Chris Porter’s passion for veterans is remarkable and it’s been a life-long adventure. “I signed up for the Army when I was 17 and left for Basic Training in Fort Knox, Kentucky in the summer of 1999,” he said. Chris spent more than 4 years on active duty in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
According to Amanda Cottrell, Heartland Hospice serving Central Wisconsin volunteer coordinator, Chris reached out last October after seeing Heartland’s Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer opportunity listed on the Marshfield United Way website. “Chris was very interested in wanting to make a difference in veterans’ lives, especially during the pandemic, and said he would commit to our volunteer program,” Amanda said. “He is very open to talking about his military experience and we could see he would be a great match with our Marshfield area veteran patients,” she said.
COVID-19 restrictions derailed Chris’s volunteer service plans for many months since many hospice patients could not receive visitors. “We wanted to utilize his skills in a new way while we waited for restrictions to be lifted,” Amanda said. In addition to spending time helping with yard work for one of Heartland’s hospice patients, Chris took on a significant project – making a directory of all Wisconsin war memorials to share with Heartland employees, patients and families. “I enjoy knowing it may help more people visit them. At the very least, it helps bring to light that they exist!”
Through his work on the project, Chris was surprised at just how many war memorials Wisconsin has. “They are everywhere!” he said. “The memorials are found in cemeteries, town halls, highways, parks, American Legion halls, airports, courthouses and street intersections.” “One of my favorite memorials to visit is the High Ground in Neillsville.” Chris said he has a personal connection to High Ground because he used to visit there with his grandparents and now enjoys the memorial with his children. “The statues, tributes and effigy mound are so beautiful, and there is something magical there,” he said. Chris wants the community to know that the High Ground is constantly working to help bring awareness to veterans and are always adding new projects to the site. “The little store there has a museum. I always love taking my kids in there.”
Together with their prevalence throughout Wisconsin, Chris wants people to realize what impactful history lessons the memorials can offer. “I want people to take a minute to read the plaques at the memorials. There is so much history regarding the brave men and women who oftentimes gave their lives fighting for our country.”
With the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial directory project now complete, Chris is excited about getting back to volunteer visits with hospice patients. “Now that volunteer restrictions are lifting in people’s homes and in facilities, Chris will start visiting with veterans who are lonely and wanting someone to visit with,” said Amanda. “Veteran-to-veteran visits can often spark powerful conversations and lead to great emotional and spiritual healing.”
“I really enjoy visiting with veterans the most, but I also get to visit some people who have had amazing lives,” Chris said. He shared that the stories they tell are one of the things he likes most about being a volunteer for Heartland. “It also makes me happy to know that they have something to look forward to and enjoy having company.”
To obtain a copy of the Wisconsin War Memorial directory compiled by Chris, please contact Amanda Cottrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.