Veterans Day: MillerCoors Creates Monument
The MilerCoors Veterans Memorial monument being created. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- For 60 years, the names of six Miller Brewing Co. workers killed in service to the nation's military were noted only on a hand-typed employee newsletter stored in the company's archives -- part of an item marking what was then called Armistice Day.
Now they are etched on plaques mounted on the Miller Valley Veterans Monument, being unveiled Thursday -- Veterans Day -- during a ceremony at the MillerCoors brewery.
The nearly 20-foot-tall monument has been under construction near the visitors center for about a year. The monument has been covered in a parachute the last couple of days as MillerCoors officials scramble to iron out final details for the event, expected to draw about 300 people and to feature a vintage military fly-over, a 21-gun salute and a gift for each company employee with military service -- a special coin to commemorate the dedication.
The brewery and a portion of State St. will be shut down for two hours. Planned speakers include Medal of Honor winner Gary Wetzel of Franklin, Brig. Gen. Patricia Quisenberry, Governor-elect Scott Walker and MillerCoors officials.
Bottle house workers Andrew J. Lijewski, Howard C. Neidert, Alex Tarkowski, Joseph Urban and Joseph M. Aspel and storeroom employee James Wellinghoff all died in action during World War II, when about a quarter of the brewery's 800 workers were called to serve.
Company officials think there may have been other employees who made the ultimate sacrifice, but finding them has been a challenge.
"You're limited by what they saved," said MillerCoors archivist Dave Herrewig, referring to the many things the company didn't save over its 155-year history. He said that, starting in about 1947, the employee newsletter provided lots of information, such as the names of the workers killed in battle. But before that, there are not as many company records as a historian would like.
Herrewig is pretty confident no workers died in the Korean or Vietnam wars, because he thinks it would have been mentioned in the newsletter. But he can't be sure, as he is about modern conflicts like the two Gulf wars. (No employees died in those wars).
But Miller was operating during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I, and he thinks it's likely brewery workers at least served in the military then.
"I would love to have the records from World War I," Herrewig said. "We have some payroll books of office employees, but not brewery workers. If they left, it doesn't say whether they joined the military. They just stopped getting paychecks."
The monument idea came from discussions by the MillerCoors Veterans Group, said Jim Malcolm, president of the 55-member group, not all of whom are veterans. They work on issues such as hiring and retaining veterans, supporting military sons and daughters of employees, and outreach with the VA Hospital and Wounded Warriors, which made stops at the brewery the last two summers.
Malcolm said management supported the monument and donated prime space near the visitors center, even before the design was completed. After several meetings, and discussions with MillerCoors officials in Golden, Colo., who erected a veterans memorial years earlier, contractors broke ground on Veterans Day 2009.
"We look at this as kind of a journey," Malcolm said, "and this memorial will help us on the way. Maybe five years from now someone comes to the visitors center and sees it, and it jogs a memory of someone they knew and it will lead us to more names" of onetime Miller workers who died in combat.
"Our guess is that this is just the beginning," he said, "that there are more."
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com
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