Crowds gathered at the state Capitol Monday to remember those Wisconsin service members who have died, and thank veterans for their service.
Some were also marking a milestone. This year not only marks 10 years since the beginning of the Iraq war, but the first time in a decade that no Wisconsin service member was killed in the previous year.
The Madison Veterans Council held their Memorial Day ceremony in the state Capitol rotunda, laying wreaths to honor fallen Wisconsin soldiers in every conflict since the American Revolution. Parents Ruth and Kermit Hugo, whose daughter, 24-year-old Army medic Rachael Hugo was killed in Iraq, laid a rose for the Gold Star Families.
"It's bad news and really bad to deal with," said Kermit Hugo of the experience of losing his daughter. "That knock on the door is horrible and you don't want to see anybody go through that."
No Wisconsin service member's families had to hear that knock this year, a trend military commanders hope will continue.
"We're certainly on a path to withdrawal as the president has said, a 2014 withdrawal," said Wisconsin National Guard Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar. "As the commander of 10,000 soldiers and Airmen I think it will be wonderful when we don't have to send any Wisconsin National Guardsmen or any American men and women into combat. That's a good thing."
Should the state be so lucky, the hope is that this holiday will still hold the same meaning.
"I think after a conflict we tend to have a natural lull," said Dunbar. "I remember growing up you maybe don't go to the parades. You just have your picnic and sometimes forget. So I would hope in the schools and civic discourse we can remember why we celebrate this day."
The Hugos said they were thankful no new families had to go through the pain of losing a loved one this year, and hope no others will soon.
"I lower the flags at the Madison Municipal Building for the city and thank God I have not had to lower that flag for something like that," said Kermit Hugo. "Thank God. Because for a while there it was pretty regular and that's something that slaps you back to just as if it had happened to me."
More than 31,000 Wisconsin Soldiers, Airmen and Marines have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Ninety-one have died while serving in Iraq, and 35 lost their lives in Afghanistan.