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Phillips, Wisconsin Lidice Memorial Service Promotes History and Honors Veterans

by Laddie Z.

Our Western Fraternal Life Association Lodge 236 members have done community services for decades and plan to expand volunteer efforts. One effort began six decades ago and will continue for decades into the future. One purpose is to remind present and future generations of historical events so that, hopefully, we will work to prevent them from occurring again. Another purpose is to honor veterans who have served, and sometimes died, to keep such tragic events from recurring.

In June 1942 Hitler's Nazis viciously exterminated the men of the Czechoslovak village of Lidice. Most of the women and children died in concentration camps. In remembrance, residents of Price County, Wisconsin soon built a Lidice Memorial - one of only two in the United States. "Remember Lidice" became a rallying cry for the effort to defeat the totalitarian forces. For over six decades our community and Lodge 236 members have held a mid-June Memorial Service emphasizing: "Remember history so such atrocities will not be allowed to happen again". Unfortunately throughout the world it has been repeated---but we hope and pray---and will continue to do our small part.

Our Lodge 236 members have helped continue Lidice Memorial Services for six decades and have extended this beyond our Lodge. Lodge members were instrumental in arranging repairs to the 1944 memorial monument after a 1977 windstorm caused considerable damage. It has since been officially placed on the Registry of National Historic Places, mainly due to a lodge member. Each May lodge members work with younger people in Join Hands Day for clean up of Sokol Park where the monument is located. Our lodge also places and tends memorial flowers for the summer at the monument

VFW and American Legion honor guards have been an integral part of the mid-June memorial service every year since the original 1944 dedication. While they have always been thanked for their service, this year a major part of the memorial program was a tribute to past and present honor guard members. The June 19, 2009 service began with honor guard members marching into a local church and dramatically placing appropriate flags on the stage. Six of the veterans then spoke individually, sometimes in tears, about how their World War II experiences affected them. A plaque was presented to the veterans' organizations, both for their military service and their decades of service at Lidice programs. The capacity audience stood and gave prolonged and loud applause, many with tears streaming down their cheeks.

There are many other instances of Lodge 236 members involved in activities honoring veterans and present service men and women. Therese and Maureen Trojak and other lodge members are very active in local and state Ladies' Auxiliary veteran events. A very visible tribute is their placing hundreds of American flags at graves of veterans at area cemeteries for Memorial Day. Betty J. Barker and her mother Marcie Rehak are prolific providers at bakery sales to earn funds for veteran causes. A lodge wife and husband are frequent volunteers as ticket sellers at dances which provide funds for veteran needs. Each year Lodge 236 purchases and places a weather-proof memorial wreath at the veterans' memorial on the major highway bisecting Phillips, the county seat.

The Fred Smith Concrete Park, just south of Phillips, is several acres of life-size and larger statues created 30-40 years ago by a self-educated old-time logger to honor historical people and events. For several years Lodge 236 also did spring cleanup there as a Join Hands Day project. One of the "statues" was a 15-foot high replica of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima. Lodge 236 donated $200 toward its restoration. On August 8, 2009, in a ceremony unveiling the restored monument, Lodge 236 members were among those honored for their contributions.

These are examples of lodge members honoring veterans and present service members. Keeping America strong at home involves remembering our collective stories. Fraternal organizations keep communities close-knit and ensure that our history is never forgotten. Veterans and service members are an important component to each community. Get involved with your local fraternal organization and ensure that volunteerism remains a part of the American spirit.

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