A fitting tribute
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – A new VFW post in Stevens Point is working to bond the families of local veterans, while preserving the legacy of one of the community’s fallen.
“We are excited for this new post, the first in 50 years, as we aim to create a family first atmosphere for our veterans,” said post organizer, Al Tessman, “Rather than using a post hall or a tavern, we will hold meetings within the community as we want to be leaders in the front and center. We will focus on growing our VFW auxiliary as well as our patriot’s guard team of volunteers.
“Since our country has recently ended a 20-year global war on terrorism, there are a large number of veterans that are raising families. These veterans should feel welcome at this new post and they should feel comfortable bringing their families with them. The post should embrace a warm and welcoming atmosphere where the key focus is to give service directly to veterans, and their community, who need our assistance.”
The post will be named after Eugene A. Uhl, III, of Amherst, who followed his father and grandfather into service. The 21-year-old was among 17 killed when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Iraq on Nov. 15, 2003. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Uhl’s sister Chastity Uhl-Walker said that there could be no more fitting tribute to a man who was dedicated to service.
“If he had a sandwich; he’d give you his sandwich and go without. He would give you his shirt off his back. He really had an infectious laugh and an infectious smile and just, he really was, quote unquote, all American,” she recalled.
“I mean, he really loved his entire family; he would have done anything for any of us. His friends were not his friends; they were his family. In his eyes, serving his country was the one thing. I remember my brother from very little, that’s what he wanted to do.
“When we were very young, second grade and kindergarten, he was dressed up as GI Joe for Halloween and just everything always seemed to be centered around (military service.) He went to get his hair cut from a very young age with our grandfather and would say, ‘I want it high and tight.’ He would go with our grandfather who sported the same haircut.
“Yes, I think his desire to join and to serve our country was the fact that he was the third generation Eugene and my grandfather and my father both served selflessly, and we’re very proud about their service. My grandfather was extremely proud of his service. My dad was a member of the DAV – Vietnam era.
“My brother always wanted to be just like that. He aspired to be that.”
While nearly 19 years have passed, Chastity still finds comfort in the fact that her brother died doing what he was seemingly born to do.
“He did say, ‘if something happens, I am exactly where I want to be,’” she recalled.
“Naming the post after one of our fallen brethren will mean a lot of the veterans at this post. A lot of us have lost a battle-buddy during our service and Eugene’s story will not only memorialize him as a fallen hero, but he will also stand as a representative to those that we think about every day,” said Brandon Taylor, a post organizer. “I am sure this will ring deep in the bones of our brothers and sisters in arms.”
Currently, the post is meeting at the Boys and Girls Club of Portage County, 941 Michigan Ave., Stevens Point, the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Al Tessman at 715-498-5470 or [email protected].