Veterans remembered with a Day of Their Own

Robert Bloom, Jr, grew up in Sparta. As a boy he joined his friends at the local Dairy Queen. As he grew, he knew he wanted to follow his father’s footsteps.

Bob’s father was a career Army Officer. Robert Bloom, Sr, served as Company Commander of the 76th Construction Engineers which was part of the unit that constructed the building at Pan Mun Jon where, on July 27, 1953, the armistice was signed - bringing an end to the Korean War.

Late in 1970, Bob Bloom, Jr, joined the Army and was stationed in Can Tho, part of the Mekong Delta region in Vietnam. He served as an Army intelligence Officer.

Al Wright, also from Sparta, bought the local Dairy Queen after he returned home from his three years of service including a little over a year as Staff Sergeant in Korea. Al was in charge of the electricians who wired the same building at Pan Mun Jon where the armistice was signed.

Al and Robert Bloom, Sr, never knew a fellow Spartan helped construct the building where leaders gathered to sign the armistice agreement.  And Bob Bloom, Jr, never knew the fellow who sold him ice cream had served with his father--- until this past week.                                                                                                                       

On July 20, 2009, the Governor signed into law two bills honoring Korean and Vietnam War Veterans. Two dozen veterans from all over our Senate District came to Madison to participate in the signing ceremony.

The day of celebration was the culmination of the efforts of several people. Al Wright contacted me last summer to ask that I introduce a bill designating July 27th as Korean War Armistice Day. About the same time Thuy (pronounced Twee) Smith contacted me and asked that I sponsor a bill designating March 29th, the date in 1973 that the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, as Vietnam Veterans Day.  Al also asked that I sponsor a Vietnam Veterans Day bill but he had never met Thuy.

In February, Representative Mark Radcliffe and I introduced the bills. Mark went door to door to gain the support of his colleagues and 81 of 132 Legislators signed on as co-sponsors of the bills - the best example of bipartisanship this session.

Thuy and Al worked different parts of our Senate District to encourage veterans to testify and advocate for passage of the bills.

When the Governor signed both bills into law, Thuy and Al brought their fellow veterans to Madison to share in the ceremony. One vet who couldn’t come asked Thuy if a friend, Bob Bloom, Jr, could join the group. On the way down, Thuy and Bob got to know each other. Thuy learned that Bob was stationed at Can Tho, where Thuy was born and her father served his second tour in Vietnam.  Thuy’s father served in the Army Radio Research Company which worked with communications and directly with the ARVN – the Army Republic of Vietnam – the former South Vietnam soldiers.

Bob Bloom, Jr, now from Eau Claire, arrived in Madison unaware he was about to meet a man who shared credit with his father for constructing that building at Pan Mun Jon. Robert Bloom, Sr, had passed away but everyone shared memories when Al told us the story of their work in Korea.

July 27, 2009 is the first official “Korean War Armistice Day”. It is a day, as the new law reads, to recognize the Wisconsin armed forces members who courageously fought during the Korean War. May we all take a moment for solemn contemplation of the sacrifices of service members during that war, including the over 700 citizens who gave their “last full measure of devotion.”

And on March 29th, 2010 we shall do the same for the 1,239 Wisconsin armed forces members who are listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC and gratefully honor all of their Vietnam Veteran brothers and sisters who are still among us.

Thanks and honor long overdue.