With the latest record snow fall just a week ago, there were questions about the ceremonies for the Honor Stones this last weekend, April 21st. But as Kay Anason, Donation Coordinator for The Highground put it, “Soldiers don’t have a choice when called into battle, so the ceremony must go on”. Mother Nature however worked to the benefit of The Highground providing a beautiful fifty-degree sun filled day for the first Honor Stone ceremony of the 2018 season. This was one of The Highground’s first events of the season as they celebrate their 30th Anniversary. Nineteen stones were laid in all, for 14 different friends and organizations commemorating so many amazing people and their stories. With over 300 people in attendance for the event, the 2018 season started with a huge success.
Norm Snortheim and his family from Marshfield, WI laid a stone in honor of his son Russell, to whom he lost to cancer three years ago, with his name attached as well, as father and son were both honored for their service. It was dedicated by his three other sons Randy, Doug, and Dan, as well as Russell’s widow, Brenda. “I got the plaque for Christmas from my three sons who are still living,” said Norm. Russell served in the Navy from 1986-1991 and Norm had served in the National Guard from 1956-1964. Norm was seen taking pictures with him and his family, holding his one-month old Great Granddaughter, his first, Eleanor Lee. When talking about him first finding out about the stone he commented, “I cried, it was something that I never expected.” The surprise came on Christmas this last year, as Norm and Brenda opened their present together to remember the cherished Russell. “We were sitting around on Christmas, we had to open it at the same time, it was writing in a frame that was written up from the boys and their families. It really touched me.”
The Week family was another family from Wisconsin Rapids, WI who made the trek to The Highground in order to be part of the ceremony to honor their father, Everett. “He was in WWII on the U.S.S. Randolph in the Pacific Theatre. What was nice about this place here, I went up and Jon Weiler got all the information on the U.S.S. Randolph, they were very accommodating, finding out this stuff because my dad really didn’t talk that much about it,” Said David Week. “It was really interesting because we found out so much stuff; it was the first ship that got hit by a Kamikaze.” Terry, his brother added “He told my son in law more about it then he told me”, with a chuckle. David added, “My brother Jodi was the one that spearheaded it. What really got us going on it was one of our other veterans had just passed away seven months ago, and he told me, your dad used to stop up there all the time. He would always stop over here on his way to Uncle Ole’s and leave a donation, it was kind of neat to go that full circle and have one out there for him.” The Week family had three of the seven brothers on hand, “We have a lot of veterans in our family” said Greg, as he did a run-down of the family that which was sitting with them, almost all were veterans, married to veterans, or had sons who were veterans.
This was Executive Director Jon Weiler’s first Spring Stone Ceremony at The Highground as he took over from long time GM Kirk Rodham in July. Weiler served 28 years in the Army. When asked about what it’s like to be part of the 30th Anniversary of The Highground, and the influence of all that came before him to make the park what it is “I didn’t even know that it was the 30th Anniversary coming up when I came here, knowing that I’m the one to officiate the first Honor Stone Ceremony of the 30th year is really an honor and a privilege,” stated Weiler.
While this is his 6th stone ceremony at The Highground, he has experienced a lot of emotions in that time. “The stone ceremonies are very unique, it allows everybody to come here and honor veterans, their families, or someone in their family who sacrificed so much. Sometimes it’s for a Veteran that they may have never known, someone who died in WWII for an example, but they feel a connection to and want to honor them in this way. Other times it’s for Veteran that is still with us, and we get to thank them, the family loves to thank them, it’s truly an honor to be able to experience this event with those families.” The VFW’s and other organizations are a big part of the stone ceremonies, in this event; the Honor Guard was led by the American Legion Post #94 in Crandon, and the VFW Post #7131 in Pittsville. “We have a lot of stones throughout the park that are honoring the American Legions, VFW’s, and VVA’s throughout the state and region. The Second stone that we did today, for the VFW from Pittsville was honoring their Quartermaster who passed away last October.” Weiler talked at length about what he has learned and what a unique experience in regards to the stone ceremonies in particular “Sometimes these families don’t know what to expect when they arrive, how they are going to feel. Most of the time they expect to feel “this it is no big deal”. But when they get here, and they see that this actually is a very big deal, we see emotions all over the place. It’s an amazing place. It is our honor to have these stones here, and we treat those stones, and this ceremony with a tremendous amount of respect.”
The Highground Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1988 and celebrates it’s 30th Anniversary this year. The Highground Veteran’s Memorial is dedicated to a mission of Honoring, Educating, and Healing.
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