Before I transferred to the Wisconsin National Guard five years ago, I was a pathetic excuse for a soldier. In Oklahoma, I often showed up to drill still drunk from the night before’s fraternity party. Then, I walked into the Wisconsin armory and the leaders welcomed me with open arms. The soldiers made fun of my accent, but we still became lifelong friends, and I began to clean up my act.
Through my military career, I had worked with almost every state’s National Guard and there was never a state more professional than or as close to active duty standards as the Wisconsin soldiers.
This week the unit of my friend, Michelle Witmer, will receive one of the highest awards bestowed upon a unit. I’m sure Michelle’s smiling from heaven…
The 32nd Military Police Company, Wisconsin Army National Guard, will receive the Valorous Unit Award for extraordinary heroism in action when they were deployed in and around Baghdad, Iraq.
The award will be presented in a ceremony at the Oconomowoc armory, 1215 Wall Street, Saturday, Dec. 10, at 12:30 p.m. The unit, based in Milwaukee with a detachment in Madison, sent about 180 soldiers to Iraq in May 2003 and returned to Wisconsin in July 2004. During its 14-month tour of duty, the unit lost one soldier, Spc. Michelle Witmer, the first female soldier killed in action in the history of the National Guard; and 35 Purple Heart Medals were awarded to soldiers wounded in action.
In the midst of ongoing hostilities, the unit's soldiers also found time to visit disabled Iraqi children in an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa's order of Catholic nuns.
The Valorous Unit Award is given for "extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the United States." The award recognizes heroism by a whole unit equal to that for which an individual would receive the Silver Star. The 32nd Military Police Company will be the first Wisconsin Guard unit to receive the award in the history of the Wisconsin National Guard.
The awards will be presented by Maj. Gen. Al Wilkening, the adjutant general of Wisconsin, and by. Brig. Gen. Kerry Denson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard.