Vets Seek to Honor and Be Honored by Bald Eagle

Gale Courey Toensing

Two Vietnam War veterans are hoping that Wisconsin’s statewide observance of American Eagle Day on Friday, June 20, will become an annual event honoring veterans at military posts through the country.

Jim Overman, a citizen of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, and Larry Kutschma, a member of the state’s Board of Veterans Affairs, and past Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) State Commander, took the first step toward their goal by asking Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to issue a proclamation declaring June 20 American Eagle Day throughout the state of  Wisconsin. The date is significant: It was on June 20, 1782, that Congress proclaimed the bald eagle as America’s national emblem.

The proclamation was Overman’s brainchild and Kutschma implemented it.

“Initially, the request was made to the Board of Veterans Affairs by Jim Overman in April asking for this proclamation and I as a board member took it up,” said Kutschma, who served in Vietnam during the famous 1968 Tet Offensive. At the beginning of June, Kutschma submitted a draft of the proclamation to Walker’s staff and an official proclamation was issued this week.

In a series of “whereas” clauses, the proclamation says among other things that the bald eagle’s “image, meaning and symbolism have played a significant role in the beliefs, traditions, lifestyles, and heritage of Americans from all walks of life.” It describes the bald eagle as representing the “American values” of “freedom, courage, spirit, strength, justice, quality, and excellence.”

The proclamation will be the centerpiece of a ceremony at the Oneida Tribe’s VFW Post 7784, Kutschma said. Gov. Walker will not be able to attend the event due to a prior commitment, he said.

“My objective is to share this proclamation on June 20, 2014 at festivities at the Oneida Tribe's VFW Post 7784 which has invited the National Congress of American Indians President and other guests to not only honor this proclamation but to also set this as a precedent to all of the national VFW posts and service organizations as a moment to reinforce and recite our oath of obligation to our nation when we raised our right hand and were sworn into the service of our country,” Kutschma said. “Namely, myself and many others, believe the strength inherent as an emblem in the bald eagle has been instrumental toward the comradeship experienced in the midst of trying circumstances,” he said, referring to circumstances in a war zone.


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