John Joswiak was a member of a crew that sunk one–and possibly a second–German submarine in the Pacific. Merlin Baur served as a machine gunner with “The Hellcats” in Germany, and after the war ended, had the memorable experience of attending the Nuremberg trials.
Both World War II veterans live at Stoney River and will be honored along with fellow veteran residents at a Veterans Day Ceremony, Monday, November 11, from 1:30 to 3pm at the senior living community, located at 1204 W. McMillan St., Marshfield, WI. Area veterans and the community are invited to attend. Please RSVP to 715-213-8261.
The event includes:
- Honor Ceremony and Gift Presentation by the local VFW
- Pinning Ritual and Poem Reading by St. Croix Hospice
- Flower Presentation by Stoney River
- Patriotic music performed by guitarist Dale Dickerson
- Cake, refreshments and fellowship to follow ceremony
“We are proud to serve those who served our country,” Stoney River Executive Director Sarah Krenn said. “Thank you to the VFW and St. Croix Hospice for helping us honor veterans living at Stoney River and throughout the larger Marshfield community for their service and sacrifice.”
Stories of Service
The following narratives shared by Stoney River’s veterans and family members give others a glimpse into military service and the unique experiences of Stoney River’s veterans.
John Joswiak, Navy, 1944 to 1945
Senior year at Edgar High School, Joswiak joined the Navy and was called to report for duty the day of his final exams. In just a few months, Joswiak went from the classroom to being stationed aboard a destroyer escort in the Pacific during WWII.
“We were on a real fast maneuvering boat. If we saw a torpedo coming, we could duck in a way to avoid getting hit,” said Joswiak, who served as a motor mechanic and as a depth charger during battle. In combat, Joswiak proudly recalled that his crew sunk one German submarine and possibly a second one.
After serving, Joswiak earned a degree in conservation with minors in physical education, mathematics and biology from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. This led to a lifelong career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in fish management.
Joswiak and his wife, Ruth, a nurse, met on a blind date and will soon celebrate 65 years of marriage. They raised four children in Woodruff, WI, and have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Merlin Baur, Army, 1944-1946
Baur served in Germany near the end of WWII with the 23rd Tank Battalion as a machine gunner in the 12th Armored Division nicknamed “The Hellcats,” symbolizing its toughness and readiness for combat. While still in Germany, Baur and had the proud honor of attending the Nuremberg trials.
After the service, Baur kept in touch with fellow Hellcats, attending reunions with his wife, Delores, in St. Louis, San Antonio and New Orleans. In 2011, Baur welcomed another proud occasion to take an Honor Flight to Washington to see the National WWII Memorial.
Baur worked at the Mosinee Paper Mill as a break man and engineer in the locomotive yard. He and Delores raised six children and will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary next year.
Don Becker, Army, 1960-1962
Becker was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War, but instead of being sent to fight in the jungle, he was stationed in Germany to guard the Berlin Wall and drove an ammunition truck. After the service, Becker took a job at Mills Fleet Farm in Marshfield until his retirement. In 2016, Becker took an Honor Flight for Vietnam Veterans to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C., accompanied by his daughter Peggy Machtan. “Dad loved the experience,” said his other daughter, Lisa Konrady (right).
Roman Thiel, Army
Even with one blind eye and crippled feet from a childhood accident, Thiel, at age 21, joined the army. Following basic training at Fort Brag, North Carolina, Thiel reported to Portland, Maine, where he helped re-activate a WWI base and then served in a coast artillery unit to defend the U.S. harbor. Naval mines were placed in the water to protect the coast and Thiel’s job was to switch the mines off when U.S. ships entered the port. After serving nearly two years, Thiel received a medical discharge.