LAKE HALLIE — Eight local veterans were honored Thursday for their service during the Stories of Honor celebration hosted by Chippewa Valley Newspapers at the Lake Hallie Eagles Club.
Veterans from around the area were nominated to be featured in articles in The Chippewa Herald and Dunn County News throughout the summer, with stories highlighting their service to the United States.
Justin Utpadel, Chad Siverling, Clement Bresina, Dennis Sullivan, Scott Sneen, Stephen Howard Gilbertson, Joshua Mannel and Don Bee were recognized in front of family and friends during Thursday’s event.
Dick Leinenkugel was the keynote speaker. Leinenkugel, the president and chief beer merchant for the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company since October 2014, served four years as an officer in the Marine Corps, with his family having three generations of Marines.
Leinenkugel said he learned how it was the “highest calling” to serve from his father, Bill, a fellow Marine.
Leinenkugel, who also was Wisconsin’s commerce secretary from 2008-10, spoke about the importance of not only honoring veterans, but also about their strengths as employees and the importance of hiring vets after their service to their country.
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“When you meet the young men and women who serve in our military, you can rest assured they come with skills unlike their peers who have not served,” Leinenkugel said. “They have seen and practiced teamwork, training and more, and by its very nature, our military today is perhaps the most diverse of any work environment.
“Service members today serve around the globe, they’re technologically savvy, they perform under pressure, they know how to complete a mission and they’re able to learn new concepts while maintaining the utmost integrity and respect for the organization.”
Like Leinenkugel, Utpadel came from a military family before enlisting in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. A Menomonie native, Utpadel was deployed to Iraq twice, with one of his missions training and working with Iraqi soldiers to provide security during the first free election since the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule.
Siverling, who was born and raised in Bloomer and served eight years in the Army, learned how fortunate he was to live in the United States. Siverling worked funeral detail while in the service and had to hand over 14 flags to family members who lost their loved ones.
Bresina enlisted in the Army in 1942 to serve his country during World War II. Bresina was a heavy artillery mechanic, fighting in the D-Day invasion and campaigns in northern France, the Ardennes, the Rhineland and Central Europe. The decorated veteran was a longtime resident of Chippewa Falls before dying in 2002.
Sullivan graduated from McDonell and went on to graduate from the Naval Academy in 1950, flying more than 100 combat missions. He earned the rare Intelligence Star from the CIA for his three missions over North Vietnam in the late 1960s, evading missile fire, and was a 2011 inductee into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame.
Sneen has been an active member of the Army for the past 24 years, serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea. He recently graduated magna cum laude from American Military University with a degree in homeland security. He now serves in the Army Intelligence Division stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington.
Gilbertson was involved in overseas tours in Korea and Germany and flew helicopters during the Vietnam War. After military service in 1992, he returned to Chippewa Falls to live with his wife, Marjorie. His father served during World War II, and his son Stephen has served for 20 years, flying in Iraq for multiple tours.
Mannel is a native of Neillsville and joined the Army as a 20-year-old, deploying in four tours to Iraq for more than 30 months as a part of the 82nd Airborne Division. He has assisted the FBI, CIA and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country and is a member of the Wisconsin National Guard, where he has earned awards for recruiting including the 2012 National Guard Recruiter of the Year to go with a Bronze Medal and multiple Purple Army Combination and Army Achievement medals.
Bee is part of a family rich in military tradition, joining his grandfather Walter; father, Dennis; and children Tyler and Alyssa in the armed forces. Bee served in the Air Force from 1992 to 1997 to foster the Eau Claire resident’s love for country and help find a higher purpose.
All eight came from different backgrounds but share a strong desire and love for their country that is surely worthy of honoring.