The Highground Veterans Memorial Park is a 155-acre premier manned park located three miles west of Neillsville along Highway 10 that pays tribute to Veterans of the past, present, and future. Its mission is to Honor, Educate, and Heal by honoring the commitment, sacrifice, and service. The park has 19 tributes, 4 miles of hiking trails, and a museum with multiple exhibits throughout the year. The park hosts events throughout the year ranging from Veterans Retreats, Military Vehicle Expo’s, reunion days, motorcycle rides, and an annual bicycle tour.
The grounds encompass one state tribute and a national tribute along with 15 other tributes. The Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Tribute “Fragments” was the first tribute placed on the grounds in 1988. It also is the home of the National Native American Vietnam Veterans Memorial as selected by the Congress of Native American Indians in 1994.
“Fragments” is a complex piece at the apex of The Highground’s main plaza. Cast in bronze, the statue features a female figure holding a poncho that signifies the burden of the 1,244 Wisconsin service personnel who died in Vietnam. The name of each of those men and women is inscribed on bundles of bamboo-shaped bronze rods mixed with wind chimes. The individual names are never meant to be read, but to be heard over the hillsides as the wind blows. None of the figures are completed in the statue they all flow into one, and much like in war, are dependent on each other and strengthen each other. A rifle in the statue is turned upside down, a symbol that a Medivac is needed. A piece of orange glass embedded in the rifle signifies Agent Orange, a chemical used in Vietnam that cost many soldiers their health and lives.
The park also holds tributes dedicated to Honoring the sacrifices of those who have served with The Persian Gulf Tribute, The Korean Veterans Memorial, The WASP Tribute, The WWII Globe, The Military Working Dog, The Nurse, The Gold Star Tribute (which will be rededicated in 2019 as upgrades are being completed) The Wisconsin Counties United in Service, and the Liberty Bell.
The park also has tributes dedicated to the mission of healing with tributes of The Fountain of Tears, The Earthen Dove Effigy Mound, The Ascension Doves, and The Meditation Garden.
The Park also contains 4 miles of hiking trails located at the south of the main park plaza. Within the trails is a treehouse that is accessible for those with disabilities. In the picnic area are three shelters that can be utilized for group events throughout the year or a family picnic. Charcoal grills are located adjacent to each shelter.
On the walkways of the main plaza are hundreds of Legacy Honor Stones purchased by families and/or groups in honor of loved ones. These stones are one of the ways to support the continuation of The Highground and also leave a lasting tribute to those they wish to honor. Legacy Honor Stones are available for purchase and are installed during one of the placement ceremonies scheduled April through October. The Meditation Honor Stones have been sold out and seen in the Meditation Garden Shelter. They are red granite stones. Korean Honor Stones are polished black granite. Another wall is being erected the spring of 2019 to honor additional recipients as the rice paddies and walkway are now full.
Part of The Highground mission is to educate, therefore a museum was added to their facilities in 2018. The museum houses The Highground Archives. These archives are created when stones are laid throughout the park. Each sponsor, or family, is able to put documentation about the person that they are honoring with their stone in our book of archives. Currently over 2,000 records are in the archives and include photos and documents that date back to WWI. The museum encompasses changing exhibits throughout the year. The 2019 exhibits include: The Lao Hmong Exhibit is dedicated to the service and sacrifice of the Lao Hmong Veterans who fought with American Soldiers in Vietnam. The Multiply by Six Million is an exhibit of stories and portraits from holocaust survivors. The Gold Star and ROF Exhibit is a combination of Exhibits dedicated to remembering the fallen from Wisconsin. Our Midwest and the Civil War is an exhibit of information about Wisconsin’s participation in the Civil War. The Forgotten War Korea is an exhibit about the history of the Korean War including stories and displays. Please view our calendar on our site to find Up-to-date listing of all of our exhibits.
Reunions are held throughout the year. Veterans have the opportunity to reunite with other veterans from the same era. They share their experiences and enjoy the camaraderie.
The Highground also includes a 300-acre camp 20 minutes north of the Park Campus that can be utilized by Veterans Groups for a number of different activities including Hunting, with blinds accessible by those with disabilities, camping, hiking, photography, archery, workshops, hunter safety training, Boy Scout Troops, Girl Scout Troops, and more. With nature playing a key role in veterans coping with physical and emotional issues, the camp currently is dedicated in helping support the healing efforts needed for these Veterans. The camp also includes 5 miles worth of trails that can be accessed by those with disabilities.
The Highground is open to the public 24/7. The Gift Shop, Learning Center Exhibit Hall, Museum and Library are open every day from 9am-5pm summer and 10am-4pm winter. Volunteer porch-greeters are on hand to help visitors get started with an audio tour, answer questions or direct them to the location they are looking for. Changing history and art exhibits are on display throughout the year
Chris Pettis Executive Director email@example.com
Chris Pettis was hired as the Executive Director in March 2020. He was born and currently resides in Osseo WI. At age 17 he joined the United States Marine Corps and for the next 23 years he served as a Radio Operator, Electro-Optical Repair Technician, MOS Instructor, and Ordnance Chief. His service brought him to 8 different countries, 3 combat tours and 13 relocations. Chris retired in 2014 as a Master Sergeant and returned to Wisconsin with his wife Bonnie and 2 children, while their oldest his daughter moved to California. For the next 5 years he worked in the mining industry until the opportunity arose to support military veterans and their families. Chris enjoys woodworking, hunting and the outdoors.
Kay Anason Honor Stones
Donations | Grants
Veterans Organization Coordinator
Kay was hired as the Donation Coordinator in May 2009. She coordinates donation funds, items, and grant work for The Highground (excluding event sponsors). With a background in business, The Highground has allowed her to use many aspects of her former experiences. Kay is not a veteran but has profound respect for our service personnel because she knows “The veteran doesn’t fight because he hates what is in front of him; he fights because he loves what he left behind”. She also has learned from Highground visitors what the cost are for veterans and their families–the human cost. “If I can help one family, one veteran heal in some fashion, it will be a small token for what they have given me.”–Kay Anason
VETERANS CONNECTION: Kays dad served in the Navy during the Korean War
Museum Coordinator | Volunteer Coordinator
Educational Outreach | Tours
Theresa has been Volunteer & Event Coordinator at the Highground since 2012. She grew up in the Central WI area and returned after living in Washington State and Colorado. Not a veteran, she found a “home” at the Highground for other personal reasons and is committed to keeping and expanding the mission of “Honor, Heal & Educate” in all Highground Events & Ceremonies.
Rhonda Miller came to The Highground in 2019 as the store manager. Her family includes her husband, Chris, and four children, four grandchildren and is ever expanding. Some things that they enjoy doing together are hiking, boating, gardening, and traveling. Before coming to The Highground, Rhonda worked in the mining industry. Rhonda has degrees in Retailing, Marketing, Fashion, Merchandising, and Supervisory Management.
VETERANS CONNECTION: Husband is a Marine Veteran, dad is an Army Veteran, and have multiple family members who have served in the Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy.
Marketing and Social Media Coordinator
Liz Hamilton was hired as the Marketing and Social Media Coordinator in November 2019 after an exciting year at Country Jam USA. Prior to that, she worked for IDEXX, a multinational corporation that develops products and services for the companion animal industry. VETERANS CONNECTION: Although not a Veteran herself, Liz is honored to be a member of a military family. Her uncle is a decorated Vietnam Combat Veteran, her parents are Marine Veterans, two of her cousins are Gulf War Veterans, and her sister serves in the Army National Guard. She is grateful for the opportunity to work for such incredible organization and passionate in her support of The Highground’s mission to Honor, Educate and Heal.
“We Were There” series curator
June joined The Highground in June of 2010 as a clerk in the Gift Shop. When the Learning Center was complete, she took on the position of Learning Center Coordinator. June maintained this position until May 2016, at which time she took an 18 month leave to move & get settled in out in Nevada with her husband Shane. They are blessed to share 6 children & 5 grandchildren. June returned to work for The Highground in September 2018 as the Exhibit Coordinator.
June also partnered with Marissa Roth on a 2½ year project to create The Highgrounds traveling exhibit entitled MY WAR: Wartime Photographs by Vietnam Veterans. MY WAR debuted in 2016 and is currently on tour around the United States.
June is very proud and honored to be from a large military family; though not a veteran herself, members of her family come from all branches of service and have served in all the conflicts from the Civil War to present day. Through this family connection & working with all the Veterans and their family members at The Highground, she has developed a real knowledge and insight for coordinating educational and meaningful exhibits for our Museum.
VETERANS CONNECTION: Multiple Family members in service dating back to the Civil War
History of The Highground
“I really began this project many years ago, in 1964, while serving in the 2nd Bn/7th Marines in California. This is where I met my partner, Jack Swender. Jack was from Kansas City, Kansas.
We landed in Qui Nhon, Vietnam on the 7th of July, 1965. We soon set up our battalions headquarters. It was located 15 miles west of that beautiful city in what was once an old French artillery base during the early 1950’s. Set off the road, there were huge pits dug into the ground about 5 feet deep. These pits ended up being internment camps for suspected Vietcong.
The final day came as many came in Vietnam: gray, overcast, heavy-aired, with drizzle, but very quiet. If you want an in depth writing on what happened that day, see Solid Contact for 2/7. We had slept in dirty water, 5″ deep, just a few nights before and we were soaked to the bones. We smelled and we were tired to say the least. Some small contact was made during the morning. We had just finished lunch in a hut and were moving through a small market hamlet named Ky Phu, when the 80th Battalion of hard-core Vietcong hit us. We were cut in to two groups with Jack and I being at the end of the first group.
We didn’t have to communicate to each other the fact that we had to hold the town from being overran by the Vietcong as they were trying to move a 50 caliber machine-gun into the middle of it. We held them off for I would say 15 – 20 minutes before a recoilless rifle shell blew apart
the rear wall of the house we were in. I like to think and I do believe that our action saved many Marines their lives that day, although it did cost Jack his.
I believe it is needless to say that the day that Jack died in my arms was the saddest day in my life. One grows to love another when they are that close. In late 1983, I again picked up the drive to produce our memorial. The mood of America had changed and I had come in contact
with a group of Vietnam veterans (Vietnam Veterans of America – Wisconsin delegation). Through them, the outstanding network needed to produce this project could be developed. It wasn’t until late 1984 that people started to believe that I was really going to do something and
then they slowly fell into place and supported the project.â€
And so it began.
The Highground has evolved to be 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.
Today, The Highground has tributes to Vietnam Veterans, Women Veterans, the 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. In addition, The Highground 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. We have now added a camp just 20 minutes north of The Highground, which will be used to host Veteran Retreats and other Highground events.
We will continue to pursue our mission of healing and education through added tours, Educational Days, and various expos.
The Highground, once a field with a beautiful view, has grown into a wonderful park encompassing that view, adding to the Spirit of The Highground.