Private First Class (PFC) Ralph Charles Simoneau of Germantown, Wisconsin, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from October 22, 1943 to July 21, 1946 and is among the Lance Sijan Award honorees for 2019.
Enlisting in Oct 1943, Ralph attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego (Platoon 924). Upon completion, he volunteered for the 2nd Raider Bn. Later, after the Para Marines and Raiders were disbanded, he and his fellow Marines became the core of the newly formed 5th Marine Division.
Ralph was assigned to Company D, 2d Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, volunteering for training in a 60mm mortar section. After additional MOS training, Ralph and his unit set sail for Hawaii. There, they conducted more field training before deploying to the island of Iwo Jima. Upon reaching Iwo Jima, Ralph and his unit hit “Red Beach 1” on the first wave, (the second overall wave on the island). 50,000 Marines aboard LSTs were boarding LVTs deep in the bowels of their respective ships, while the naval bombardment commenced.
As H-Hour was approaching, the shelling tapered off and their landing crafts headed for the ship’s launching ramps. According to Ralph, what seemed like only seconds later, the Marines were down the ramps and in the water, heading for the beaches of a pork chop shaped island, Iwo Jima. None of his fellow Marines or sailors had any idea that they would shortly be fighting in one of the toughest and bloodiest battles in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. Seven battalions of the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions were tasked to hit the black volcanic beaches—Ralph was in the first group of assault waves.
H-Hour was set for 0900L, and they landed right on time. The ferocity of the Japanese resistance to his unit’s landing has been thoroughly documented, but he makes a point to always remind people of the price that was paid to secure Iwo Jima. The 5thMarDiv killed 7,710 of the 13,449 Japanese troops interred on the island. The 5thMarDiv suffered 8,770 casualties, 2,482 of which were killed in action. Seventeen of the Twenty-Seven Medals of Honor earned on Iwo Jima were awarded to the Marines and Sailors of 5thMarDiv. Only four of those who participated in the original assault waves survived the battle. Ralph is one of those survivors. In total, the 3rd, 4th and 5th MarDivs suffered more than 21,000 casualties, with 7,000 KIAs, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Ralph spent 36 days on Iwo Jima before getting back on ship.
Ralph received the Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Presidential Unit Citation, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.
Immediately after he was discharged from the Marine Corps, Ralph enrolled in the Milwaukee State Teachers College. While a student, he met his future wife, and eventually left school to get married.
After leaving college, Ralph held several jobs, none of which he was satisfied with due to feeling underutilized. This held true until he finally landed at the Milwaukee County Transit System. Ralph held several positions during his 30-year tenure with MCTS. His final position was that of Route Supervisor, where more than 600 buses fell under his responsibility. Ralph retired at the age of 62.
The late Jane and Sylvan Sijan were the Gold Star parents of Lance Peter Sijan, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s first graduate to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously.
The Sijan’s supported the USAF, the 440th Tactical Wing of the USAF, and the 128th ARW of the USAF/USAF National Guard for many years. Their devotion to their son and his memory was unrelenting and they did many things for the community in his name.
For their strong devotion to our nation’s military units and those who wear the cloth for the nation, they are worthy to receive the first Citizen Lance Sijan Award.
Accepting the award will be Janine Sijan, their daughter and sister of Lance Sijan.
Lt. (jg) Jim Partleton, of Mequon, served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1942 to 1946 and was honorably discharged at the end of WWII. He is among the Lance Sijan honorees for 2019.
Jim served on two ships as a quartermaster and then as communications officer. His first deployment was to the North Atlantic providing weather reports and then engaged in anti-submarine patrols. During the ASW cruise, they attacked a submarine that was presumed sunk. After receiving a commission, Jim transferred to an LST (which he refers to as a “Large Slow Target”) and steamed about 40,000 miles through the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor, to the Marshall Islands, Guam, the Philippines, Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Jim participated in the landings at Iwo Jima in February 1945 and for the landings at Okinawa in April of 1945. He left the service as a LTjg.
“George Banda isn’t just a hero, he’s a hero’s hero”.
-Oscar F. Castaneda, Char, Latino Veterans Legacy of Valor Foundation
George Banda graduated from Milwaukee Boys Technology and Trade School (Boys Tech) in
1968 and received his draft notice in December. Upon completion of Basic Training at Fort
Campbell, Kentucky, he was ordered to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for Combat Medic school with follow on training at Fort Benning, Georgia for qualification as an Army parachutist. This was followed by additional medical training at Fort Ord, California where he worked at the hospital in post-operative care.
Ordered to Vietnam, George arrived in December 1969 where he served as Combat medic
assigned to E Co, 2/501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) 101st Airborne Division.
George served with distinction in Vietnam from December 1969 through November 1970
spending almost all of the time conducting small unit missions in the jungle. However,
his most distinguished service may be summed up in two remarkable
April 23, 1970 - Thua Thien-Hue Province
While on a reconnaissance mission in the A Shau valley, Banda’s squad was ambushed by
elements of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The soldier on point was wounded and
George ran towards him. While treating his wounded comrade, he was surprised by a
NVA soldier who appeared no more than 15 feet away. The NVA soldier shot at George
but remarkably, he missed. George then returned fire, and after neutralizing the NVA
soldier went back to stabilizing his wounded comrade before dragging him back to his
squad position. At this point another squad member was wounded and he ran toward the
enemy line again to render assistance. Again, he found, treated, and then dragged the
second wounded soldier back to the squad position. Both soldiers were eventually
successfully evacuated. Ironically, due to the nature of this fire fight he found himself
(twice) directly between U.S. and NVA forces. This resulted in his helmet being shot off
by a bullet from behind him. In recognition of his gallantry, George was awarded the Silver
May 6, 1970 - Quang Tri Province
On May 6, 1970, Fire Base Henderson was attacked by NVA in a coordinated operation
on multiple sides simultaneously. At 0500 hours George’s bunker was hit by a Rocket
Propelled Grenade (RPG). This explosion hurled him into the air, leaving him dazed and
partially deaf. In spite of his wounds, he went to work treating the wounded. At one point
he ran into the open to recover a wounded comrade and dragged him back to cover. He
then proceeded to search out other wounded during which time he was shot in the head.
He stopped the flow of blood by fashioning a makeshift dressing out of his shirt and
stuffing it into his head wound. He then proceeded to go back out looking for wounded,
again. Only after all other wounded were evacuated did he acquiesce to being airlifted
out himself. Due to heavy casualties, he was diverted to a Navy/USMC hospital for
treatment. Due to this action, and the fog of war, the Army “lost track” of him. As a result
the Army declared him “Missing in Action”. Eventually he was released from the USMC
hospital and returned to his unit. However, it took two weeks for his family to be notified
that he was in fact not missing and very much alive. In recognition of his actions at Fire
Base Henderson, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device.
George received the following military awards:
• Combat Medic Badge
• Parachutist Badge
• Silver Star
• Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device and Oak Leaf Cluster
• Purple Heart
• Air Medal
• Army Commendation Medal
• Good Conduct Medal
• National Defense Service Medal
• Vietnam Service Medal
• Vietnam Campaign Medal (issued by Republic of Vietnam)
• Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
• LT Darren M. Hidalgo Latino Veteran of the Year Award (2018) from Latino Veterans
Legacy of Valor Foundation (LVLV)
Following his military service, George served as a Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician
(EMT) for Milwaukee County’s Mitchell International Airport Fire Department (1983 – 2006).
He has continued his service to his community and country through volunteer
service that may be categorized as extensive and significant. George is involved in the
• 101st Airborne Division Association
• Past President, Allied Veterans Council of Milwaukee County
• Past Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Milwaukee County Chapter #818
• Senior Vice-Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart, State of WI.
• Life Member, American Legion – David Valdez Post #529
• Life Member, Veterans of Foreign Wars
• Member, Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans
• Member, Wisconsin Veterans Museum Advisory Board
• Vice Chairman, Milwaukee County War Memorial Veterans Board
• Member, Milwaukee Veterans Community Relations Team (VCRT) 3
• Member, “Save the Soldiers Home” Campaign Fundraising Committee. During
his service, the committee raised over $40,000,000 for restoration of historic
buildings on the Milwaukee VA campus.
• Founding Member and State Commander (2012 – 2016) American GI Forum of
Wisconsin, an organization focusing on Latino American Veterans issues.
Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Daniel R. Looney and Staff Sgt. Edward B. Wiley, both of the U.S. Marine Corps, for being recognized as the 2019 winners of the Gary Wetzel Award.
Looney's is being awarded for his courageous service under fire in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, executing over 95 combat patrols. Wiley's honors comes for valor in Operation Iraqi Freedom and service under fire. He received the Purple Heart/Combat Action Ribbon.
Gary Wetzel was a Private First Class serving as a door gunner in the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company in the Vietnam War when his helicopter was shot down and the survivors, including Wetzel, came under heavy enemy fire. Despite devastating injuries, Wetzel remained at his position until he had eliminated the threat thereby protecting and saving the lives of his crew and others.
Wetzel survived his wounds, although his left arm had to be amputated. He was subsequently promoted to Specialist Four and received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
This award will be presented to Looney and Wiley on Monday night, May 13 at the Armed Forces Week Banquet. These brave men are two members of our armed services who have served with valor while currently on active duty.
Milwaukee Brewers’ Robin Yount to receive prestigious Citizen Support Award during Milwaukee Armed Forces Week
Robin Yount, the Hall of Fame shortstop and outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers and two-time American League MVP Award winner, has been named the 2019 recipient of the Citizen Support for the Armed Services Award by the Milwaukee Armed Services Committee (MASC).
Yount will be recognized for his unique support, and personal and professional service to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces on Monday, May 13, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. at the annual Armed Forces Week banquet held at the Wisconsin Club, 900 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee.
“Many years ago, Robin flew with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels while they were in Milwaukee for an air show,” recalls Capt. Tom Plantenberg, USNR (Retired), and president of the Milwaukee Armed Services Committee (MASC). “After the flight, there was a reenlistment ceremony for several of the sailors under my command and he gave them signed baseballs. Since then Robin has been a constant contributor to the Centurions, which provide financial support for Armed Forces Week, and he often donates memorabilia for our golf auction. His combination of humility, humor, humanity and personal honor all make him a strong choice to receive this year’s award.”
Bob Uecker, who received the Citizen Support Award last year, will be on hand for Yount’s presentation.
Yount, who was 18 years old when he debuted with the Brewers in April of 1974, quickly became the Brewers starting shortstop. Not only was he named an American League MVP in that position, but he led the Brewers to their first (and only) World Series appearance after a regular-season record of 95-67. Though injuries later forced him to play the outfield, Yount proved up to the task, earning his second A.L. MVP honor as a center fielder.
On Sept. 9, 1992, Yount marked his 3,000 hit against the Cleveland Indians, the 17th player in MLB history to earn such an achievement.
Yount’s final season in the major leagues came in 1993. He ended his baseball career with 3,142 hits, the most in Brewers’ history. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. On May 29, 1994, the Brewers retired his uniform number 19, the third player in franchise history to be so honored, keeping him in good company with Brewers' Hall of Fame players Hank Aaron and Rollie Fingers.
Kimberly Mitchell, president & CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) and a former Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy, is this year’s keynote speaker for the Milwaukee Armed Forces Week Banquet.
Mitchell will speak at the sold-out event on Monday, May 13 at the Wisconsin Club in downtown Milwaukee. The event will also honor recipients of the Gary Wetzel Award and the Citizen Support for Our Armed Services Award. Mitchell will also speak at the Milwaukee Rotary Club Luncheon at noon on Tuesday, May 14.
Mitchell, who spent part of her youth growing up in northern Wisconsin, is a vocal advocate for service members, veterans, military families and families of the fallen. As the first non-Vietnam Veteran CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD), she leads her team in serving more than 3,000 veterans annually by providing programs for homeless vets. Those services include residential treatment programs, mental health, substance use disorder treatment, case management, therapy, job training, job placement, and housing navigation services. Over the past nine years, Mitchell has created a nationwide network of support utilizing grassroots solutions to address the challenges of transition and reintegration for our service members, veterans and military families.
Mitchell has a compelling story to share. As an infant, she was discovered in the arms of her deceased mother on the side of the road in South Vietnam. A man who found her then passed her on to a South Vietnamese Marine hoping he could save her life. That South Vietnamese Marine took her Sacred Heart Orphanage in DaNang. In 1972, Mitchell was adopted by Air Force Technical Sergeant James Mitchell serving in DaNang. After a few more years in the service, Kim and her family moved to Solon Springs, Wisconsin. She is recognized for her devotion to Vietnam Veterans and Vietnam era veterans.
Mitchell served in the United States Navy for 17 years as a Surface Warfare Officer on board surface ships and at shore commands. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the United States Naval Academy in Ocean Engineering and a Master’s degree in Organizational Management from The George Washington University.
In addition to Mitchell's visit, service member and citizen award recognitions, a motorcycle ride for troops and a public military display are among the events planned throughout the city for Milwaukee Armed Forces Week, May 13-18. This year’s theme is “Forward with Truth and Honor,” says Capt. Thomas Platenberg, president of the Milwaukee Armed Services Committee (MASC).