Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories detailing the history of the American Legion in Wausau, including highlights about the men and women of Post 10, in advance of the organization’s 100-year anniversary.
By David Stenklyft, Wausau Pilot and Review
Wausau-area resident Gil Holcombe enlisted in the armed forces directly after high school, but he continues to serve the public through his work as service officer for Wausau’s Post 10.
At 17, Holcombe needed his parents’ approval to enlist in the army in 1963. He went from basic training to jump school, where he learned the skills to be a paratrooper. Eventually, he was sent to the elite 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There, as a non-commissioned officer, he worked with students and soldiers, helping them transition into specialized training with the Army.
This, Holcombe said, is essentially what initially kept him from being sent from Vietnam. As an E5 sergeant, the colonels he worked with didn’t want to see him go.
“We need you here and you’re staying here,” Holcombe recalled his superiors telling him. “So then I’d unpack my bags.”
That happened twice. But when the third order arrived, he went to administrators who told him that with 11 months left in his enlistment, he would need a two-month enlistment extension to go.
Instead, he went into the reserves in Wausau before going into Warrant Officers’ School. Army warrant officers are technical experts, combat leaders, trainers, and advisors. They serve in 17 branches and 67 warrant officer specialties, spanning the Active Component, the Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Reserve.
His last 10 years was spent as an Army intelligence instructor. He was deployed in Desert Storm to be an instructor in Arizona. Shortly after, he retired, with 23 years of service.
Today, Holcombe continues to serve as the service officer for Post 10 in Wausau.
“This organization was formed to help vets in need,” Holcombe said. “We’ve gone from a meager budget to now we can help people. Marathon County has a top 10 ranking in veteran’s population in the state. If you add the Stevens Point and Merrill areas, we are in the top five.”
The challenge, Holcombe said, is that veterans don’t always know about the resources Post 10 provides. Or, they don’t know how to access the available benefits.
“One of my main jobs is to let them know about the benefits, whether it is the radio ads we are now doing, or to find a way to let them know,” Holcombe said.
The Post is on a membership drive through the summer to boost membership numbers and help veterans and their families. There are 63 programs that assist with veteran issues.
The American Legion Post welcomes all military personnel serving the U.S. Their mission is to implement the goals, aspirations, dreams, peace and blessings for our country, friends and families. Membership is based on honorable service with any branch of the U.S. Armed forces during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanon/Grenada conflict from Aug. 24, 1082 to July 31, 1984, Operation Just Cause from Dec. 20, 1989 to Jan. 31, 1990, and Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, from Aug. 2, 1990 through today.
To learn more or to join Post 10, visit the organization’s membership page.