Friday, February 4, 2011


This memorial began with a promise to a dying friend. In 1965, in the fields of Vietnam, Tom Miller made a vow to his dying friend; that his death would never be forgotten. In 1984, Miller and others began the actual work of planning, site selection, fund raising and all the necessary work to make this promise, a reality. By 1986 the first permanent fixture was in place and the work has been ongoing ever since.

It is hard for me to know where to begin when writing about Wisconsin's memorial. Located in Neillsville, it brings to mind Bob Seger's line about "what to leave in and what to leave out" There is just so much! I will try to do this magnificent site justice, but I fear my abilities will be found lacking.

One thing to mention is that those who operate the site point out that this is a Veteran's Memorial, not a war memorial. I have been struck as I travel to so many sites how often this the case.

I first visited the site in the evening, really too late to take any decent pictures. I just walked around and took the place in as well as I could. Even in the evening people were coming in, in ones and twos, to walk the silent grounds. To remember, to heal, to just visit.

There is a nice visitors center on site which was closed too, but I later found out that it was built by vets, for vets. I decided that I would return the next day to check this remarkable, visionary, dare I say, sacred, spot out more completely. It was a decision that turned out to be one of the best I have made on these journeys.

The next day, the sky was clear and blue and the memorial was even more enthralling. What I expected to be a visit of an hour or so turned into one that lasted much of the day. The people here welcomed me with open arms and when they discovered what I was trying to do, they could not have been more helpful. My main contact was named Joyce and she just bent over backwards to see that I had what I wanted to do this place justice. Thank you, again, Joyce!

After some conversation, she insisted that I take the self guided tour of the site. This is not something I always have the time (or patience) to do. She was 100% correct! The info provided on the tour was great. If you get to this site, take the time. You won't regret it!

One of the primary things you learn is that the area is called The High Ground, not surprisingly because it is! The site was not chosen because of this, but, vets noticed it right away and the name has stuck. It sits on 140 acres of beautiful Wisconsin land and the site was chosen because it sits in the geographical center of the state. Anyone in the state can drive to, visit and return home in one day. This was one of the primary goals of the planners; that all be able to visit without extraordinary expense. Joyce told me that the local motel which has some other name now answers its phones "The High Ground", so it has become the norm.

Read the plaque (pic 3) as it explains far better than I can the significance of the components of the statue, Fragments. Also, this is the first memorial to feature a woman, look closely at the statue and you can see that the poncho wearing figure is in fact a woman and from her poncho hang the bronze rods naming each of those lost. This is her burden.

Remember, if you 'click" on a picture, it will enlarge in a new window!

Note in the final picture the wristbands and beaded key chains etc that visitors have left on the statue. More about the key chains, later.

Also, note the inverted rifle (pics 2 and 5). This was a sign that a medivac was needed.

I will spend the next couple of posts here at The High Ground. There is much to tell, before moving on to some more beautiful and unusual sites in Wisconsin.

Here is specific contact information;

The Highground

W7031 Ridge Road

Neillsville, WI 54456

Phone: (715) 743 - 4224

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