Auxiliaries help out

Tony resident Charlene Johnson, a member of the Ladysmith VFW Post 2490 Auxiliary, pours orange juice for the bicyclists as they line up for a tasty homemade breakfast during the Heroes Ride, supporting The Highground Veterans Memorial and veterans causes.

The northern route of this year’s 35th annual Heroes Ride supporting The Highground Veterans Memorial pedaled through Ladysmith last weekend, as part of a statewide fundraiser effort for veterans and their families.

Two local veterans auxiliary units — one from Bruce and another from Ladysmith — and a church in the city, rallied behind the bicyclists to help support the great cause.

Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church opened the doors to its school so about 40 cyclists riding the 170 miles of the northern route had a place to bunk down for the night. This was in addition to another 10 support and gear staff riding in motorized vehicles with the group. The church also opened its school kitchen for meals prepared and served by the local auxiliaries.

American Legion Ladies Auxiliary Post 268 in Bruce prepared a tasty chicken dinner for Friday night, which included twice baked potatoes, corn on the cob and more.

Saturday morning, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2490 Auxiliary members served a delicious breakfast of biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs and more.

Area businesses also donated food items to the cause.

Bruce American Legion Auxiliary Vice President Jerilyn Michaud, who is the chairman for the Bike Ride Meal Committee, called it a wonderful cause to participate in. She added Legion Post members contributed to the auxiliary’s effort by helping grill the chicken for the meal.

“The mission of the auxiliary is to support the veterans and their families. This is just a different way we can support the veterans by supporting the bike riders who are raising money for the veterans,” Michaud said.

Michaud noted how appreciative the bike riders were for the help they have received at all the stops, including in Rusk County.

Heroes Ride routes started from five different points in Wisconsin on Friday, Aug. 2. The northern route started in Hayward. The western route started in New Richmond. The eastern route started in Appleton. The southern route started in Madison. The southwestern route started in La Crosse. All routes joined together at The Highground on Sunday, Aug. 4.

Bruce resident Roger Nagel, an Armed forces veteran, volunteered to help guide bicyclists through the busy four-corners intersection of U.S. 8 and Wis. 27. He said he was glad to help once again for the event.

OLS School was more than willing to open its doors to the bicyclists, according to Principal Megan Dieckman.

“It was decided that it was a great way to be supportive,” Dieckman said. ”The bikers take great care in our facility. We respect their mission and believe it falls under the OLS school’s mission.”

The Highground Bike Tour has its beginnings in 1984 when Highground founder Vietnam veteran, Tom Miller, rode 1,244 miles around Wisconsin. The number of miles signifies how many Vietnam War KIAs there were from Wisconsin. He did the ride to honor the sacrifices that Wisconsin families made during the Vietnam War and to raise support to create The Highground. The Bike Tour has become the largest annual fundraiser for The Highground and in 2017, it raised over $45,000.

“It is good to be helping the veterans,” said Ladysmith VFW Auxiliary President Carol Phetteplace, a Ladysmith resident.

“It makes me feel good,” said VFW Auxiliary Secretary Jane Beattie, an Ingram resident.

“I feel great about doing it,” said VFW Auxiliary member Charlene Johnson, a Tony resident.

One rider was going the extra mile during the fundraiser, cruising the state roadways in a unique type of bicycle called a velomobile.

Tom Kingsbury, a native of the central Wisconsin town of Loyal, was biking over 1,700 miles around the state, honoring those who did not come home from the Vietnam War through present day. His ride marked one mile for each Armed Forces member who was Killed in Action or Missing in Action.

A velomobile is enclosed to achieve an aerodynamic advantage and protection from weather and collisions. They are similar to recumbent bicycles and tricycles, but with a full fairing aerodynamic shell.

Kingsbury’s ride started July 20, stopping at 20 locations throughout the state. He stopped at Concert on the Square in Madison, Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward and two Veterans’ Homes to meet with veterans and show the bike. He overnighted with the northern route riders in Ladysmith  last weekend.

“The reason I am doing this ride is because of the fact I am a veteran,” said Kingsbury, who served in the U.S. Army as part of a funeral detail in upstate New York from 1972-75.

He recounts the burial ceremonies he participated in for those who fell during the Vietnam War.

“This is a way of acknowledging their efforts,” Kingsbury said.

Primarily his ride is for suicide prevention awareness and The Highground, according to Kingsbury. He encouraged others to visit the memorial, which is centrally located in the state and an easy day trip for most Wisconsin residents.

Kingsbury compared riding his bicycle to sitting in a Lazy-Boy recliner while watching TV, with a similar seating position. The fastest he sped up to on this ride was 55 miles per hour.

“On a hill or smooth road, it will definitely go,” Kingsbury said.

“It is aerodynamic. It is made of carbon fiber. It weighs about 50 pounds, and it gets me down the road,” Kingsbury said. “It is different, yes. We have it wrapped for this event so it can help promote awareness for The Highground.”

In addition to Kingsbury’s trek, the five shorter 21-mile rides were aimed at bringing awareness to issues of veterans suicides to the forefront. The routes were led by experienced route leaders and support and gear personnel.

The northern route originated in Hayward with scheduled stops in Ladysmith and Thorp before arriving Sunday morning at The Highground.

Northern Route Leader Mike Gleisner, who lives in Neillsville, noted this route of the fundraiser has the most participants, in addition to the support and gear personnel.

“It is really great. We would like to get more riders. This group could probably handle 15 to 20 more people,” Gleisner said.

Hayward area resident John Blank was proud to be among the riders. “I am a veteran, and this is for a good cause,” he said.

Hayward area resident Joan Cervenka also was participating. “It seemed like a good cause,” she said.

Ashland resident Allison Osmak met her husband on the tour in the OLS gym in Ladysmith and has now been married to Paul for eight years.

“This is my family. Every year I look forward to this ride and the family reunion,” Osmak said.

The Highground is a memorial park that pays tribute to the dead, and honors the survivors, their service and their sacrifices. It also pays tribute to the people who supported them when they were away and upon their return.

The Highground has tributes to Vietnam Veterans, Women Veterans, Native American Vietnam Veterans, WWI Veterans, WWII Veterans, Korean Veterans, and families that supported and lost loved ones through the Gold Star Tribute and Fountain of Tears. It also has a Dove Effigy Mound, A United In Service Tribute, a Meditation Garden, a developmental forest with 4 miles of hiking trails, a museum, and a Learning Center. It has added a camp 20 minutes north of The Highground, which will be used to host Veteran Retreats and other Highground events.

The Highground Veterans Memorial Park is located at W7031 Ridge Rd. Neillsville. Phone: 715-743-4224.

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