New Memorial Honors Wisconsin's Fallen

Since statehood, nearly 900,000 men and women from Wisconsin have been sent into war time services. Twenty-six thousand of those haven't returned.

Monday, the names of those soldiers and marines killed in action since 9-11 were read aloud. And high over head four black hawk helicopters flew in an aerial salute.

Now, plaques with the fallen service members names are now hanging inside Witmer Hall along with this bronze sculpture that was created as a special tribute to Michelle Witmer, the first female killed in action in the 360 year history of the Wisconsin National Guard.

John Witmer, Michelle's father, says, "We are honored that Michelle's likeness will stand watch over the names over all the Wisconsin soldiers who gave their lives in the war on terrorism."

The sculptor Gwendolyn Gillen says when she met with Michelle's family she began to understand what Michelle was really all about. "For here was a girl who had a face like sunshine and an ever present smile."

Lieutenant Colonel Tim Donovan says this memorial has been a labor of love. "This memorial was made possible by generous contributions from all across Wisconsin and we thank all the contributors here who are part of this permanent monument."

Family members on hand for Monday's event say it's never easy to hear your loved ones name when their gone.

Bobbie Jo Cantafio is the stepmother of Ryan Cantafio. "Your heart falls every time because you know what everyone of these families have gone through."

And the mother of another fallen marine Peggy O'Donnell says it may never get any easier but she will survive. It's always there and it's going to be there. You go through the day and you have a little break down over something silly and you go well shane wanted me to smile so let's smile." Her son was Shane O'Donnell.

The life–size bronze statue of Michelle Witmer along with the plaques will be in the lobby of the Wisconsin National Guard's state headquarters.

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