Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Honor Flight: Unexpected surprises for one veteran

Leon is surprised by his grandchildren.
Credit VIP Photography
“The whole day was just seamless,” said We Energies employee and guardian Ted Sneigowski.

Ted’s father, Leon, said it was one of the greatest days of his life. His great day became even more memorable due to some special surprises along the way. Two of Leon’s grandchildren decided to surprise Leon at the memorial. Leon’s grandson, Conrad, and his girlfriend flew in from Florida, while his granddaughter, Laura, traveled from her home in Virginia.

Leon stepped off the tour bus at the Korean War Memorial and Laura came around the corner and greeted her grandfather. While he embraced Laura, Conrad came around the other side asking for a hug.

“The surprise on his face said it all,” said Ted.
Leon's grandson showing off his
American Hero sign.

The surprise of his oldest grandchildren was unexpected and wonderful, but Conrad had one
more surprise up his sleeve. He kneeled down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Courtney,
at the Lincoln Memorial. He really wanted his grandfather to be there for that special moment. Courtney said yes.

Leon said there were so many wonderful moments, but the crowning moment for him was on the trip back when he opened over 40 letters and cards during the flight’s “mail call” from his family, friends and We Energies employees.

“He couldn’t believe that people took the time to write to him,” said Ted.

After more than a dozen hours under his belt that day, Leon was looking forward to landing in Milwaukee and processing his reflections of the

Leon's family at the airport.
However, he was again taken aback by another surprise. Thousands of people, along with active duty and military personnel, greeted him and   the other veterans in a parade at Mitchell International Airport.

“It was a tear-jerking moment,” said Leon. He was thrilled to see his family waiting for him.

“The whole trip couldn’t have been more perfect,” said Leon.

For Ted, the experience brought him closer to his father and revealed a little more about a chapter in his father’s life he never knew.

“I learned more about my father in just one day than in the past 50 years,” said Ted.

Ted added that he is so grateful for the opportunity to have gone on this trip with his father, and very grateful that We Energies was involved in the sponsorship. 

“I have never been so proud to be a We Energies employee,” said Ted.

The first of a group of flights dubbed “Operation Parallel” successfully brought over 180 veterans to see their memorials on Sept. 12. The veterans were joined by their guardians and 25 additional volunteers in Washington, D.C., to see the Korean War Memorial, WWII Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “Operation Parallel” is a nod to the fact that the Korean War was fought over the 38th parallel. The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight was sponsored by We Energies.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Be aware of underground utilities

This fire pit was placed right over a natural gas line.
Where should you put a fire pit? 
Not over a natural gas line.

This situation was recently brought to our attention. A customer unknowingly built a fire pit right on top of a natural gas line. This could have been disastrous if heat from the fire had reached the gas line. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

Remember to call Diggers Hotline (811) to have your underground utilities marked before any type of yard project, such as fire pit, fence or anything else, so you can safely work around it.

Customers who failed to call Diggers Hotline have unknowingly installed patios or tool sheds over underground utilities. Don’t just assume you know where everything is buried. While most natural gas service lines run through front yards, sometimes they may run through a side or back yard. 

Always call 811 before any project in your yard involving digging.
Also, some customers may have secondary natural gas lines installed to supply a garage or barn. Secondary lines also can feed heaters for swimming pools and hot tubs. If you’re not the original home owner, you may be unaware of the location of secondary gas lines.

The bottom line – call Diggers Hotline at 811 before any type of project in your yard. Utility professionals will come mark your lines for free. Please call at least three days prior to any project. You also can file a Diggers Hotline request online.

Yard safety

Honor Flight: One of the most memorable days of my life

Bob and Ron Drenzek meet Senator Bob Dole.
The first of a group of flights dubbed “Operation Parallel” successfully took more than180 veterans to see their memorials on Sept. 12.

The veterans were joined by their guardians and 25 additional volunteers in Washington, D.C., to see the Korean War Memorial, WWII Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Operation Parallel is a nod to the fact that the Korean War was fought over the 38th parallel. The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight was sponsored by We Energies.

Ron Drenzek, father of We Energies employees Bob and Dan Drenzek, was on the Sept. 12 flight. Bob accompanied Ron on the flight.

Ron wrote a letter to We Energies to share his thoughts on the flight:

Dear We Energies,

Christmas of 2014, my family let me know that as my present, they signed me up for the Honor Flight, something which I probably would never have done on my own. Turns out, it proved to be one of the most memorable days of my life.

My fear of going on the flight was that it would bring back some memories of terrible events that happen in wars. This flight did not do that. Instead, it made me recognize that the United States is the greatest country in the world because of the great people who composed it. Also, it allowed me to mingle with other veterans, and we met thousands of people who took the time to thank us for our service. 

Ron (red hat) salutes with his fellow veterans.

Something I think that is noteworthy is during this brief time of meeting with other veterans, there was no talk about the war or the battles we were in. Most of the conversations were about where we were from and about our families and how great the Honor Flight was treating us.

The most humorous thing that happened was the number of meals we received during the day.

1. 6:00 a.m. After checking in but before boarding the plane, we had a medium-sized breakfast.

2. 7:30 a.m. In flight to Washington, they gave us another breakfast in a box.

3. 12:00 p.m. After getting off the plane at Dulles airport, we received a box lunch on the bus on our way to Washington.

4. 6:00 p.m. After walking through all the Memorials and Arlington National Cemetery, we received a BBQ box lunch on the bus trip back to Dulles airport.

5. 7:30 p.m. Upon boarding the plane for the return trip, we received a dinner in a bag.

They made sure no one became hungry during the day.

When we arrived to tour the memorials, there was heavy rain falling for about an hour, so my guardian – my son Bob – and I put on our raincoats and walked around the numerous memorials. All of them are very well done and worthy of representing the special event it represented. Naturally, I had a special interest in the Korean Memorial, which was a group of soldiers walking across a rice paddy. On one side of the memorial, there was a granite wall inscribed with hundreds of faces of our military persons. For some reason, I wasn’t overcome with emotion here, but if there had been a wall with names, and I saw names of my buddies etched into it, I’m sure I would have had a lot of tears.

The last place we went was to the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery. It was a very solemn ceremony honoring the Unknown Soldier. It is something which I will never forget.

We flew out of Washington D.C. around 8:30 p.m. ET and arrived at Milwaukee General Mitchell about 9:30 p.m. The flight back turned out to be a lot more than uneventful. The Honor Flight people somehow arranged it so that each of the 183 veterans aboard received a huge envelope loaded with letters thanking us for our service. There were letters from people we never met, politicians, friends, neighbors, school children, businesses and most surprisingly, from each of my six children and 15 grandchildren. There were too many letters to read before we landed. This was the only time during this day that I noticed a lot of handkerchiefs drying many tears (and I thought these guys were big and tough).

Ron Drenzek opens letters on the return flight.
Finally, we arrived home and after some delay, we embarked and headed into the first concourse room. They kept us in single file so that we walked between two columns of at least 100 military persons in each column. The columns were made up of active, retired and reserve military, VA vets along with boy and girl scouts all standing at attention and holding a hand salute to us. It must have taken an hour to unload the plane, and they stayed at attention till the last man got off the plane. It was quiet during the entire time it took us to walk through this room. It was hard for us not to have tears running down our cheeks.

From there, we walked single file into the main concourse, which was filled with an estimated 3,000 people all screaming, “Thank You,” waving flags and shaking hands. We walked through a 6-foot-wide, roped-off corridor, which winded through all these beautiful people.

I hope that every veteran gets the chance to make the Honor Flight. It truly gives you another perspective of what you served for. 

Bob and Ron Drenzek in the 747 cockpit.
None of this could have happened if not for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Inc. and Network. I understand everyone associated with this program is a volunteer. The word is that this particular flight cost thousands of dollars. All paid for with donations from numerous corporations and individuals.

Thank you and God bless the wonderful volunteers who made this event possible. It takes a real talented professional group of people to make it such a great success.

The proof of this is that I am not aware of even one complaint against the volunteers, and they were dealing with 132 grumpy old men and one woman.

Love to all the wonderful people who took the time to be there and thank us.

Also, a special thank you to the pilot of our plane who took pictures of me and my son Bob while we sat at the controls of the 747.

Ronald Drenzek

Monday, September 28, 2015

We Energies work-study student and Civil War buff: Hilario Deleon

Hilario Deleon first visited We Energies to attend a scouting event as a young boy. Never did he imagine that just a few years later he would be working at the company.

The 14-year-old is one of four Milwaukee high school students taking part in a work-study program at We Energies. The students are part of the inaugural class of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, which opened this summer. We Energies is one of 22 local businesses to partner with the school. Cristo Rey students spend one day a week at their work assignment and the other four days in the classroom.

Deleon admits he didn’t know much about Cristo Rey before enrolling. “The more I learned, the more I thought it would be a good opportunity,” said Deleon. “I took a chance, and I’m happy I took it.”

Deleon’s school year started early to prepare him for his job at We Energies. All Cristo Rey students attended an intensive, four-week business training camp in July. Following the camp, students got their work assignments for the school year. When Deleon found out he would be working in We Energies environmental department, he was thrilled. “I feel like I have the best job in my school!”

Part of Deleon’s time at We Energies is spent in the company’s environmental lab where technicians test samples from power plants to ensure compliance with environmental standards. “I feel strongly about protecting our environment,” said Deleon. “This position is a great fit for me.”

Outside of work and school, Deleon enjoys taking part in Civil War re-enactments. This summer, he participated in Grant encampments all over the state, bringing along his 1853 Enfield musket. Deleon calls himself a history buff and is considering becoming a professor someday. He also is an avid artist and enjoys drawing in his spare time.

Although his work-study program has only just begun, Deleon is already hoping to get re-assigned to We Energies. “I’m hoping to stay here all four years. The people are great, and I’m really enjoying my job.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

We’re going to college … to find prospective employees, coop/intern students

During the next few weeks, we are visiting college campuses for career fairs to recruit potential employees as well as coop/intern students, primarily in the fields of engineering, computer science and information technology.

We will discuss career opportunities and expected openings as well as specific projects and work locations. Interested students also can get information on our company and how to apply.

Anyone attending the following colleges, particularly in the fields mentioned above, is invited to visit us.

09/23 University of Illinois-Chicago, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

09/24 Marquette University, 3 to 7 p.m.

09/25 UW-Milwaukee, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

09/29 UW-Madison, 10 a.m. to noon

09/29 Michigan Tech, noon to 5 p.m.

09/30 UW-Platteville, 3 to 8 p.m.

09/30 UW-Green Bay, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

10/09 Milwaukee School of Engineering, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Guardian's impressions of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight

Aaron Cassidy and Huby "Buddy" Duty
About the author: Aaron Cassidy is a senior power marketing analyst for We Energies.

I had only known Huby Duty, a.k.a. “Buddy,” for three days, but on Tuesday, Sept. 15, I was eager to call him and wish him a happy 90th birthday and see how he spent his day. He is the kind of person you want to keep talking to because of his humor and personal stories; however, we found ourselves reminiscing for quite a while about the first day we met, just three days prior.

I met Buddy on Sept. 12, 2015, when I represented We Energies as a guardian on the 29th Stars and Stripes Honor Flight (SSHF) to Washington, D.C.. Buddy is a World War II veteran who was a Sherman tank driver and gunner in the 3rd Army’s 78th Infantry, Company B 709th Tank Battalion. His primary engagement during the war was in the European Theater, specifically during the Battle of Bulge. For his service during World War II, he was awarded the EAME (European-African-Middle Eastern) Theater Ribbon with three bronze stars, a Purple Heart, a Good Conduct medal, and a WWII Victory medal.

From the moment I met Buddy at 5 a.m., until we said our goodbyes at 11 p.m., we both experienced events over those 18 hours that words cannot adequately describe. With Buddy never having been to Washington before, everything was grander than he had imagined. As we flew to and from Washington on a Boeing 747 to tour the memorials, Buddy kept saying in a soft and genuine manner, “This is just great.” But his eyes, which scanned around constantly, truly showed the emotion and meaning of this flight.

On the flight back to Milwaukee, the SSHF volunteers perfectly executed the “Mail Call”– a throwback to when soldiers on the front would receive letters from back home. On the flight, all 182 veteran’s names were called and a bundle of letters was delivered to their seats. Buddy and other veterans were so excited to open thoughtful letters from their family, friends and also We Energies employees. They were moved to read the kind comments and wishes from people they had never met.

When we arrived at the gate and began unloading the plane, Buddy thought the day was complete; however, the evening was just getting started.

As we entered Concourse D, we walked through a salute from approximately 140 servicemen/servicewomen. No matter which branch of the Armed Forces these veterans served, it was a powerful moment to see active duty servicemen/servicewomen, respecting and saluting the veterans from World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War. I felt privileged to witness such an honorable and genuine moment of respect and gratitude. During that time, I recorded the moment for Buddy and his family to watch together after the flight.

After the salute, Buddy was in for another surprise when we passed through security and entered the upper level of General Mitchell Airport, where he was greeted by an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people. He told me shortly after the parade that he “felt like a politician, with all the applause and handshaking.”

To see family, friends, and strangers ranging in age from toddler to adult rally together at such a late hour to ensure these heroes received a well-deserved reception is something I will always remember. It made me think about my own grandfather, a World War II veteran, who I never had the chance to meet or hear him tell his stories. I am certain he would have deeply appreciated that moment.

As Buddy and I wrapped up his birthday call, I asked, “Now that everything has settled down and you have had time to reflect on the Honor Flight, what was your favorite moment?”

He reflected for a moment and said cheerfully, “Everything.”

He proceeded to thank the We Energies Foundation for the flight’s sponsorship, his own personal copy of “Honor Flight – A Visual Journey” and a letter of recognition from Mr. Klappa. He said what We Energies did for this organization is amazing. He greatly appreciated the opportunity to be part of the 29th mission and thanked me for my guardianship. I told him it was our pleasure and thanked him for his service.

At that moment and throughout the trip, I was greatly appreciative of the opportunity to be part of the mission and very proud to work for a company that makes events like this a priority. And I can’t say enough about SSHF as an organization. Prior to my trip, I did not realize the amount of effort necessary to make an Honor Flight successful. This organization’s planning, coordination and execution as a 100-percent volunteer organization, with no central office, is an amazing accomplishment. From their Wheelchair Brigade to board of directors, thank you to Stars and Stripes Honor Flight for making the 29th mission a success.

As I was ending the call, Buddy kept saying he was so happy and appreciative and will remember it forever. I will as well.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Public Service Building history on display

Public Service Building
At one particular grand structure, doors not only will be open during Doors Open Milwaukee this weekend, but they will lead you to a powerful impression of Milwaukee’s heritage. Many buildings have come and gone, while some are still standing from the early 20th century. Few have the history and grandeur of the Public Service Building.

We Energies and Historic Milwaukee, through its fifth annual Doors Open Milwaukee event this weekend, will offer an opportunity to tour The Public Service Building (PSB) – one of Milwaukee’s treasured buildings. Historic Milwaukee is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to increasing awareness of and commitment to Milwaukee’s history and architecture.

Stained-glass window symbolizing
 the buzz of activity in the PSB
As visitors approach the PSB, they note the operating clock that adorns the center of the lintel above the main entrance. Inside, attention is drawn to the marble lobby walls that came from an Italian quarry and include a curious but prophetic architectural detail: a stained-glass window above the main entrance, symbolizing PSB activities as a swarm of bees buzzing around a hive.

“When people first walk in the door, their mouths drop open at the sight of the lobby,” said Tim Brown, We Energies’ coordinator for the event. “We have received positive feedback every year since we started participating in Doors Open Milwaukee. We are happy to show this architectural gem to the community who would not normally have access to it.”

The Public Service Building was originally built for The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company (TMER&L) main headquarters by architect Herman J. Esser. TMER&L later became We Energies. Esser’s design was a neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style which was very popular in the early 20th century. The four-story building is an architectural treasure, both outside and within. In 1902, the foundation work for the building commenced on Michigan Street.

PSB in the 1940s
The PSB was the center of transportation for the interurban streetcar system. The ground floor of the structure served as the depot for the system. A series of 11 tracks ran completely through the building. Trains entered the east end from Second Street, picked up their passengers and then exited onto Third Street. As time went on, buses replaced streetcars and Greyhound used the depot as their main Milwaukee terminal until 1965.

In the early days of the building, the second floor featured facilities for entertainment. These included a 1,200-seat auditorium, bowling alleys, dining rooms, library, billiard rooms, lockers and even a barber shop. The auditorium still is used as a corporate meeting space.

The PSB was remodeled many times over the years to accommodate the needs of its occupants, but in 1995, great efforts were taken to restore the building to its original glory. Prior to that restoration, the lobby chandelier was missing, and ornate ceilings were covered with plastic panels.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The PSB will open its doors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, and Sunday, Sept. 20. Visitors will tour the ornate lobby and auditorium. We invite you to relax in the grand, Art Deco-style auditorium while you enjoy a presentation about the building and company history. You also can view historic photos in the adjacent hallway.

If you plan to visit the PSB, please be aware of construction on Michigan Street in front of the building. Access the building from the fenced sidewalk area that begins at the Second Street and Michigan Street intersection.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A connection that will span generations

In a unique connection that will span generations, an Iraq War veteran will share the experience of a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight with our honored World War II and Korean War veterans Sept. 12.

Robert (Bert) Garvin, executive vice president – external affairs, will serve as a guardian for the flight sponsored by We Energies. A guardian serves as a trained, traveling companion to an Honor Flight participant.

Garvin is excited to meet and share stories with the 89-year-old veteran that he will accompany. The veteran served in World War II with the Army Military Police from 1944 to 1946.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to participate in this flight. I have talked to the children of some of our WWII veterans and feedback has been the same—besides their wedding day and birth of their children, the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is one of the best days of their lives,” said Garvin.

One topic certain to be discussed between the two veterans will be about family.

Although Garvin faced many challenges in Iraq, he spoke more about the challenges military families face at home. When he was called up, his wife was pregnant with their second child, and his daughter was just one year old. Garvin says the effect long deployments have on families is tough. He says that families serve, too—repeating what he heard during his own pre-deployment training: “when a soldier deploys, the family deploys.”

“I returned home with a renewed sense of appreciation not just for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans—but for my family. As a military spouse, my wife, Heidi, endured a long deployment; missed birthdays and anniversaries—all with a calm, strong presence for our young family. She did an amazing job,” said Garvin.

In today’s war, communication between families is a little easier than in the wars of the past. Email and online video calls help families stay connected. In the Korean War and World War II, military mail was the only means to access the world they temporarily left behind.

In that tradition, We Energies employees wrote more than 500 thank-you cards and notes to the veterans who will participate in this Saturday’s flight. The “Mail Call” will be distributed to the veterans on their return flight.

Garvin served in the U. S. Army as the senior trial counsel for the 40th Corps Support Group in Operation Iraqi Freedom IV.

He was stationed at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in central Iraq, approximately one hour north of Baghdad. His base was nicknamed “Mortaritaville” and was subjected to frequent rocket attacks and mortar rounds during the year he served.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will fly its 29th mission on Saturday, Sept. 12. The We Energies-sponsored flight will take local WWII and Korean War veterans from southeastern Wisconsin on a free, one-day trip to Washington, D.C., to see their memorials.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

We Energies employee and father to embark on Honor Flight

“I never expected to be doing anything like this,” said Ronald Drenzek, a Korean War Veteran and father of We Energies employees Bob and Dan Drenzek.

Ronald and his wife, Barb, read honor flight Christmas card
Ronald Drenzek’s family gave him a Christmas card with the news that they had applied to send Ronald on an Honor Flight. Recently, he learned he would be on the Sept. 12 “Operation Parallel” Stars and Stripes Honor Flight sponsored by We Energies. His son, Bob, will accompany him on the flight.

Bob added, “I’m excited. This has been a long time coming. My dad deserves this honor.”

Ronald enlisted in the Army in 1950, at the age of 20. He felt it was the right thing to do.

“It was right after World War II. If they needed soldiers, you just joined up, “ said Ronald.

Ronald was part of the 114th Combat Engineers based out of Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. After basic training, he left for Korea, where he spent his time rebuilding the main road out of Puson. The road was made of gravel. The weather was harsh, so some days were spent towing trucks out of the mud, just to keep the traffic moving.

“We also had to disable mines, booby traps and ‘jumping jacks’ before someone could run into them and it detonated,” said Ronald. “Jumping Jacks” are M16 mines that can launch 4 feet into the air and then detonate.

After four months working on the roads in Korea, Ronald was pulled out and sent to Japan for a special job.

“The Army found out I had a background in printing, so they sent me to Camp Sendai in Japan,” said Ronald.

In a time before computers and printers, Ronald supported the troops by converting old military maps into English and printing them off for the troops. He was quickly put in charge of the Japanese printing plant. The plant also served as a major supply storage area for the troops.

“We would get anything from toilet paper to soap, and then we would send it off to the troops still in Korea,” said Ronald.

While in Japan, Ronald says most of the men in the unit he left behind in Korea were killed after Gen. Douglas MacArthur made a controversial military move in the winter of 1951 that led to the Chinese intervening in the war.

“A lot of my friends didn’t make it home. Almost all of them were M.I.A. after the Chinese entered the battle. It’s hard to talk about it,” said Ronald.

President Truman later fired MacArthur.

A few of Ronald’s friends from the war did survive, and he visited them and sent Christmas cards back and forth for many years after Korea.

Bob says that the visits and the cards were all he knew about his father’s time in the Korean War.

“I’m looking forward to connecting with my dad. This part of his life is a mystery to me,” said Bob.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will fly its 29th mission on Saturday, Sept. 12. The We Energies-sponsored flight will take local WWII and Korean War veterans from southeastern Wisconsin on a free, one-day trip to Washington, D.C., to see their memorials.

"We’re excited to be flying so many local WWII and Korean War heroes at one time, on a 747,” said Paula Nelson, president of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “We will continue to give priority to our WWII veterans but are so pleased to welcome such a large number of Korean War veterans. Thanks to all the fabulous support we have received from the community and our loyal sponsors such as We Energies, we are able to raise the funds to keep flying veterans and reduce our waiting lists."

Before boarding the flight to D.C., veterans will enjoy entertainment and the National Anthem performed by local singing group the “Radio Rosies.” The Kettle Moraine High School Band and Arrowhead High School Hawkettes dance team will provide entertainment and spirit for the evening’s homecoming celebration.

We Energies employees wrote more than 500 letters of thanks to the veterans who will fly on Saturday. These letters will be included in the flight’s “mail call,” which will be distributed on the trip home to Milwaukee at the end of the day.

“Today, through the prism of history, we understand much better the magnitude of the sacrifice and the valor of the men and women who fought fearlessly for our freedom,” said Gale Klappa, We Energies chairman and chief executive officer. “Our company has long supported the Stars and Stripes program, and we are proud to sponsor the Sept. 12 flight.”

Friday, September 4, 2015

Reflections of a Korean War veteran in anticipation of Honor Flight

Leon Sniegowski was 20 years old when he was drafted for the Korean War in 1952. He served in the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry division, 27th Regiment. This band of brothers was better known as the “Wolfhounds.”

“I prefer to remember the good times; the hard times I try to forget,” said Sniegowski. “I was shot at with artillery and had many close calls. I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it.”

Leon’s son, Ted, an employee at Port Washington Generating Station, says his dad never said much about his 14 months in Korea.

“He didn’t talk much about it, just about the weather and harsh conditions; he never talked about the fighting. He did tell me he would never eat lima beans again. ”

Leon and his fellow Korean War soldiers subsisted on C-rations from World War II. The main meal of the C-rations was beanies and weenies, which consisted of frankfurter chunks in tomato sauce. Sometimes, it was ham and lima beans – not to his liking.

Leon Sniegowski cooking his C-ration lunch.
“Our meals consisted of stale crackers, a chocolate bar and a main meal. We would use our knife to make slits in the can, use napalm that we would light with a match so we could eat it warm. However, it tasted better cold … well, it didn’t taste good at all,” he said. 

Leon, now 83 years old, received the call a few weeks ago that he was selected for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. The flight is the first of a group of flights and fundraising efforts dubbed “Operation Parallel,” a nod to the fact that the Korean War was fought over the 38th parallel. The flight is sponsored by We Energies.

Leon asked his son if he thought he should go on the flight. The humble veteran thought there were guys more deserving than him – a common response from many veterans contacted for the flight.

“We do hear often that our veterans feel that there is someone more deserving that should go on the flights. Every contribution has led us to where we are today; every contribution is important. It’s important that we thank them for it,” said Karyn Roelke with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.

The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight begins early, with a 5 a.m. check-in at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport for the approximately 180 Korean War and WWII veterans and their guardians. Once in Washington, D.C., they board coach buses and tour the WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Marine Corps/Iwo Jima Memorial and more. The day often ends with the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery before making the flight home.

“Today, through the prism of history, we understand much better the magnitude of the sacrifice and the valor of the men and women such as Leon who fought fearlessly for our freedom,” said Gale Klappa, We Energies chairman and chief executive officer. “Our company has long supported the Stars and Stripes program, and we are proud to sponsor the September 12 flight.”

Learn more about Stars and Stripes Honor Flight at

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Setting the record straight

We are setting the record straight about an article posted Sept. 3 in an online news site citing neighbor concerns with the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant.

We are not “negotiating over health concerns” with the neighbors who live near the Oak Creek power plant. We do not believe coal dust is causing health problems for anyone living in that area.

We recently were made aware of some health concerns raised by neighbors of the Oak Creek Power Plant and are currently looking into the matter. Our discussion with the neighbors’ attorney concerns protocols for testing the homes in question.

As always, residents with any concerns about our facilities can contact us, and we will investigate those concerns.

Prior to this recent issue, the only health concern brought forward to us was from Bill Pringle.

In response to those concerns, we tested the Pringle family home numerous times and did not find any coal dust inside or outside the home. We also tested at locations near the Pringle home and did not find any evidence of coal dust in those areas. In addition, we offered to have a highly regarded, nationally known third-party conduct testing at the Pringle home. Mr. Pringle refused that testing.

As no evidence of coal or coal dust has been found in the Pringle home, we dispute the doctor’s concluding statement about the probability of coal dust affecting Mrs. Pringle’s health.

As for the coal storage expansion plans, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently issued an air permit after taking into consideration the views of the neighborhood. These requirements include video monitoring, reduced opacity limitation, improved wind break and use of crusting agents on the inactive portion of the south coal pile (the pile closest to homes). We also will submit a feasibility analysis for undertaking additional measures that include pre-planning for extreme weather events, use of additional water technologies for dust suppression, and additional shielding, wind curtains or other physical barriers.

Regarding the purchase of homes in the area, there were no health claims about coal dust or fly ash from any of the homes we purchased in the area. We did not approach or solicit any of the homeowners ourselves or through a broker. We only purchased homes that were put on the market by owners themselves. The contract agreement referred to in the article contained standard clauses requiring confidentiality and release of all claims, which are very common when businesses buy property from private homeowners.