can say something smart with them, you know I am sassy,” he said. “It’s like when you were a little kid and a cop gave you bubble gum and a baseball card. That’s what it feels like… You just feel happy when you see them and you’re grateful for what they do.”

Joe said he appreciates how different the policies and the police are today.

“To go from being kicked out of town to working for the police,” Joe said. “I think that’s pretty awesome.”

Joe said he never held anger or animosity toward the police department. In the ‘70s, he thought the law was the law and the officers were just doing their jobs, enforcing it.

“It was just a shock when I came here,” he said. “And you forgot about. It was ‘70 when that happened and then you go in the service and you forget about everything.”

Time has changed Joe’s perception of the police and it has also allowed for change within the department. Those explicit laws and policies are gone, and the department performs training with officers to reduce racial biases.

Sheboygan is growing too. The black population more than doubled from the 2000 to the 2010 census, although it is still only 1.8 percent of the total population. But even as Sheboygan becomes more diverse, there are still implicit disparities. Black people made up 18.9 percent of all arrests in 2015, according to documents obtained by the Sheboygan Press.

And while at 21 percent of the city of Sheboygan is either black, Asian, Hispanic and/or Latino, only 5 percent of the police department’s officers are, according to a 2015 USA-TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin article.

Nonetheless, Joe still sees the police department as better, and moving in the right direction.

“Even though it seems like I’m by myself in here, I got a whole community now,” he said. “The officers pat you on the back. Everybody sees you, (they say), ‘Hey thanks for volunteering.’ It’s a nice feeling to have the other way. Instead of ‘go home’, it’s ‘welcome home.’”

 

(, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin6:57 p.m. CDT July 10, 2016)

Photo: Miller/Jozwiak, USA Today)

“The Big 6” United Behind Veterans First Act

“The Big 6” United Behind Veterans First Act

(Washington, D.C.)–The Veterans Service Organizations who are most often called before Congress for testimony on the state of Veterans Affairs, known in D.C. as “The Big 6,” are joining together to call on the Senate to vote on the Veterans First Act. While each has been engaged separately in traditional methods of calling for votes–such as letter-writing and email campaigns– they’re maximizing the power of social media to expand their outreach and get more veterans engaged.

“The AMVETS family is in full support of the Veterans First Act. Eliminating arbitrary eligibility requirements is crucial to ensuring family caregivers of veterans from all eras receive the support they deserve and need. We support the mandate on VA to research the association between toxic exposures and health effects among exposed veterans’ offspring.”–Joe Chenelly, Executive Director, AMVETS

“We’ve recognized that Congress is starting to respond to pressure from social media, so we are doing the best we can to optimize the impact each of our members has by enlisting them to assist in less traditional ways. While Twitter may not be used by most Vietnam veterans on a regular basis, our kids and our grandkids use it. Our families will be helped most by the Toxic Exposure Research provisions within the Veterans First Act, and we are glad to bring them into the fold so they can help us let the Senate know that we all deserve a vote.”–John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America

“The VFW strongly supports passage of the Veterans First Act because it rightfully eliminates arbitrary eligibility requirements to ensure family caregivers of veterans from all eras receive the recognition and support they deserve. It requires the VA to research the association between toxic exposures and adverse health effects among the descendants of exposed veterans, and it makes urgently needed improvements to the choice program, which would ensure veterans who receive care from private sector doctors are not erroneously billed for that care.”–Robert E. Wallace, VFW Executive Director.

“The provision within the Veterans First Act that allows for the expansion of the Family Caregiver Program is a top priority for Paralyzed Veterans of America members. Caregivers are life-sustaining for veterans with a spinal cord or disease. They are the most critical component of our rehabilitation and eventual recovery, and their well-being directly impacts the quality of care provided to veterans. Caregivers for veterans of all wartimes should be provided with adequate benefits and resources, yet caregivers of pre-9/11 are made to bear the responsibility—and the toll it takes on their own personal and professional lives—alone. We urge the prompt passage of this legislation so that this inequity will finally be addressed.”– Sherman Gillums, Jr, Paralyzed Veterans of America Executive Director

“The American Legion stands with our sister Veteran Service Organizations to support the Veterans First Act. This bipartisan legislation has one third of the senate as cosponsors and will ensure that veterans have access to a Department of Veterans Affairs that maintains accountability, organized leadership, and parity of services for all generations of caregivers.”–Verna Davis, Executive Director, The American Legion

“DAV strongly supports Senate passage of the Veterans First Act, which would extend comprehensive caregiver support to veterans of all eras. The legislation would also increase veterans’ options for long-term care through medical foster homes; enhance VA’s efforts to recruit and retain the best and brightest medical professionals; reform claims and appeals processing by creating a fully developed appeals pilot program; and make dozens of other positive changes to improve the lives of the men and women who served. DAV looks forward to working together with leaders in both chambers of Congress, the VA, and other key stakeholders to enact comprehensive legislation to help keep the promise to all eras of America’s veterans.”–Garry J. Augustine, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans

The Big 6 Veteran Service Organizations are asking their members, families, and supporters to join them during this campaign by using the hashtag #Vote4Vets1st in our Twitter Storm. The Veterans First Act is a bipartisan effort to improve accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, provide critical benefits to veterans in need, and improve existing programs. The veterans’ community deserves a vote on the Senate floor before Congress is dismissed for summer recess. In order for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fulfill Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” they must prioritize veterans over politics and pass the Veterans First Act.

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