Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.
By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot and Review
Jeff Morgan, 67
Q: How did you become involved in the Man of Honor Society?
A: Back in 2011, the Man of Honor had and still has a program where they give away a free ham or turkey to a Veteran as long as you have a good 214 and military ID card. I heard about it and never took any steps to partake in it, but that particular year, some of the members talked me into coming down to get a turkey or ham. I decided to try and didn’t talk much to anyone, but they were all having a great time. I realized I needed to do something in my life to give back and pay it forward so in 2012, I joined.
Can you give me some details as to what the Man of Honor Society is?
The Man of Honor Society formed in May of 2004 and at that time there were about eight or nine members. Over the years, we’ve grown close to 500 members. What we do is volunteer our time to raise money to help the Veterans of Marathon County. From 2004 to date, we have either closed in on or surpassed half a million dollars that we have raised and given back to the veterans. Every so often, we go outside the county to places such as Wood, Portage, and Langlade counties, but is usually on a case by case basis. We hate to turn down any veteran that needs anything. When we do get the call, they typically needed it yesterday. I don’t know if it’s a veteran thing, but they typically wait until the last minute to figure out they’re in trouble and they need help. It’s a hand up; not a hand out. I can’t say we make them jump through hoops, but we do make sure they have an honorable discharge and do our best to help them out the best we can.
What ways do you raise money for the veterans?
Our main fundraiser, an annual raffle, we hold the second week in June. It’s a three day event and we buy raffle prizes for the people to try winning. Last year there was a Jeep Cherokee, Harley Davidson, Riding Lawn Mower, 4-wheeler, Trailer, and the rest up to 25th place was cash money. We sell raffle tickets at $50 apiece and have a one in 100 chance of winning. In March, we have a mini fundraiser that is a pool tournament at the Eagle’s Club and usually brings in about $800. Last year, with our large fundraiser, we surpassed the $100,000 mark in three days.
Were you a member at that time or did you hold a board position?
I was a member, but in 2012 I was the chairman to bring the Vietnam Traveling Memorial to Wausau. We had a wonderful group of people working on that, but in 2013, I became president.
How did you decide to join the National Guard?
I was drafted and was too chicken to go to Canada. I didn’t want to go to Vietnam at the time and some people I knew that were in the Guards talked me into coming down and taking the test; I aced it. I went down to Milwaukee for the physical, took the oath, and was in for 22 ½ years.
You must have liked it a little bit.
How did your experiences in the National Guard shape you into who you are today?
If you don’t have it to begin with, the military definitely leads you to a decent work ethic. I still to this day firmly believe that every person that walks upright should took the opportunity to go through a military boot camp and learn a trade that can help them once they get out.
What were positives and negatives about the military?
The positives are the people you work with/for and learning the equipment in the field you go into. The negatives are the same as it is outside the military; your bosses are all dumbasses. Even the bad times were good; lousy weather, lousy food, but you could always make a joke of it.
What are your favorite memories from living in Wausau?
I was born and raised on 28th Avenue on the west side of Wausau. Back in the early 50s, we used to get a boat load of snow. I remember walking in my dad’s boot prints so I could keep up. We used to take a coal shovel and slide down the ski hill in the shovel.
What changes would you like to see in the community in the next five years?
I’m a union supporter and I think the working men and women deserve to get what they work for. I would like to see more of our community leadership get involved with programs or organizations such as ours. There are a lot of them out there and there isn’t a lot of higher end participation.
What was one moment in life that changed you?
There are a lot of those. My parents death, my marriage, joining and leaving the military; I could keep the list going.
What keeps you in the area?
Family, and I love the four seasons; especially Autumn. I’ve lived here all my life and all my life long friends are still around.
If you had to give advice to anyone, what would it be?
Join the military; plain and simple. If you’re tired of living with mom and dad and looking for an occupation, but don’t have money to spend on the education in civilian life, either the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, or Army can help you out even if it’s not where you’re looking to fit.