Col. Dave Woodruff, the commander of the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade, hands Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, an Eagle Brigade commemorative coin and tree ornament, Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis.  Haag was drafted for the Vietnam War in 1970, earning the rank of sergeant first class before commissioning as an officer. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade)
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. Dave Woodruff, the commander of the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade, hands Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, an Eagle Brigade commemorative coin and tree ornament, Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis. Haag was drafted for the Vietnam War in 1970, earning the rank of sergeant first class before commissioning as an officer. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno) VIEW ORIGINAL
Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, poses for a photo with his wife, Evelyn Haag, Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis.  Haag received numerous commemorative coins from the battalions of the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade along with the commemorative coin he received from the Eagle Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade)
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, poses for a photo with his wife, Evelyn Haag, Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis. Haag received numerous commemorative coins from the battalions of the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade along with the commemorative coin he received from the Eagle Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers of the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade sing “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” to Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis.  Haag commissioned as an officer of the Medical Service Corps in 1979. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade)
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers of the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade sing “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” to Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis. Haag commissioned as an officer of the Medical Service Corps in 1979. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno) VIEW ORIGINAL
Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, receives an elbow bump from Lt. Col. Robert McTighe, the commander of 1-310th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade, Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis.  Haag retired as a colonel in 2002. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade)
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, receives an elbow bump from Lt. Col. Robert McTighe, the commander of 1-310th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade, Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis. Haag retired as a colonel in 2002. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno) VIEW ORIGINAL

Eagle Brigade serenades veteran with Alzheimer’s

By Staff Sgt. Ryan Rayno, 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade

Soldiers of the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade did some early caroling for Walter Haag, a 37-year Army Reserves veteran, when they sang “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” to him Dec. 17, 2020, at Fort McCoy, Wis.

Even though Haag has Alzheimer’s disease and has lost nearly all capability to communicate verbally, it didn’t stop him from enjoying the singing.

“The Army has been his whole life so this has meant a lot,” Evelyn Haag, Haag’s wife, said, while her husband stood next to her beaming. “To see him go through this, the honor they gave him…it means a lot. He’s been out of the Army for quite some time, but to recognize him and his 37 years, I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”

The Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce coordinated the intended surprise event with Haag’s wife, but that proved to be too difficult to hide.

“This didn’t start until 11 a.m., but Walt was up early and fully dressed by 7:15 a.m.,” Mrs. Haag said with a big smile. “I tried to tell him that he might spill something on his nice clothes, but he wanted to make sure he was good to go.”

As excited as Haag was, the Eagle Brigade Soldiers were just as eager to be a part of the event.

“When the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce came to us with this opportunity, there wasn’t a doubt in our mind that we wanted to participate,” Col. Dave Woodruff, the commander of the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade, said.

Continuing the thought, Woodruff stressed the need to work with the brigade’s surrounding communities to build and strengthen working relationships.

“It’s important that we support our local communities, and it’s important that we honor those that served before us,” Woodruff said. “To have the opportunity to do both at the same time…it was an easy decision to make and even easier to find volunteers to join in the event.”

For Woodruff, this event meant more than singing the Army song or handing out a coin.

“Once you put on this uniform, you’re a Soldier for life, and your family is forever a part of the Army family,” Woodruff said. “I couldn’t think of a better way to demonstrate that than honoring Mr. Haag.”

For the Haag’s, that couldn’t be truer.

“It’s very emotional for the both of us,” Mrs. Haag said while holding back tears. “I am so grateful; I’m just dumbfounded of what they did for my husband. I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”

Along with the Eagle Brigade and the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce, the 88th Readiness Division, the Fort McCoy Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and the Monroe County Veterans’ Services office participated in the event.

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