Tag Archives: Racine Journal Times

Lloyd’s Life After Cancer: ‘I’m a Better Man Than I Ever Was’

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

A group of sparrows perched on the edge of the bird feeder outside Lloyd Miller’s window, pecking at the seeds like there was no tomorrow.

Oblivious to the man watching them from just feet away, the birds went about their business, then flew away. They are a living reminder of just how much Miller’s life has changed in the past four years.

This story was part of an award-winning 12-page special section published in The Journal Times  on Dec. 1, 1991. The project won awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology.

For much of his life, the 71-year-old Miller never had time for little hobbies like bird watching. From his early days as a cavalry instructor in the U.S. Army to his career as a salesman and Racine’s city development director, Miller was a busy man.

Then came cancer.

“I never had a bird feeder before. Now, I’m feeding the birds at $10 a week,” Miller says with a chuckle. “I’ll have to win the lottery.”

Aside from the pinkish patch of scar tissue on his head and his lack of hair, you would never know this man tangled with a rare, life-threatening cancer.

He has a firm handshake, a hearty belly laugh and a warmth that twinkles from beneath his spectacles.

Life has changed
The bird feeder is one of the little ways Miller is a different man now. He isn’t bothered by the little things anymore. He’s more tolerant. He finds it a lot easier to tell his wife and friends that he loves them.

And although life has brought him persistent heart problems and a cancer that came back four times, Miller considers himself lucky.

Lloyd Miller never used to have time for hobbies. Now he’s a regular bird-feeder. — Journal Times photo by Mark Hertzberg

“I do not consider myself dying of cancer,” he says, softly tracing an invisible pattern on the kitchen table with his index finger, “but living despite it. I do not look at each day as a day closer to death, but another day to be appreciated and enjoyed.”

Lloyd Miller is a cancer survivor.

He is one of the 50 percent of cancer patients who live through the terrifying diagnosis, the fear, the uncertainty, the sickening treatments and the real risk of death. He is part of a growing group with a determination to live life fully, with a new appreciation for what was almost lost.

Miller’s rare form of cancer is in remission, four years after it was discovered. And although there still is a risk the cancer could come back and attack his lungs, he doesn’t let it worry him.

“I feel so comfortable, it’s almost a sin. I don’t think about it every day.”

But for much of the past few years, Miller had little choice but to think about cancer.

The first inkling of trouble came in 1987 while he was on a cruise with Sue, his wife of 16 years. A sunburn-like patch of blisters appeared on the left side of his scalp. It didn’t concern him, until his eye began to swell so badly he had to soak it to get it to open. Upon returning to Racine from Miami, Miller went to see his doctor in Kenosha. The doctor took a biopsy, then delivered the kind of heart-stopping news everyone fears.

Lloyd Miller’s story as it appeared in the Journal Times on Dec. 1, 1991.

“I knew I was in trouble. I expected bad news. It was bad news. Believe it or not, I was afraid,” he said. “The word ‘cancer’ just sent chills through me.”

The doctor referred Miller to the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center in Madison, one of the nation’s major cancer centers, with a medical staff of 350.

Doctors took 60 biopsies from Miller’s scalp in an effort to find what kind of cancer had taken hold.

Rare cancer diagnosed
The diagnosis was angiosarcoma, a rare cancer of the blood vessels that spreads to the connective tissues. Miller had extensive tumors throughout the left side of his scalp.

Doctors started Miller on a regimen of radiation treatments using a high-tech system in which treatments are planned using 3-D computers that help aim the radiation most effectively at the cancer. He traveled to the UW daily for treatments — journeys that would eventually total 33,000 miles.

The hospital staff drew targets with ink on his now-bald head. They took measurements and calibrated the 6-million-volt radiation machine.

The treatments were terrifying for Miller. Much of his head was covered in a lead mask that shielded healthy tissue. For a man with severe claustrophobia, the enclosure was pure hell.

“I would have killed them if I could have gotten loose,” he said. “When I got out of there, I said, ‘Never again, not me. I’ll die.’ ”

For his next trip, doctors gave Miller what he called “goofy pills” that helped him relax so much before treatment that by the time he arrived in Madison, he didn’t care what happened.

Treatments burn the scalp
The 30 treatments burned Miller’s scalp, causing an unsightly, migrating sore that covered a quarter of his scalp before it started to recede. But the therapy worked and the tumors died off.

Miller said death crossed his mind during those first days in treatment.

But his main physician, Dr. Timothy Kinsella, deputy director of the cancer center, told Miller to let him worry about the cancer.

“I’ll tell you when to worry,” Kinsella said. Those six words put Miller at ease. Kinsella never told Miller to worry.

“He was the Good Hands doctor,” Miller said, cupping his hands like they do on the Allstate insurance commercials. “He made me understand I was going to be all right.”

Despite the daily doses of radiation, Miller kept up his work schedule.

Staying on the job was important because, as Miller put it, “If a guy lies down in bed, I think he’s a goner.”

Shortly after the first round of radiation, doctors discovered nodes on the right side of Miller’s head. The cancer was back, which meant 30 more visits to the linear accelerator.

Eventually, the cancer spread to both sides of Millers’ neck and on the center of his head. Each time it appeared, Kinsella beat it back with radiation.

Miller became quite a regular on the first-floor clinic at the cancer center. He made the coffee in the waiting room, and brought Racine kringle for the staff. When he wasn’t in treatment, he spent time in the pediatric cancer ward.

One day, Miller was charged with cheering up a young boy who was quite sick from his cancer treatments. Miller pulled out a toy ball that laughed with the resonance of Ed McMahon when it was tossed into the air. “That was my secret weapon,” Miller said. “He liked it so much I gave it to him.”

They still remember Lloyd Miller at UW Cancer Center.

Help and prayers
And so Miller has beaten the odds, it would seem. It’s only now that one of his local doctors told him that after the initial cancer diagnosis, he wasn’t sure Miller would survive.

Now he spends time as a freelance real estate development consultant and likes to play golf at the Kenosha country club. Miller says he got through his ordeal with cancer with a lot of help from scores of friends and a lot of prayer.

“I think I’m a better man now than I ever was,” he said. “I’ve come so close to the unknown.”

His health has not been without complications since the cancer therapy stopped. He recently underwent his 11th balloon angioplasty, a procedure in which a tiny balloon is inflated in the arteries to clear blockages.

Miller’s story caught the attention of the American Cancer Society, which profiled him in an hourlong documentary on cancer survivors in 1990. The program also featured a 23-year-old student who lost his leg to cancer, then ran across country to raise money for cancer research.

Tears well up in Miller’s eyes when he watches the tape, as he watches his wife describe him as “our hero, Lloyd,” and as he watches himself talk about cancer.

“An experience like this lets you know what life’s all about,” he said. •

EPILOGUE: Lloyd G. Miller died on March 6, 2004 at his retirement home in Orlando, Fla. He was 83.

Jeff Peterson Overcame Testicular Cancer: ‘A New Outlook on Life’

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

 Jeff Peterson will never forget Valentine’s Day 1985.

A battalion chief with the Racine Fire Department, Peterson was on his way to St. Mary’s Medical Center on a routine call that night. En route, he noticed a sharp pain in his groin, a pain that steadily worsened. By the time he arrived, he needed medical attention.

“By the time I got to St. Mary’s, I could hardly walk,” Peterson, 49, recalled.

Doctors who examined him originally thought he was suffering from torsion, a painful twisting of the vas deferens leading from the testicles. But efforts to relieve the pain were useless.

This story was part of an award-winning 12-page special section published in The Journal Times  on Dec. 1, 1991. The project won awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology.

Peterson underwent exploratory surgery that night at St. Mary’s. He was under local anesthetic and was able to ask the surgeon what he saw. There were lumps on one of the testicles, he was told, and it could be cancer.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said. “I thought I had a death sentence.”

Surgeons removed the diseased testicle, which they believed was the original site of the cancer. He went home the next day, still reeling from the diagnosis.

Smoke inhalation a factor?
Peterson did not smoke and he wondered how he could develop such a rare cancer, which strikes about 130 Wisconsin men a year. But he recalled his early days in the fire department, days when “you were a candy ass” if you wore an oxygen mask to a fire scene.

More than once, he recalled coughing up black phlegm after coming out of a fire. Now, he wonders what those early days did to him.

Peterson was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where doctors put him through a battery of tests. The news was not encouraging. The cancer had spread to Peterson’s lungs and the tumors were growing fast.

“They had grown from the size of the head of your pen to the size of a small orange in three weeks or so,” he said.

Jeff Peterson on duty with the Racine Fire Department. — Journal Times photo by Mark Hertzberg

Doctors decided to attack the lung tumors with chemotherapy. Peterson returned to Racine and went on a regimen of chemotherapy. One week of treatments was followed by three off weeks to let his body recover.

Peterson lost his hair from the nauseating treatments, but he decided to go back to work at the fire department, where he was in charge of training programs. Being at work was therapeutic.

“I found if I sat at home, the only thing I could think about is, ‘Am I going to die?’ ” he said. “I needed a diversion. That diversion was going to work.”

Diversion is not all he found at the fire department. He also found inspiration and the will to keep fighting.

Heroic inspiration
The source of the inspiration was Dan Christensen. Christensen was always the first to greet Peterson and ask him how he was doing. Christensen told him things would work out, he’d be OK.

Encouraging words are always good to hear, but Christensen’s words carried extra meaning for Peterson, because his fellow firefighter was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“It was just remarkable, a person could take life, so little of which he had left, and still give so much to the people he had around him,” Peterson said.

Even as Christensen lost his motion control as his muscles deteriorated from the disease, he kept up the pep talks for Peterson. He visited him in the hospital and always had an encouraging word. He may not have known it at the time, but Christensen, who died in August, helped save his friend’s life.

“He made me keep on fighting,” Peterson said. “That’s a major part of beating cancer. You have to take one day at a time.”

There was plenty of fight ahead for Jeff Peterson.

The nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy put him back in the hospital. He developed blood clots in his lungs. Then, he developed a fungus-like disease in his lungs that put his life in jeopardy.

Jeff Peterson’s story as it appeared in the newspaper on Dec. 1, 1991.

He remembers that meeting with doctors well. The combination of complications could be fatal. The doctor had tears in his eyes.

“ ‘You’re not rid of me yet,’ ” Peterson said he told the doctor. “I made up my mind I was not going to be that statistic. I was going to be a statistic on the positive side.”

Doctors started treating the lung fungus with steroids, but the going was still rough. Peterson got angry when some of his visitors treated him like he was a sure bet to die.

No giving up
There were a few times in the hospital, when he was weary from the chemotherapy, that Peterson felt like giving up. Dying. But then sleep would come for a few hours, putting a little more fight in his soul.

By late 1985, Peterson turned the corner on his disease. The tumors responded to therapy and the fungus was subsiding. Peterson was winning.

That was six years ago. Peterson has been cancer-free ever since. The disease challenged him and nearly killed him, but it also gave him a sense of how precious life is.

“Cancer gives you a new outlook on life. Every day to me is a bonus,” he said. “I used to take a lot more things more seriously than I do now. You know the time here is so short, you should make the best of it every day.”

These days, Peterson spends part of his time delivering talks to high school boys about testicular self-exams, something even he was ignorant about before he got cancer.

“It’s a subject not many kids want to talk about, but it’s got to be done,” he said. “That’s one of the points I was extremely angry about. My own physician never told me to do a testicular exam.”

He also spends time whenever called upon to help cancer patients adjust to the disease. He won’t let them give up, just like Danny Christensen wouldn’t let him give up. One man he saw recently was ready to throw in the towel, but Peterson convinced him it was worth the fight. The man is doing fine now.

“That’s one of the boosts that makes me smile every day,” he said. •

EPILOGUE: Peterson retired from the Racine Fire Department in early 1999 after more than 30 years as a firefighter, including a stint as chief.

A Wish Granted: Experimental Treatment Cures Sarah Mazzie

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

It was Christmas 1986, and little Sarah Mazzie was making out her wish list for Santa Claus. At the top of the list wasn’t a Barbie doll, a Cabbage Patch Kid or a doll house.

At the top of Sarah’s list was written: “good health.”

“That amazed me, a child that age asking for good health,” said Sarah’s mother, Mary. “It was in that little scrawl handwriting, ‘Good health.’ ”

The 6-year-old Racine girl had her priorities straight. In the 20 months since she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, Sarah learned what it was like to be sick, to endure painful treatments and lose her hair. “Good health” has been on her Christmas list ever since.

This story was part of an award-winning 12-page special section published in The Journal Times  on Dec. 1, 1991. The project won awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology.

Bruce Camitta doesn’t look much like Santa Claus. He doesn’t have the Santa-like spare tire, and his thinning crop of hair doesn’t resemble St. Nick’s white mane.

But for Sarah, Camitta might as well have been Santa Claus.

The professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa had developed an experimental leukemia treatment that would save Sarah’s life.

Preventing recurrence
Camitta’s treatment used high doses of chemotherapy, followed by an extended period of lower doses, administered after patients had gone into remission. Patients often respond well to initial treatment, but Camitta’s goal was to prevent recurrence of the cancer.

Sarah was his 27th patient in the trial at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee, and one of the 80-plus percent for whom the treatment has worked. She has been cancer-free ever since.

“He says I’m a pioneer girl,” said Sarah, now a pretty 11-year-old sixth-grader at Mitchell Middle School. She’s proud that she helped break medical ground and beat the cancer that could have stolen her young life.

“I don’t think about it,” she said of the leukemia. “It’s not hard, I’m just lucky they had medicine.”

Wearing a red shirt, black jeans and deck shoes, Sarah sits in a director’s chair at her family’s home on Newman Road in Mount Pleasant. Her long, black hair, dark eyes and striking smile tell no tale of cancer.

Sarah’s story as it appeared in the newspaper on Dec. 1, 1991.

She twists her hair with her fingers, fidgets in the chair and toys with the family cat. This isn’t Sarah Mazzie cancer survivor, it’s Sarah, regular 11-year-old.

“I like playing sports,” she said. “I play baseball, soccer and I go horseback riding.” She also likes tennis and swimming.

Those words seem music to the ears of Gary and Mary Mazzie, who just seven years ago faced what all parents dread — the loss of a child to a deadly disease like cancer.

In January 1985, Sarah’s parents first noticed changes in their daughter, including a persistent low-grade fever, and pains in her arms and legs. Doctors at first thought it was a virus.

“She canceled her own birthday party because she didn’t feel well,” Mary said. “I knew something was wrong.”

Things didn’t reach crisis level until the family was on vacation in South Carolina that spring. Sarah was listless, and all she did at the beach was lie on blanket. She couldn’t even walk.

‘The bottom falls out’
The Mazzies rushed back to Racine and, after Sarah had a blood test, were told to get her to Children’s Hospital. They were told to go to the oncology department.

“At that point,” Mary said, “the bottom falls out.”

Mary remembers the day the doctor called to confirm the diagnosis of leukemia. She walked out into the back yard and screamed. After walking around a bit, she called her husband at work.

“She couldn’t even talk,” Gary recalled.

Sarah once cancelled her own birthday party because she felt ill. Her parents knew something was wrong.

Inside Sarah’s body, the cancer was causing white blood cells called lymphocytes to grow erratically. Billions of faulty cells were crowding out normal white cells in her bone marrow.

“The doctors tried to tell us there was much hope with this type of cancer,” Mary said. ‘At that point, it’s very difficult to believe that.”

Gary said there was “some doubt in my mind” about trying an experimental treatment, but the couple decided to put Sarah in the trial group being gathered by Dr. Camitta.

Sarah would he treated with standard chemotherapy until the disease was in remission, then undergo six months of intensive chemotherapy and two years of oral anti-leukemia drugs.

Intensive treatment
Camitta said the goal is to keep drug levels high over long periods to reduce the number of leukemic cells in the system. Treating a child who is in remission with intensive chemotherapy was considered a somewhat “rogue” idea in the medical community at the time, he said.

Mary stayed in the hospital with Sarah each night, and Gary visited after work. Sarah was hospitalized for 21 days, and after about two weeks of chemotherapy, her cancer was in remission.

Sarah then came back to the hospital every two weeks for an infusion of methotrexate and 6-mercaptopurine, the drug combination Camitta had chosen for the experiment. Every other week, she went to the clinic for a checkup.

Doctors periodically had to insert a needle into Sarah’s spine to check for leukemic cells, and to inject chemotherapy into the spinal fluid. They also took marrow samples from her pelvis by inserting a sharp lance into the bone.

Sarah said the bone marrow biopsies were scary.

“When they were taking the blood (marrow), it hurt in my leg,” she said.

Sarah would lie on the examining table, hugging her favorite stuffed dog, Amos. She imagined that she was somewhere else, somewhere with no pain, doing something fun.

“One time I thought about the Fourth of July parade. Another time I thought about being at the beach,” she said.

Making something positive
Camitta said he was impressed that such a young child could remain so calm during treatments and tests. “She was super,” he said.

The treatments during those first six months made Sarah sick. The drugs dropped her count of infection-fighting white blood cells. She got headaches, and mouth sores. And her hair fell out.

To help make something positive out of a bad situation, Sarah took the hair that had fallen out off of her pillow each morning, and strung it out on the bushes outside. She wanted the birds to use it to build their springtime nests.

Although she was “kind of scared” about her hair falling out, Sarah adjusted. Most of her friends knew why she was losing her hair.

“When I was in kindergarten, someone thought I was a boy,” she said. “I knew it was going to grow back. I wore a lot of hats.”

Sarah’s parent said she handled the treatments well. She didn’t cry, or fight with the doctors. Her only response was to become silent and withdrawn on the way to the hospital. Occasionally she shed a few quiet tears.

Drug treatments continue
Once the first six months of drug treatments stopped, Sarah went home from the hospital. She began taking pills every day, and her mother gave her a shot every Wednesday.

Getting the pills down took some creativity on the part of her parents. The pills were mashed in food, coated with sugar and even mixed with syrup and shot down her throat with a syringe.

“They were just giving me so many medicines, and they all tasted bad,” Sarah said. “There was one l wouldn’t take. They put it in my food, tried to trick me. But I’d always find it.”

Sarah Mazzie. — Journal Times photo by Mark Hertzberg

The Mazzies religiously followed doctors’ orders in giving Sarah the medicine. The pills continued until Oct. 2, 1987.

Ordeal is over
Then it was over. Or was it? Mary kept quizzing doctors to see if any other children in the trial had a relapse of cancer. They told her not to worry.

Of the 73 children who underwent the treatment in the first two trials, more than 80 percent have remained cancer-free over long periods, Camitta said.

“That’s as good as anything else available, and we’re only using two drugs,” said Camitta, who has a giant teddy bear perched on a file cabinet outside his office. But many more children will have to be tested on the trial nationally to confirm the results, he said.

Camitta won three ardent believers on Newman Road in Mount Pleasant.

Gary said the family is stronger for the ordeal, and he realizes just how fragile life is. Whenever he has a bad day at work, he just looks at a picture of Sarah from back then, and is reminded of what is most important to him.

As for Sarah, she’s gotten on with her life, and will turn 12 in February. Asked if she has any advice for other children with cancer, she doesn’t hesitate in her response.

“I’d tell them you’d probably get better. If they cured me, they should probably be able to cure kids now.”

EPILOGUE: Sarah B. Mazzie graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2002, was married to Kevin Lee Briscoe in 2003 and earned her Juris Doctor degree from the DePaul University College of Law in 2006. She was a partner in her own law firm and has worked for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Now 40, she is a U.S. immigration judge in Minneapolis. Her parents Iive in Racine.

Top photo: Sarah Mazzie in her classroom at Mitchell Middle School in Racine. — Journal Times Photo by Mark Hertzberg.

Judge Gets Final Word, ‘You Are an Armed Robber,’ Then Drops the Hammer

This article appeared on Page 1 of the Aug. 4, 1987 issue of the Racine Journal Times.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times 

Robert Lee Jordan stood in Racine County court Monday and called the judge a racist, said jurors in his case were biased and claimed witnesses who testified against him were liars.

Then he was sentenced to 52 years in prison.

A litany of robbery-related charges stemming from a Jan. 6, 1987 attempted robbery of the Piggly Wiggly store, 3900 Erie St., was read as Jordan’s sentence was announced.

Judge Emmanuel Vuvunas, after listening to a blistering verbal attack from Jordan, said, “The only thing society can do to protect itself is to lock you up for a very long time.”

Judge Emmanuel Vuvunas (Racine Journal Times photo by Jim Slosiarek)

Jordan called Vuvunas “nothing but a racist, biased judge” and warned, “someday you’re going to pay for it.”

He was removed from the court and watched his sentencing on a television monitor in an adjacent holding room.

Jordan, 38, was sentenced on charges of attempted robbery, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm, battery to a police officer, two counts of endangering safety by conduct regardless of life, resisting arrest and obstructing police.

He was convicted in June for the robbery attempt, in which he struggled with an off-duty Racine police investigator and threatened to kill him.

The total prison term handed down was was 65 years, but several of the sentences will run concurrently.

Monday’s courtroom scene was likely a familiar one for Jordan, who has been in and out of prison constantly since the mid 1960s. Sometimes he was out on parole. Other times he escaped.

His life since his teen years has been characterized by armed robberies and escapes. Vuvunas said Jordan’s record “is one of the worst records this court has ever seen.”

According to court records, Jordan’s problems with the law began between 1961 and 1974, when several times he had run-ins with Racine police.

In September 1964, Racine County’s juvenile court turned him over to the Department of Health and Social Services and he was placed in the Wisconsin School for Boys at Wales. He was released in January 1965.

In 1965, he was convicted in Racine of armed robbery and burglary, but that conviction was erased in 1974. In April 1967, he committed an armed robbery in Effingham, Ill., and was sentenced to one to three years in prison. After serving time in Illinois, Jordan was returned to Wisconsin and paroled in July 1970.

Less than one month later, he committed another armed robbery in Racine. While in Illinois attempting to help recover items taken in the robbery, Jordan escaped from Racine police. He was captured and in February 1971 sentenced to 12 years in the Green Bay Correctional Institution.

In February 1973, Jordan was transferred to the State Farm in Union Grove. Eleven months later, he escaped from the farm. A 2½ year sentence for the escape was stayed and Jordan received probation.

He was again paroled on Nov. 19. On Nov. 20, 1974, Jordan was arrested and charged with committing armed robbery while an escapee from the Union Grove farm. Charges in that incident were considered later in a separate case. Three months later, Jordan committed armed robbery in Janesville and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with a six-month jail term to run concurrently.

Jordan was sent to Oakhill Correctional Facility in Dane County. On Aug. 31, 1978, he escaped. Eventually he turned up in Avon, Mass., where on Dec. 1, he robbed a bank. He was charged with kidnapping, three counts of assault with intent to commit murder, assault and battery, use of a dangerous weapon, armed robbery and unlawful carrying of a firearm.

He was sentenced to six to 15 years and sent to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Walpole. On Dec. 15, 1986, he was paroled and returned to Wisconsin. On February 25, 1986, Jordan was released from prison on his mandatory release date for the 1975 robbery.

On Jan. 6, 1987, he was arrested for the Piggly Wiggly incident.

Jordan represented himself during the trial, which became characterized by his flashes of hostility toward Vuvunas, Assistant District Attorney Eric Guttenberg and the jury.

He said the case was decided by an “all-white, biased jury.” Referring to witnesses who testified against him, Jordan said, “All these people came and lied.”

But Vuvunas got the last word.

“The evidence in this case was absolutely overwhelming,” Vuvunas said. “The evidence was so overwhelming in this case that it really didn’t matter whether you had an attorney.”

Vuvunas, citing Jordan’s extensive criminal record, said it is clear the only choice was to impose a stiff prison term.

“You are an armed robber,” Vuvunas said. “I don’t think you’ve changed your spots. You’re still an armed robber. 

“This court has to make sure that a person as dangerous as you be kept out of the community for a very long time.” •

EPILOGUE: Jordan remains incarcerated at the Stanley Correctional Institution in Chippewa County, Wis. He filed a number of lawsuits from prison, one seeking $2 million from the Racine County district attorney, the Wisconsin attorney general and the head of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. A federal judge denied his motions for damages and early release from prison. 

Judge Emmanuel Vuvunas is retired.

For Army Families, Emotions are the First Casualties of War

This story appeared on Page 1 of the Jan. 26, 1991 edition of the Racine Journal Times. It was based on observations during my second trip to Germany during the Persian Gulf War.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

U.S. BASE, SOUTHERN GERMANY — Some of the first casualties of the Persian Gulf War were the emo­tions U.S. troops and families stationed in Europe, as they worried about loved ones in Saudi Arabia and expressed resentment toward anti-war protests back home.

In the first-week of combat between U.S.-led allies and Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces, one U.S. base in Germany displayed fear, anguish, anticipation and a host of other emotions.

People at the base clearly were in anguish. Many of them have relatives deployed in Saudi, as they call it here. Most of the deployed soldiers are in combat units.

Members of the Army’s VII Corps artillery units from this base are now at forward positions in Saudi Arabia. They would be in the thick of it if the United States starts a ground offensive into Kuwait.

“God Bless our Soldiers in Saudi Arabia,” proclaimed a banner inside one of the many post exchange shops on base. Employees wore yellow ribbons in remembrance.

At the U.S. Army hospital here, one nurse in the outpatient clinic said her husband was just deployed to the front lines.

Page 1 story from Jan. 26, 1991.

“I’ve just been pulling my hair out,” she said, adding that she has been glued to the TV set, watching Cable News Network’s coverage of the war. She said she fears a ground war is inevitable.

Discussion on the Army’s base shuttle bus turned to one active-duty soldier, who was supposed to be sent home last week because his unit was deactivated as the United States prepares to shut down some of its bases.

Three days before his plane was supposed to leave, he was told to report for duty in Saudi Arabia.

Fear has also become a staple in the daily routine.

The threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. bases is considered very real, and the military has employed many tools to reduce the risks.

Commercials on Armed Forces Radio and Television warn against speaking about military matters in public, for fear terrorists could be listening. It was reminiscent of the old war slogan, “Loose lips sink ships.”

Soldiers were also warned that Arab terrorists may try to buy military uniforms or identification cards.

Military families were told to venture off base sparingly, and try to blend into the German population as much as possible, lest they attract undue attention.

The Gulf War dominated global news in January 1991.

But the post commander appealed to parents not to pull their children from Defense Department schools on base. Many families here and elsewhere in Europe kept their children home in the wake of hostilities and terrorist threats.

Security was at a peak level, called “Threatcon Charlie.” That puts scores of heavily armed military police at every entrance, checking IDs and searching for bombs. At least two forms of photo identification were required, and every bag and package was searched.

There was growing resentment among soldiers and families as they watched news reports of anti-war protests at home.

Some soldiers who oppose Operation Desert Storm wondered aloud where the protesters were over the past 5 ½  months, when the United States built its war force in the Gulf. Others said it hurt knowing while they were overseas serving their country, some back home didn’t appreciate it.

The growing number of military reservists shipped here to fill in for regular troops sent to the Middle East complained of shabby treatment by regular Army personnel.

Some reservists said regular troops seem to resent the citizen-soldiers, and treat them accordingly. Reservists are performing a host of support duties, such as medical care, transportation and administration.

“The sacrifices we have made are not acknowledged by the regular army,” one reservist said. “They seem to consider us a burden.”

One thought was universal here — a desire for the war to end quickly. For military families, that will mean loved ones come back to Germany. For reservists, it will mean going home.

(Reporter Joseph Hanneman, who covers government and higher education for the Journal Times, travelled to Germany to visit his wife, Susan, an Army reservist called to active duty at the U.S. base in Germany.)

Feature image atop the story: A sculpture outside the museum at the former concentration camp near Dachau, Germany. Photo taken during my second trip to Germany in 1991.

©2020 The Hanneman Archive

Tension Grips Base in Germany as Persian Gulf War Erupts

This story appeared on Page 1 of the Jan. 18, 1991 edition of the Racine Journal Times. I filed the story from the U.S. Army base in Augsburg, Germany.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

U.S. BASE, SOUTHERN GERMANY — Heavily armed military police patrolled in front of a U.S. Army base elementary school Thursday, with battle helmets on their heads and M-16 semiautomatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

It was an unmistakable sign that the United States had entered a war with Iraq, and that any U.S. citizen — even children — was a potential target for terrorists.

As Germany slept Wednesday night and early Thursday, U.S. and allied war planes screamed into Iraq as the offensive began to drive Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

And overnight, this large military base in southern Germany transformed from a bustling community into an armed camp, where tension was high and fear so palpable you could almost taste it.

The Army was taking no chances amid terrorist threats against U.S. facilities around Europe and the Middle East.

At every housing facility, school and entrance to the base, military police were out in force. The grim-faced soldiers wore bullet-proof vests and carried high-powered weapons. The protective gas masks were clipped to belts at their sides.

An MP, his rifle on the seat next to him, rode the school bus with children as the vehicle darted off and on base, taking students home. This military base is home to more than 2,500 children.

And while children were being zealously protected, they also were not beyond suspicion. Youngsters returning home from school were required to show ID cards before entering housing complexes.

The author in the German countryside during one of two trips to Germany.

At each gate leading to the base, cars were stopped and searched. Guards looked in trunks and under hoods; they pushed large mirrors under vehicles to check the undercarriages for bombs.

No one, soldiers of all ranks included, escaped scrutiny.

At the entrance to the post exchange, 55-gallon drums filled with concrete were lined up to prevent cars or trucks loaded with explosives from reaching the building, which is usually filled with soldiers and family members.

Barbed razor wire was laid along the length of the sidewalk. Visitors had to pass through an armed checkpoint and were only allowed in the building with two forms of photo identification. Bags were searched.

Inside the PX, yellow ribbons hung fro the ceiling outside the cafeteria. Many soldiers from this base — including medical units and some of the heaviest armor units in the U.S. Army — were sent to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield, transformed Wednesday into Operation Desert Storm.

At the commissary (the Army’s version of the grocery store) aisles normally crowded on a weekday were deserted. Families, it seemed, preferred to stay home this day.

Area car dealerships that cater to U.S. soldiers closed early, and one U.S. club posted a sign that it would not be open Thursday, a day the sign labeled “Doom’s Day.”

Even the Burger King just outside the boundaries of the post was surrounded by armed guards. Only persons with military ID cards were allowed to eat.

At the U.S. Army Hospital, soldiers, nurses and visitors crowded around a television set in the internal medicine department, watching live cable news network accounts of the air attacks on Iraq and Kuwait.

Faces were stern. No one spoke. The expressions told of concern and relief that the operation had finally started.

Hospital officials refused to discuss the hospital’s role as a possible airlift treatment center for wounded soldiers. A reporter was told he could have access to medical staff only if he did not discuss Operation Desert Storm.

But it is widely expected here that the medium-size hospital would be pressed into service if casualties in the Middle East become heavy.

Soldiers said mobile hospital beds arrived in recent days to expand the facility’s capability.

And members of the 44th General Hospital, an Army reserve unit from Madison, began arriving here Thursday to fill in for medical staff shipped to the Middle East.

Bases all over Germany were setting up temporary hospital facilities to handle the wounded. German hospitals say they would assist with casualties. And the U.S. Veterans Administration was making ready 25,000 beds in the United States for possible casualties, according to local news accounts.

Elsewhere on base, soldiers listened to Armed Forces Radio for news about the start of the war. In between news dispatches, soldiers called in to request songs. Some were love songs for family members stationed in Saudi Arabia. Others, with titles like “We Will Rock You” and “Heads Will Roll” were dedicated to combat soldiers at the front.

(Joseph Hanneman is the state government/higher education reporter for the Journal Times. He flew to Germany last week to visit his wife, Susan, who is a reservist called to active duty there. Both live in Racine.)