Baraboo 21 Club’s third annual veterans breakfast to give food and awards, not speeches

February 28, 2019

For the third year in a row, Steve Argo and the Baraboo 21 Club want to show appreciation for veterans by hosting a special breakfast Friday, but this time with an eye on brevity.

Last year’s breakfast featured speeches from Baraboo Mayor Mike Palm, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, and a couple of veterans, stretching the event to about three hours, Argo said.

“It was exhausting,” said Argo, a Baraboo High School social studies teacher. “And I can remember looking at the crowd, thinking ‘These guys are dying. They’ve been sitting way too long,’ and so I deliberately designed this year’s experience to be quick and dirty.”

Argo still plans to make the breakfast and short ceremony meaningful to veterans. Anyone — from veterans and their families to other community members who want to show their appreciation — is welcome to attend, though he puts an emphasis on those who served during the Vietnam War because of how they were treated upon their return to the U.S.

Argo said he invited spouses of people who died in war, and family members of Clayton Luther, the first person from Sauk County killed in the Vietnam War, plan to attend.

“It’s our way of saying thank you,” Argo said, adding that the event gives people the chance to reflect on what veterans do, rather than thank them out of habit.

“A big part of what the Baraboo 21 — the club — does — it’s this idea of we’re supposed to say to a veteran, ‘Thank you for your service’ or shake their hand, and I think because that gets done so commonly and every day, it loses its sincerity sometimes.”

There will be an awards ceremony after the meal. Argo noted organizers are trying to connect veterans of different eras — a 2009 BHS graduate will receive a plaque for his service, a retired Marine Corps sergeant major will be recognized and the 100th anniversary of the American Legion’s founding will be celebrated.

He expects a crowd of about 150-200, similar to the event’s first year. Each veteran and one guest will receive a free breakfast served from 6:15-7:45 a.m. and paid for with funds raised by the high school club named after the 21 Baraboo soldiers who survived an attack by a German U-boat on the Tuscania ship during World War I.

The caterer, Dave Schwab of Heavenly Smoked Roasters, is a Vietnam veteran, so “he’s pulling out all the stops,” Argo said. The menu includes scrambled eggs, cheesy potatoes, biscuits and gravy, fruit, coffee and cinnamon rolls.

“The vets will eat like kings,” Argo said.