Ask Tony Fischer.
Fischer is the commander of VFW Post 8343 of Waterford, Wis. A Vietnam veteran himself, Fischer’s passion is to show his fellow vets respect and give them the support they need and deserve, he says.
Fischer helped start the VFW’s annual calendar project six years ago. In the past, the calendars featured pictorial histories of the armed forces.
Money raised through sale of the calendars – and the coinciding raffle – goes toward veteran-related projects and activities.
The 2008 calendar is a little different, a little special, Fischer says.
This one is “dedicated to all the men and women who served in the 440th,” he says.
The 440th Airlift Wing was based out of Milwaukee from 1953 until late last year.
“We served all over the world in every front, every conflict,” Fischer explains.
“They moved massive machinery,” he continues. “Whenever they were called to duty, they went.”
The 2008 calendar features photos of the 440th from beginning until its move to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina last year.
Fischer says the Post chose the 440th “because it was such an integral part of this community.”
Many local residents and veterans serve or served in the 440th, he says.
One thousand calendars are printed each year, Fischer says. Calendars cost $15 – or are free with a $100 donation that enters the owner in a daily drawing for $100, and three drawings for $1,000 each. Drawings are held throughout the year.
It’s all about the veterans, he says. The money raised through the calendar and raffle is used for the VFW’s Take a Veteran Fishing Day in Wind Lake, for Christmas parties at Zablocki Center in Milwaukee and Southern Wisconsin Center in Union Grove, for chartering the local Boy Scout troop, for flag disposal ceremonies, local Easter egg hunts, veterans’ family picnics and more.
“We do a lot of things here, small and large,” he says.
Recently, the VFW changed its name to honor the late Captain Rhett Schiller, a Waterford native who died in a firefight in Iraq last year.
Post 8343 is now Schiller-Kulchar-Fohr Post.
“I’m really honored that I can be part of this,” Fischer says.
Fischer, who was a boiler technician on a Navy destroyer during Vietnam, says he did not always understand how much one person relies on another in the military.
“It took me a lot of years to realize how important we were,” he says. While he was working deep below the deck, the ship was picking up downed fliers and was one of the first to fuel helicopters in flight.
He wants all veterans to realize how important they are to their units, and to the country as well.
The VFW – as well as other local military service organizations – meets at The Bunker, a military-themed bar at 29224 Evergreen Drive, Waterford.
There, veterans are surrounded by familiar camoflage and an assortment of military artifacts – including a tank, jet, helicopter, watchtower and other equipment.
The Bunker has museum status for some of the equipment, Fischer says. It’s nationally-known, and is often a stopping-off place for veterans who visit southeastern Wisconsin.