The High Ground
The Highground is a veterans' memorial park located 3 miles west of Neillsville, Wisconsin, USA. It pays tribute to the dead and honors the service and sacrifices of the survivors. The Highground is a grassroots effort with no ongoing federal or state funding; thousands of hours are volunteered every year. One-half million acres of spectacular Wisconsin woodland and glacial moraine are visible from the point of the plaza.
Located in the center of the state, veterans from any place in Wisconsin can get to and from The Highground in one day. The park is staffed year-round with the Tiberframe Information Center and Gift Shop open daily. During business hours, visitors are encouraged to pick up a free audio tour in the gift shop before walking the plaza. Guided tours are also available. The 45,00 square foot plaza, Effigy Mound Peace Dove, Gold Star, and all tributes are lighted in the evening, and visitors are welcome in the park 24/7. The 148 acre park offers 4 miles of walking trails, bridges, and a handicap accessible treehouse. All are invited to ring our replica Liberty Bell.
In 1965, Tom Miller, holding his mortally wounded friend on a battle field in Vietnam, made a vow that his friend's death would not be forgotten.
In 1984, Miller and others who made similar vows explored the possibility of creating a memorial to Vietnam veterans. The selection of Neillsville was made from 10 Wisconsin site possibilities. The WI Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Project (WVVMP, Inc.) formally incorporated in the same year.
In 1985, the first bicycle tour to raise money for The Highground took place, and in 1986, a 70 foot flagpole, flag and light became the fist permanent fixtures.
The Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Park (later to be known as the Highground) and the "Fragments" Vietnam Veterans' Tribute were dedicated in 1988, followed by the Earthen Dove Effigy Mound and the Gold Star Tribute in 1989 and 1990, respectively.
In 1992, The Nurse and Doughboy tributes were dedicated and The Highground magazine's premier issue was published.
In 1993, The WWII Veterans' Tribute and Pow Wow Arena were dedicated, and the first "Warrior" Traditional Pow Wow ceremony was held.
The National Native American Vietnam Veterans' Tribute was dedicated in 1995. The first Legacy Stones were also placed during this year.
In 1996, the Timberframe Building (housing the Gift Shop and Information Center) was dedicated.
On July 4, 2002, the Liberty Bell Shelter was dedicated.
In 2004, the trail system was extended and long-range forest management plans (including developmental forest) was established. In the same year, the Wisconsin Counties United in Service Tribute was placed on the plaza.
In 2005, the handicap accessible Treehouse was completed and the first Meditation Stones were placed in the Meditation Garden which was dedicated in 2006 along with the Ascension of Doves, Fountain of Tears, and WASP Tribute.
In 2007, the Korean Tribute was dedicated and the first Korean Tribute Stones were placed on the rice paddies.
In 2009, the statuary within the Fountain of Tears tribute was dedicated, and the Hero Tribute Ride recreated the first bike tour from 1985.
The Learning Center (which houses a library, media center, and gallery) was dedicated in 2010.
The Flagpole was the first permanent structure on The Highground. It was brought to The Highground by the Clark County Area Veterans Council. They also voted to keep flags flying over The Highground forever.
The Nurse pays tribute to all women who served our nation. She has a place of honor in front of the flagpole.
The National Native American Vietnam Veterans' Memorial is the first national memorial to come to The Highground. Mounted on a ten ton piece of red granite symbolizing the blood that was shed, the sculpture depicts an American Indian soldier in jungle fatigues, holding a rifle in one hand and an eagle feather staff in the other. At the base is a circle of white stones depicting a field of honor. The names of all American Indians in North America who died as a result of the Vietnam war are etched into the black granite base which skirts the entire statuary.
The Korean Tribute honors those from "The Forgotten War." The three bronze figures depict Cold, Heat, and Anguish—the conditions that made living and fighting in Korea an unending nightmare. The figures are on granite slabs shaped like the peninsula of Korea in the midst of the Yin-Yang circle, the symbol on the South Korean flag. Water surrounds the peninsula, emphasizing the distance these men and women are from home, friends, and family.
The Meditation Garden has 4 rooms for reflection and meditation: the Family Arbor room, the Prayer Stone, the Fountain of Tears, and the Meditation Shelter. The pathways join into one at the Ascension of Doves sculpture greeting visitors as they enter the garden from the west. It is sponsored by a Gold Star family in memory of their son who died in Iraq. Seven doves were released at his funeral and seven doves rise from their earthly ties to soar towards the heavens in this memorial.
The WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots (or WASPs) are proud of the role women pilots played during WWII—even though the US government did not recognize the women as service veterans until the late 1970s. During WWII over 1,100 WASPs served as test pilots, flying instructors, and transport pilots, allowing male pilots to be used in combat.
The WWII Globe features stained glass campaign ribbons to reflect the different areas of service. These ribbons match the soldiers' blouse decorations worn by WWII veterans. This tribute is the result of two designs: the five foot diameter globe and the 4-sided black granite base. The base lists the major battles in the Pacific Theater and European Theater. The "Kilroy Was Here" inscription on the west side of the base tells a story worth reading.
The Earthen Dove Effigy Mound honors Prisoners of War (POWs) and those who remain Missing in Action (MIA). It is made up of the earth from all 72 counties in Wisconsin, many states in the United States, North and South Vietnam, and 18 countries. A second kind of MIA is recognized on The Highground: scarred physically, mentally, and emotionally, these are people we recognize as Missing in America.
The Wisconsin Vietnam Tribute (Fragments) is the first veterans' tribute in the United States to include a woman in the statuary. Under her poncho she carrries the burden of the Wisconsin service men killed in Vietnam. The 1244 names are inscribed on the bundles of bamboo-shaped bronze rods in the back of the statue. They are interspersed with wind chimes—never meant to be read but to be voiced in sound so that the prayers left here go out to the hillsides and beyond. Not one of the figures in the statue is complete. They flow into one: much like war, each is dependent on each other and strengthen each other. The rifle on top is turned upside down—a sign that a Medivac is needed; a piece of orange glass is seen as a reminder of Agent Orange. Many veterans gave their lives afterwards as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. The artist did not sign this statue, "It was signed with the cost of things. It was signed in sound. It was signed by us all."
The Wisconsin Counties United in Service Tribute is meant to remind all of us how important our communities and families are when our veterans come home. We are all united because the human cost of war is shared by everyone.
The Gold Star, a living tribute, honors all those families who not only lost a member as a result of their service, but those who supported their loved ones when they came home. The shrubs and bushes were planted with soil added from families' yards, gardens, or locations they last saw their loved ones alive.
The Stone Walkway, combined with the Registry, creates a true legacy. The registry allows the stone honoree (or family) to tell the rest of the story—there is a story that is behind every Legacy, Meditation, Korean, and Persian Gulf stone. Families are encouraged to update the story for generations to come and read.
The Doughboy, our WWII tribute, is unique as it reflects The Highground's commitment to healing and education. It honors the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families. The Doughboy's rifle is at parade rest, rather than at ready. His right hand is outstretched and open in greeting instead of raised in anger as though holding a grenade.
Our Liberty Bell is an exact replica of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA. Visitors are encouraged to ring the bell by the words on the large white oak beam across the entry: Let Freedom Ring. The Liberty Bell Foundation was founded in 1976 by a group of businessmen from Minnesota. The replica Liberty Bell was taking to thousands of schools throughout the United States, allowing over a million children in 36 states a first hand opportunity to learn about freedom. The foundation decided that the best place for the Liberty Bell to continue its patriotic mission was at The Highground.
The Timberframe Information Center/Gift Shop is framed with 258 interlocking white oak timbers weighing an impressive 51 tons and held together with 720 oak pegs. Equally impressive is that, except for the roof and the basement which were contracted out, this structural masterpiece was designed and built by Highground staff and volunteers. Every inch was either donated or paid for with donated dollars.
The Learning Center became a reality with the acquisition of property adjacent to The Highground. The Learning Center features a library, media center, and a gallery. Exhibits and displays are changed throughout the year, providing a continuing learning experience for all our visitors. The Learning Center promotes the mission of education for all of us.
Nestled among the four miles of hiking trails is the best example of flora in Clark County, going from swamp area to rolling hills complete with a broad brush of wildlife. The Treehouse is handicap accessible for "kids" of all ages within the 146 acre park. Uniquely structured around a 160 year old green ash tree which overlooks our developmental forest, this is a magnificent example of how volunteers and contributors come together to make The Highground a place for all of us.
The Wisconsin Persian Gulf Tribute will come to The Highground to honor our newest veterans. The committee's mission reads: "To build with honor a tribute for all branches of America's military who served around the globe with Desert Storm, through multiple Middle East conflicts, while marching forward in the Global War on Terrorism. May we establish a place of hope so that we do not walk past you but with you. Let this site be an anchor for education and solace while securing in memory sacrifices made. With hope and prayer for the Persian Gulf Tribute will provide a safe haven for all to reflect and to heal.